I mean, sure, you have to have a good story. You have to put in your hours slaving away at the keyboard. You have to learn how to craft your words and then rip them all apart and do it over again, only better this time.
But what they don't teach you in college English classes or at any particular point in the publishing process is this: No one will take you seriously until you dare to do it yourself. You have to independently decide that your words are worth reading. Otherwise you'll be trapped, waiting for someone else to validate you. I know lots of writers who wait for this. They keep sending out queries and keep getting rejected so eventually they stop querying. Or they keep rewriting and rewriting, too freaked out to even show their work to anyone else. You might not even know that they write. It's this dark, secretive thing for them.
And it's not just writers—though we do seem particularly prone this behavior. There are lots of people who wait for validation from others. They're the kind of people who obsess over their facebook likes, who would cheat to get good grades, or who do outrageously expensive things to their body to conform to a particular standard of beauty.
I know this because I've been there. (Well, not with the plastic surgery type of stuff, thank goodness.) But I've written in secret, convinced that my writing wasn't even really writing or that this was just some little phase I'd outgrow.
I'm not saying it's wrong to want external validation. It's nice to be praised or told that your in the xth percentile. It's really nice when others recognize that you have worked hard. But you can't wait for that because it doesn't always happen.
Poor Sylvia Plath would probably hate this post.
The world is a big place. There will always be people out there who are more than you: more talented, more lucky, more rich, more experienced, more better. The point is that you are the only person who can decide to take yourself seriously. Others might see your potential or they might not. That's not up to you. What is up to you is how you see yourself.
And actually, if others believe in you more than you believe in yourself, that can be just as crippling. It's what happens to one-hit wonders or overnight successes. When success comes from outside you, before you're ready to see yourself as successful, it can't last. Until you dare to label yourself as an artist, you never really will be.
I know this all sounds like a bunch of motivational speeches threw up on my blog, but this is how I honestly feel right now and I'll tell you why.
I've been working on revisions for The Jane Journals. Beyond the rewriting, this has been a learning experience for me. I've never made it this far in the publishing process before. With Tiny Talks, I have to write and revise so fast that I don't have time to think about it. Before I can take a deep breath, the book is out on shelves and there's nothing more I can do about it.
But with this book, each day is an exercise in self-confidence. Each time I sit down to write, I have to fight off that nagging voice that tells me I should just stop, that no one will want to read this book, that I'm not a "real" writer. What does that even mean? A real writer?
I think a real writer is one who keeps writing in spite of that nagging voice. I think a real writer is one who writes regardless of how many people are reading his or her words. I think I've been a real writer for a long time, I just never let myself believe that I was.
Well, to heck with that. This is my official statement: I write. I can't help it. It's what I do.
And if other people want to read my words, that's awesome. But it's not why I do it and it won't make me "real."
So here's my challenge to you all. If you're cool, and I know you are because you're still reading this, then own up to your coolness. Don't feel like you need someone else to confirm it. Just keep being the amazing person that you are. Keep creating. Keep dreaming. Keep at it and don't hide your awesomeness.
The world needs more independently cool people.
And I need to get back to revising.
That's the other half of the battle.