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The Woes of Being a Writer

Updated: Mar 30, 2023

Ever since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to be a writer. My mom often took me to our local library and waited patiently as I took my time searching for books. If a book I wanted wasn't available, she'd request it from another location and surprise me with it later. I read picture books, novels, historical nonfiction, scientific research, and travel guides. When I found out that writing books could be a career, my heart became set on it.

I wrote on and off starting when I was ten. My first publication was a poem in an anthology called A Celebration of Young Poets. But when I was in junior high, my parents got divorced and though it wasn't exactly unexpected, it really affected my mental health. I lost interest in my hobbies, hardly ever had an appetite, suffered from sleeplessness, and experienced crying spells. I also struggled with suicidal thoughts and got very close to an attempt in high school. But there was one hobby that kept me alive and it was writing. I used to carry a notebook with me everywhere in case I had a spark of inspiration. By the time I was seventeen, I had written four novels, including a historical fiction one about the Troubles of Ireland. I don't have the guts to re-read them (they're probably terrible!), but the point is writing got me through a dark time. By creating stories, I created an escape. I created worlds where I was in control and I knew how situations would end. I created conflicts, but I also fixed them and my characters experienced the happy ending I craved.

When I was in college, my spark for writing became a blaze. I wrote a new story every week, despite having little time because I went to school, worked, and dated my then-boyfriend who is now my husband. Some stories weren't anything to admire, but some were published. At twenty-one years old, I had forty publishing credits and two awards, both given to me by the University of Houston's creative writing department. Shortly before I graduated, I got news from the University of Texas at El Paso that I was accepted into their MFA in Creative Writing program.

After college, my writing blaze remained. I won a few more awards and earned honorable mentions in various contests. In 2017, my first novel was published by Vital Narrative Press. I had two more novels published with them, but sadly, they shut down in 2021, making me "book homeless" ever since. On the bright side, I have Allison Hellegers, my amazing agent who advocates for my work and believes I have the talent to accomplish any writing goal.

However, ever since 2019, my writing blaze appears to be waning. I have written and published new works (see my 2022 summary post), but no matter how hard I try, I cannot write a new book. I attempted to a few months ago and wrote 110 pages but then I stopped because I hit a roadblock in the story. It seems like the "golden age" of writing I had in college is dead. I went from writing a new story every week to struggling to write a few pages. To be honest, it feels embarrassing. My productivity now compared to then is abysmal.

According to my Submittable account, which I have used since 2010, I have received 308 rejections. As for acceptances, I have received 28, which works out to about a nine percent acceptance rate. Of course, these figures do not include journals that do not use Submittable, but the estimated acceptance percentage is not much higher, trust me. Though 2022 was a better year for my writing goals, it's been almost three years (!) since my agent and I have been seeking a publisher for my last novel. Maybe that's why I haven't felt the willingness to write more --- why write if nothing is coming out of it?

Writing has gotten me through tough periods, but it has also broken my heart numerous times. Every writer I know has had their heart and soul crushed by a rejection letter, negative review, failed opportunity, or something else. I had classmates who told me I was a terrible writer and should not pursue it further. I've had family members tell me my writing is a complete waste. No matter how many times writing has wrecked me, spite is a powerful emotion. If it weren't for spite, I would have stopped writing ten years ago.

Recently, I was walking my cats around my neighborhood. They have a stroller (yes, really) and I put music on my phone to entertain us during our journey. I played George Harrison's "What is Life" and I sang to them (yes, really) as I guided their stroller down the sidewalks. Suddenly, the line "then I'll try my best to make everything succeed" hit me. I am truly trying to write more. I'm working on a new story at the moment. I've written four pages so far, but please forgive me if it doesn't pan out. I am not at the same productivity rate as ten years ago. Word by word, sentence by sentence, and page by page, I am slowly getting there. Sooner or later, I will write another book.

My writing blaze needs a little more gasoline and matches but as George Harrison sings, I will try my best to make everything succeed.

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