When you decide to pursue writing as a career or even an avocation, you probably are unaware of the responsibility bestowed upon you by the decision. There is no official ceremony involved, but there should be.
This responsibility will change the way you interact with friends and relatives. It could even cause some friction between you and those close to you. Here’s the promise you make, which is part of being a serious writer:
“I do hereby promise not to encourage every person I meet to author a book. I promise to be kind and supportive of my friends and relatives, knowing most of them should not become writers.”
Once you know how much work is involved, when encouraging another writer, make certain you communicate the real world of writing to them. At least encourage them to visit a writer’s conference for new writers, giving them a glimpse into the marketplace of words and informing their perspective.
Why is this responsibility such a heavy burden? Because you might need to tell someone (in much kinder words than these):
You are not a good writer.
You don’t communicate with clarity or creativity.
You don’t have a compelling message readers will pay money to read.
You don’t have the credentials to write a book.
You haven’t yet put in the work.
In a creative world, the motto is often, “Where never is heard a discouraging word,” but if you follow my advice today, you will be the person others might avoid. (I hope I am wrong.)
Sometimes I feel bad writing tough things to readers of our agency blog, because you are not the problem. The simple fact you are reading about publishing, interacting with insightful comments, making every attempt to learn, improve and grow, means you are open to exploring the necessary sacrifice in order to become a writer people will spend time and money to read.
Anyone with a minute of experience in publishing knows there is much more to this writing “thing” than putting down your thoughts on a screen and printing it out.
But there are still some people out there telling everyone writing is easy, Microsoft Word spelling and grammar check replace the need for an editor and most important, anyone can make lots of money in publishing really fast. After all, Amazon is a magic money-machine.
Encouraging someone to write who is not willing to put in the requisite work is not being kind and loving. This person is being set up for discouragement and the person handing out encouragement is not doing them a favor.
Mass encouragement without discernment can end up being a cruel joke, accomplishing the opposite of what was intended.
Once you have some knowledge of the work required to be a good writer and succeed in publishing, you have an obligation to communicate reality to those around you. There is some “fine print” in this vocation, draining some of the enjoyment, unless you are well prepared.
In high school I was an above-average musician who had fun playing an instrument in various music groups. Who wouldn’t want to keep having fun? I thought about music as a career.
In college, I met people who were serious about music as a career and I realized the fun from high school was pretty much over. Being professionally good at music required a level of commitment I was unwilling to undertake, and I was more interested in having fun than putting in the work. I chose another path instead where I was willing to put in the sacrifice and work.
Those who are committed to doing something really well know what is required and generally do not toss out encouragement to just anyone and everyone, unless they see the “spark” necessary to drive them to the next level.
Don’t become a serial discourager, but be wise in your encouragement about writing books. Genuine encouragement is much more powerful when those being encouraged know you don’t give it to everyone.