I was having a conversation with one of the regulars who comes into the bookstore where I work. The guy’s a musician so we often talking about being creatively inclined. At some point I said, in response to something he said, “Yeah, you have to be slightly deluded to think you can make a living as writer.” “Not deluded,” he said. “You have to have faith.”
Faith. That’s a nice way of putting it. But I think I’m going to stick with my initial statement. I have a healthy dose of delusion. And thank goodness for it! It has kept me going even after reading over and over the statistics that new writers face. Look at the odds a writer has to beat when trying to get an agent’s attention alone.
Agent Kristen Nelson posted that her agency read and responded to approximately 36,000 queries this year, and of those they signed on nine new clients. In his last query stats post, former agent Nathan Bransford reported receiving 258 queries in one week and of those, he requested only three partials. Another agent, Janet Reid wrote about saying "no" to 50 queries in a single hour. That’s practically one a minute! Yikes!
It can’t possibly be for the love of the writing that I pursue publication. If I just loved writing I’d sit at home and write, write, write away never caring if anyone’s eyes but mine ever halfway glanced at my stuff. For a while, back in the elementary school through junior high school years, I was content with that, but now I crave to be read by someone other than my family and friends. I believe my stories are so awesome they should be available for the whole wide world to read. But I also want to get paid to do it.
If that’s not delusional, I don’t know what is. But like I said, it’s a good delusional. It drives me on even as the rejections come in one after the other. It allows me to look forward to a new round of query submissions with hope and optimism.
My delusion works with me, not against me. It drives me to revise constantly. To say, my best friend might have hated the first half of this manuscript so much that he threatened to de-friend me, but that’s just because the awesomeness of the story is not on the surface YET. But I can and will get it there.
My delusion makes me eager. Since my manuscript is so awesome now that I've revised it, shouldn’t the agents and editors be wooing me already? The big-time-hitting needs to happen now! Like two hours before yesterday! But my delusion also gives me patience. It says to me, chill out. You may not have hooked the superstar agent who changes lives and makes dreams come true, landed a write-for-us-as-much-as-you-want-as-often-as-you-want book deal or soared to the top of every conceivable best-book-ever list yet, but that’s okay. Just do keep doing what you do. Do it well and do it with persistence, and you’ll get there.
Sure, you can call delusion “confidence” if you want, but really, isn’t it a thin line?
Honestly, while I don’t believe I have to be at the top of every conceivable best-book-ever list to be a successful writer, I do have to believe I’ll fare better than these guys at achieving my goals.
What about you? If you’re pursuing publication, what do you call that drive that keeps you going?