by Annette Lyon
Nearly fourteen years ago, I took a university creative writing class from Dr. T, a professor who was himself an award-winning novelist. I looked forward to sitting at his feet and learning from one of the greats.
On one of the very first days of class, however, he announced that the chances of any of us ever getting published was pretty small, and that too many aspiring writers are encouraged. That we really shouldn't be encouraging so many of them, because there's too many already.
Um, thanks? I sat there, stunned. This is what I signed up for? A teacher who didn't think there was a point in encouraging his students?
When my first book came out, I was tempted to send him a note that said, "neener-neener."
But now? I almost (not quite, but almost) agree with him.
It wouldn't surprise me at all if I turned out to be the only student in that class to get published. I had the fire; I wasn't about to be stopped. But did the rest of them have that same need? From what I saw, most of them saw writing as a fun little thing to do.
In the years since, I cannot count how many people have told me that they "want to write a book." But there's always an excuse: they don't have the time (and I magically do?), or they don't know how (and I magically did?) or whatever the excuse of the day might be.
The reality is that these kinds of aspiring writers probably shouldn't be encouraged, because they aren't serious about it. It's a waste of the mentor's time and a waste of the writer's time.
Frankly, Dr. T had a point: there isn't enough room in the publishing business for everyone who wants to be there. Competition is fierce, and unless you're willing to fight the good fight, you won't make it.
If a publishing contract landed the laps of these people, they'd love it. But here's the problem: they aren't willing to put in the blood, sweat, and tears that it almost always takes to reach that point.
So here's the question each of us must answer for ourselves: Does the flame of writing burn inside you? Do you have to write? Do you want to be published the way you "want" oxygen?
If yes, then stay on this path. Most people who embark on it eventually fall off it, while those who stay on eventually make it through.
It isn't easy. But the journey is worth it, if you're willing to pay the price.
In a sense, I think that's what Dr. T. meant.
(Oh, and I did send him a postcard announcing my first book. Just to let him know about it. Ya know, just 'cause.)