No matter where you are in your writing career, you should allow yourself to take pride in what you’ve done.
I think we, as writers, easily find ourselves in a rut like Victoria’s. All the real money and success and glory to be made in writing is in novels, but let’s get real: it’s hard. Novel-writing requires a certain skill set that takes time to develop. Plus, if you’re trying to go the traditional route, there are endless drafts, beta reading, queries, and being on submission. And rejection, rejection. The problem here, where we become like Victoria, is that when we don’t “make it,” so to speak, when we don’t do quite as well as we’d like, we can become frustrated and angry with ourselves. It is at this stage where some writers quit writing. If you get frustrated: don’t. There are ways to experience the joy of success you don’t have an MFA or a published novel.
I’m referring of course of shorter pieces: short stories, personal essays, poetry. The market for these is robust, if not very lucrative. Magazines of all kinds are always looking for content, as are small presses and other lesser-known websites. You (yes, I am talking to you) can be the providers of that content.
Why bother if there’s not any money to be made in short stories? Because each published story is proof that someone other than your mother likes your work. Other editors and publishers see that and take you more seriously. It’s a slight confirmation bias – this list of magazines has already found your work worthwhile, so that must mean it is worth something. Not only is it a way of getting your foot in the door, professionally speaking, it’s a way to keep your spirits up while you’re wading through that sea of rejections that inevitably comes when you’re querying your novel.
I like to think of getting published as a two-step process:
Step one: Write a bunch of stuff.
Step two: Email your work to people.
There are, of course, some nuances that will help you become more successful than just blinding sending out emails, but that is a topic for a different article.
Sometimes you won’t always know if your work is right for any given publication. People will say, “send us your best work,” but when you are so afraid that your work isn’t good enough that you don’t even want to try, well...that’s a problem. There comes a point where even if your work is NOT at its best, you should send it out anyway and let other people make that determination. If you have that little voice inside of you that says, “I’m not that good of a writer. No one will ever like to read this,” then tell it to shut up. Take the risk and send it in. You could be met with surprise.
No matter where you are in your writing career, you should allow yourself to take pride in what you’ve done. Are you published? Hang onto those publication credits. Feel good about them. Tell people about it. You’re a published author! Yay! If you’re not published, are you still sending out a story every couple of weeks? Then good! You are doing the legwork necessary to get stuff done. If you’re not doing that, are you at least writing every day? If so, then congratulate yourself. Sometimes it’s difficult to find the time to sit down and knock out a page. The more you write, the more your confidence and your skill will increase.
I think Elizabeth Seitz has an important lesson to teach all of us. Did she pout and cry because she wasn’t going to get an Olympic medal? No, she did not. She accomplished what she set out to do and did it well. She felt proud of herself. Whether you are an aspiring author, a schoolteacher, or a CEO, I think all of us should allow ourselves to take that kind of ownership of our success, whether it be great or small.
If you have a story about a little success you’d like to share (even if it was “perfect attendance” in 5th Grade) tell us about it in the comments.
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