Why are you waitng to write?
Monday, April 18, 2011
Let me cut to the chase: All published writers were once unpublished writers.
Writers are like babies taking their first steps: You have to do it by yourself, but it helps a whole lot to have someone helping you along the way.
Roughly eight years ago, I began writing my first memoir, America’s Boy. Check that: I actually started it as a novel, as I was too afraid to tell my own story of growing up gay in the Ozarks.
Luckily, I had a muse, an editor, a critic and a believer in the form of my partner, Gary. After reading what I had written, he said: “It sounds nothing like you.” I was crushed. But it was just what I needed to hear.
And so I started over, eventually visiting my family cabin and writing by long hand what would turn out to be the first chapter of America’s Boy while seated on a stoop with my feet in an Ozarks creek.
There was a point – finally, a point – as I sat with my feet in the creek when I was simply writing. Not thinking, writing. Writing as if my life – every breath – depended on it.
And everything simply clicked. My voice, my humor, my tone, my narrative flowed from my soul. I wasn’t writing any longer. I was my writing. The transition from Wade the person to Wade the writer was seamless.
It came because I finally was able to overcome those fears that had shackled me my whole life. I lived my life with shame: I was gay. I was scared. I was overweight. I was wrong. I was bad.And though I wanted to write – and did write – my whole life, questions haunted me like ghosts:
What would people think?
What would my family think?
Did I have the right to tell my story?
What if people hated it? Me?
No one can make it as an author, right? What if I fail?
Am I good enough?
Who the hell do I think I am, calling myself “a writer”?
For a while, this fear paralyzed me again.
I made the decision – without Gary’s knowledge – reach out to a number of authors I admired, whose work I loved. I wasn’t asking for a hand-out, or a connection, I was seeking the simplest of things: A response. A single line. “It’s gonna be OK, kid.” “You can do it, Wade.”
They didn’t even have to mean it. I just needed to know that they had once been like me. Unpublished.
I just needed to know that it was OK to keep going.
That there was no “secret, golden key to the kingdom.”
I got zero responses.
And, that’s when I had my second epiphany. Rather than be paralyzed by my fear, I thought – and this is so not literary – “Screw ‘em!” I believed in my dream, I believed in my writing, I believed I could change the world.
I finished my memoir, I spent months editing it until I was moving around commas, and I did my homework. I spent months writing my query. I spent months researching agents. I spent months believing in myself, even though it seemed no one else – besides Gary and my mom – did.
One week after submitting 15 query letters to agents I admired, I had received seven offers to read my manuscript. Less than a week after that, I had three formal offers of representation.
I believe that if you have a unique voice, discernable talent, an incredible work ethic, amazing professionalism, skin of steel, a heart of equal parts stone, empathy and love, and a feeling that if you aren’t writing, you may just curl up and die – then you can make it as an author.
And that’s why I formed Wade’s Writers, and why I hold writing workshops. I am the guy who got no response, and I decided if I ever had any level of success, I would attempt to help other emerging writers.
I can’t make you write. But I do think I can make you a better writer. More importantly, I can give you tools to succeed. I can give you inspiration and hope. I can help you crush those fears – in life and craft – that are holding you back.
And if we can do it over wine, and in the one of the most inspirational, picturesque settings in America, even better.
If you haven’t looked into my May 12-15 workshop in Saugatuck, Michigan, I urge you to do so right now.
Every published writer was an unpublished writer.
You just have to start. www.wadeswriters.com