I’ve been writing a while now–long enough to know some of the stages. You see them if you attend critique or are part of some the writer’s groups.
There is the I write, but I don’t tell anyone about it stage. In critique, these folks just critique. They never bring anything of their own. And they are quick to tell you they don’t know much about what they’re talking about. If you’re in a group with them, it’s wise to listen if they tell you something about your work stopped them because they are all readers first. And that is good.
Then there is the I write, but I’m not really a writer stage. These are the people who have started bringing things in for others to critique but are quick to tell people that it isn’t very good. They are always better than they know, soaking up information and writing technique quickly because they really want to know and that desire is greater than their humility. Thank God!
After that, there are workman like folk, who figure it’s all just some kind of apprenticeship. If they put in their time, they will learn enough to get published. These people are still soaking it in, still learning everything they can. But this is a scary writing stage–more so than the previous ones because these people have learned enough to recognize good writing when they see it. Sometimes this makes them arrogant as in “I don’t want to be in a critique group with beginners anymore.” So they drop out of the writer’s group because after a while no one seems to be up to their standards.
Conversely, I’ve seen writers drop out at this stage because they have put in so much time and they don’t see themselves as ever getting to the great goal of published author. Some become bitter and proclaim it’s all about money. Others are hard on themselves and think that the finished product will never measure up to those fascinating stories they have in their heads.
I’ve been through all these stages–repugnant as some of them are. I’ve seen too many people who I thought were talented decide to quit writing and stop pursuing the dream. And sometimes, when I am feeling stymied and tired, I wonder how to stop myself.
But now what I think is that getting published, making something of your writing is more about just hanging in there. I’m not the best writer out there. And my publishers aren’t the big New York houses. But I’ve accomplished some of what I’ve set out to do. And I’m going to keep trying to figure out the rest.
And that’s pretty much seems to me what all of us have to do in most corners of this life–whether it’s parenting, or fighting illness or reaching other goals like financial security or staying married. If it’s important, you stick. Right?