A Love Letter to a Frustrated (and Young) Writer

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So I was quite honored when my friends over at Toast Pop reached out to me once again to see if I’d be interested in penning an article for the college paper over at Bluefield State College in West Virginia, The Bluefieldian.

Unfortunately though, an obviously weary editor ended up chopping it up a bit unceremoniously, and well now, it sort of, uhhh…doesn’t make much sense.

So I thought I’d post up the complete version below for those frustrated and young writers who were only brought more frustration rather than clarity from this article.

Enjoy…

A Love Letter to a Frustrated (and Young) Writer

By AnnMarie Martin

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard…is what makes it great.”

–Tom Hanks as Jimmy Duggan in A League of Their Own

Yes, I am well aware that this quote is about baseball and not writing. But it applies, 100 percent. I start this note out with those words, because I think it’s important to not kid yourself, kid. When I was younger I’d turn the blame inward:

You’re just a procrastinator.

You must have ADD, you just can’t focus for more than 10 minutes at a time!

You have a horrible memory.

Truth be told, I have and do all of the above, BUT…that still doesn’t change the fact that WRITING IS HARD.

It’s hard. Downright maddening at times. It’s like sitting down and trying to put one of those 3000 piece puzzles of the Sistine Chapel together in 2-3 hours.

Where is that piece that had the angel’s butt cheek on it? I swear I JUST SAW IT. It was RIGHT HERE, under the praying hands. UGHHHH&$)#*($&#@*$&&@!!!!!!!!!

Words will escape you. You can’t find a consistent flow, or you just can’t nail down that perfect lead. It’s not like you can “just sit down and get it done!” as my husband often badgers me to do. It’s a question of when and for how long will the gods smile upon you and remove the road blocks that weren’t there 2 seconds ago, before they decide to f*$% with you just a little bit more and put them right back up.

Whatever it is that plagues you, I repeat: WRITING. IS. HARD.

So keeping that in mind, let’s jump to the next piece of bad news: GETTING. PUBLISHED. IS. EVEN. HARDER.

Sort of.

Allow me to use another quote here, this time from one of the greats:

“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.”

― Stephen King

That always reminds me of just how unfortunately discredited the art and talent of writing has become in our society. We have Facebook, Twitter and their ilk, and furthermore the venue of self-publishing to thank for shifting what we value from the quality of words to the speed of their dissemination. They’ve also taken away any type of judge and jury there ever was on writing excellence (and should still be) and given every joe-shmoe out there a platform to stand on. Because everybody and anybody can get “published” now—however you might want to define that— it’s greatly diminished the feat that it once was considered. And it makes it that much harder for all the genuine writers out there trying to get noticed in a big sea, filled with big, bloated, stuffed to the gills fish.

Instead of getting discouraged by this though, I encourage you to join me in continuing the good fight against it all in this highly over-crowded profession of ours.

So here are my 3 little bits of advice for you. And you can take ‘em or leave ‘em, as my first instructs you to remember:

1. Nobody is smarter than you.

If you truly believe in something you’ve written, or done, or created, don’t let the peanut gallery get the best of you. Don’t change it just because someone else says you need to make this tweak here, or move that over there, or whatever the complaint might be. I was once told by an English teacher I needed to completely re-write a college essay that put me in the running for a full ride through college because she said it was “too generic” and “they see essays like this one all the time, honey.” I didn’t touch it and guess what? I got the scholarship and the only loans I needed to take out were for my room and board bills. I was also told by an agent that I needed to rework my query letter that I was sending out to publishers and agents. Kept that the same too, as I was genuinely in love with and excited by my hook and guess what there? It got the attention of a small indie publisher who ended up signing me and even used my letter as the back jacket description for the book.

2. Do something else first (or during)…

…your writing exploits. I certainly believe in “write what you know” but you also need to let your imagination run away with you. How can you do that if you you’ve got no life experiences or wild adventures to base your creative writing on? So go take a crazy trip somewhere all by yourself, work a strange job, or date someone you deem wildly inappropriate. You might get your good karma mojo back in spades, greater than you ever could by just hiding behind a laptop trying desperately to get 1,000 words a day onto the page. Sometimes I’m lucky if I get 3 words out in 3 months. My point? Life (yes, and shit) happens sometimes. Deal with it.

3. Persistence is the key.

Never give up. This is my last and most important piece of advice. This goes back to #2, as sometimes other commitments will take you away from your projects and that’s OK. It took me over 3 years to write my novel, another two to get signed and now it’s a constant job to try to get it out into the world. It’s not easy, but those little moments of triumph – such as when you finally get noticed by that agent, or you finally get that article published – make it all worth it.

And finally, we get to the not just good, but GREAT NEWS.

Please don’t forget that writing is hard, BUT…

You are a GOOD writer. And I must (dare I say it) disagree with Mr. King. I don’t think you must be paid for your work in order to be considered legit or “talented.” Sure, easy for me to say now, but I do honestly and truly believe that. “Need to be paid” to be legitimized and “should be paid” for your work are two very different beasts though, and I could fill this entire student newspaper ranting and raving about the latter. So let me tack on a number 4: never work for “free.” Work for pennies. Work for credit. But never for free. Don’t let anyone tell you “the experience” should be enough.

Tell them you told your landlord you’d like to pay him in “experience” this month and he told you to be out by Friday.

In conclusion, I’ll leave you with just one more quote, if you’ll allow me. This one, from THE GREATEST. My dad. And I hope this makes up for the fact that I didn’t include him in my own novel.

“Stop focusing on what you AREN’T doing. And start giving yourself credit for what you ARE doing.”

Good little rule of thumb to keep in mind as you type away, as many of us can get too wrapped up in how much we did or didn’t accomplish on any given day. I’m sure you did the best with what you were given.

If any of you would ever like to contact me to chat further about writing, life, the Sistine Chapel, or the latest episode of any of the Real Housewives, please don’t hesitate to do so via the Contact page on my website: www.authorannmariemartin.com. And if you ever get a chance to read my novel, I’d love to know what you think. Even if you hated it!

Happy writing (and reading!).

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