It’s been a simultaneously eventful and uneventful few months since my last post — with Covid-19 restrictions tightening and easing, vaccination drives rolling out at last, finding and settling into a new job, working from home (yay!), working on structural and copy edits for the novel (watch this space for updates! I’ve got news to share!), rediscovering my love for poetry, planning new initiatives with a writer friend, etc.
Life is far from back to normal, but it’s slowly inching towards a new normal, one that I’m pretty comfortable with at the moment and very thankful for.
With so much going on, my time spent on social media and general socialising has gone down, though productivity has gone way up (double yay!).
I recently came across this Instagram post by Laini Taylor (if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’d know how much I adore her and her books) on how time doesn’t stop for any writer in pursuit of her publishing dreams — and it made me reflect on my own anxieties as an author in my twenties (granted, that’s not very long ago, but I like to think I’ve grown some in the past few years).
For the entirety of my twenties, I was laser-focused on getting traditionally published and becoming that author who made it to the bestseller list before 30 (which, to me, was akin to making to the Forbes ’30 Under 30′ list). I was wide-eyed and hungry — even at times desperate — for success. I spent days, evenings, wee hours of the night, and weekends writing book after book, and then querying agent after agent, eager to get better at my craft, to put myself out there and get as much feedback as I could.
At the end of every year, I’d ask myself, “What have I accomplished this year?” and feel dejected when the answer was a resounding “nothing”. But I didn’t know then that was not true. I hadn’t accomplished nothing, even if it seemed that way at the time. All that time I had spent slaving over my manuscripts, trying to perfect every word, querying agents, receiving rejections, making new friends at writing conferences and online, and getting through life in general all added up to something — something intangible: experience.
Which author doesn’t dream of being that wunderkind who publishes her first novel and hits the bestseller list at 21? (Yes, there are people who do that. The rest of us mere mortals slowly work our way up.) But I think there’s also something to be said about the grind, the hustle, the years and years of toiling away in silence that makes the journey just as beautiful and rewarding.
Too often, writers (who are 99% worrywarts plagued with anxiety) stress over “missing our prime” — we think that just because we haven’t achieved anything much in our twenties that we are doomed to a lifetime of failure or a mediocre life where our work dies in obscurity and we settle for a drearier Plan B.
But while it’s obviously a dream come true to skyrocket up the bestseller charts and live that coveted #authorlife with the publication of our first book, it’s often not the case. Many authors I know have had to hustle HARD and work their way up rung by rung — to build their readership, build their audience, grow their network, get better with each book they write that, sadly, may never get published.
But their unadulterated passion isn’t easily annihilated by the brutal reality of the publishing industry.
What’s really inspiring is not the fact that they become wildly successful; it’s often their backstory, their road towards achieving their goals, and their tenacity to keep going in the face of setbacks. What’s inspiring is that they continue to forge ahead with their dream cupped in their hands, doing it for the love of the craft, the love of dreaming and telling stories. It’s hearing stories from wildly successful authors who once had to struggle like the rest of us to get their stories out into the world, who almost lost hope and almost gave up but didn’t. Ultimately, they did it for the love of writing itself, and their success came almost like a side-effect of that (and of course, lots more hard work that extends beyond just writing the book).
My 27-year-old self was fraught with anxiety and desperation (will it ever happen for me? should I give up?) and that nearly killed the love I had for writing. Burning out at 27 is worse than getting published at a later age.
So yes, I do believe that it’s never too late to write your first book, publish your first novel, switch genres, switch mediums, hit the bestseller list, what have you. It’s not too late, and the only “prime time” is the time you are ready as a writer, after having grown from all your experiences (be it in your life or your publishing career) and after you have found your voice. You can’t enjoy the destination fully if you don’t go through the journey, after all. And while we’re at it, we might as well enjoy the ride. Plus, you need time to become a better writer — some people take longer, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
So tl;dr: It’s not too late. You are right on time. The journey towards becoming a better writer is never-ending, the goalpost is always shifting. We can never reach perfection, but we will never stop trying to reach it. It keeps us on our toes, gives us something to work towards, something to live for — and that’s the beauty of it all.
What are some of your writing goals, and how do you pull through your struggles?