This week, I quit the paralegal course I’ve been taking this year. I had no desire to continue in this field, and while the decision was difficult, I feel much lighter now that I’ve let it go. Of course, I do still plan to finish school and slowly enter the workforce again. I’d love to be able to provide the family with some fun-money while still taking care of the boys, and obviously I need to be able to support the family if something happened to Jason. In the meantime, I have the privilege and opportunity to seek out a career path that truly makes me happy.
What makes me happy? Writing. This has been my passion for decades. And yet, apart from a few halfhearted attempts, I’ve never really tried to make the leap from writer (one who writes) to author (a published writer). Instead, I keep working on my manuscripts. There are many reasons behind this, and as this is a typical introspective time of year for me, I want to explore those reasons.
Why do I write? What do I want to achieve by writing? And how do I plan to achieve it? Simple questions with answers unique to each writer. I’ve mentally meandered a lot on this, and here’s what I’ve come up with:
Why do I write?
Because I must. To not-write feels like the death of some essential part of me. I will write regardless of whether or not anyone else reads my words.
What do I want to achieve by writing?
Despite the fact that I would write regardless, I do want my words to be read. I want to be an author. Certainly not for fame or prestige (both a little terrifying to me), or for money (though it’d make a lovely side-benefit!). No. I write because words mean a lot to me, and I want my words to reach out and make a difference in someone’s life.
And how do I plan to achieve it?
Here’s where the demons rise up. I’m a decent writer. Not perfect, but I have skills. I’m confident in those skills and in my books. But I can’t for the life of me submit to agents. I’ve tried. I’ve queried a meek handful of times, tried to network at conferences, learned tons about the process. And yet, I find excuses or become paralyzed after a bold attempt or two, and set aside the idea of querying for extended periods of time. Rejection (even impersonal) is a PTSD trigger, so I just keep going back to writing. Believe me, I’ve worked hard to banish these fears. The fact that I’ve queried at all testifies to that. And I’ll keep trying, though at this point, until something in my illness changes, I don’t see any real results coming from the traditional publishing route.
So why not self-publish? Oh, my friends. So many PTSD issues related to this one. If I self-publish, I have to accept a tiny readership, because I have no sales/marketing skills. If I self-publish, I’ll be conceding defeat to traditional publishing and will feel I’ve failed myself and my books. If I self-publish, I’ll deal with the stigma of “not a real writer,” and hello judgement-and-rejection issues! Not to mention, if I self-publish, I could never give my books the editing, marketing, and design that a publishing house could, and how could I do that to my books??
The flaws in this logic are easy to spot. Really, there are only three choices, unless I quit writing (not happening!). Either work on my issues and start querying, work on my issues and self-publish, or decide not to publish at all. Not to mention, if this really is about the books – see last paragraph – then frankly, keeping them unseen on my hard-drive isn’t exactly helping them on their mission in life. Some readership is better than no readership! I need to stop fooling myself – stop pretending that if I wait until “the right time,” this whole trigger-laden process (rejection! judgement! stigma! failure!) will somehow get easier, and I’m “saving” the books for when I’m ready to release them. The only thing I’m “saving” is my vulnerable inner-self.
It comes down to a battle: desire vs fear. Will I stay a writer and choose to be okay with that, or will I take the necessary steps to become an author? Right now, paralysis. I honestly don’t know. But I’m working on it.