Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Waiting For Godot

Writers like to write.  I guess that goes without saying, but it's still a key element in why writers fail.  Yes, you heard me correctly - writers fail because they like to write.

What kind of absurd mess is this, you might ask?  It's very simple - since writers love to write, they focus almost all of their energy on honing their craft.  They tweak dialogue and agonize over the right sentence structure, and that does indeed contribute to a better product.  Unfortunately, it also means that a large number never focus on finding their niche in the market and attracting an audience.

In the play Waiting For Godot, a pair of wanderers wait by a lonely tree for a man named Godot.  They chat and dream about how much better their lives will be once the legendary Godot shows up, similar to how a convenience store clerk might fantasize about what life will be like when he hits the Powerball Lottery.
(You might be lonely waiting for scraps that never appear)
Many writers are the same way.  When not writing, they'll daydream about what life will be like when they're (rightly) famous and everyone loves their work.  A book tour?  Why of course, but only if the publisher can put me in a proper hotel suite.  A book reading to my adoring fans?  You bet, but will The Forum be big enough to hold everyone without turning people away at the door?

We've all had these fantasies, and they can be fun as long as they don't rule our lives.  The problem with such thinking is that it often boils down to the writer waiting to be discovered rather than forcing discovery on an inundated public.  Of course your work is good, but there's a lot of good work out there, as well as a lot of bad work, and it's up to us to grab the public by the scruff of the neck and make them pay attention.  People - whether they be agents, publishers, or readers in general - don't scroll through the internet looking for that next big breakthrough except in the most rare of circumstances.  I know that many writers imagine some grey-haired publisher clicking on page after page, mumbling, "No, no, these simply won't do," until they happen to come across our blog or novel excerpt.  Then, upon realizing its brilliance, they exclaim, "This is it!  I simply must sign this writer."

How much time do you spend reaching out?  Are you going to book shows and writing conferences to meet people?  Do you make it a goal to sign up at least one new person to your email list each day?  Do you encourage your readers to share your work with strangers?  Have you planned out a marketing strategy that includes free giveaways?

These are the less sexy things that turn writing from a fun hobby into a profession that puts food on the table, and they require more than dreams.  You cannot wait for discovery - you have to take the bull by the horns and make it happen.  Otherwise, all your talk about fame will remain in the realm of talk.


  1. I confess I spend a lot of time wishing for good things and submitting stuff that isn't my best. Today, I changed that by submitting a story to Asimov's Science Fiction instead of just putting it on my blog. Good blog post.