WELL, THAT HAPPENED: Dear writers: Dream big

By on January 20, 2015
A Bokin bookstore in Reykjavik, Iceland. PHOTO: MONICA DONOVAN

A Bokin bookstore in Reykjavik, Iceland.
PHOTO: MONICA DONOVAN

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – This week I was able to interview Jess Walter (page 8), sift through the nooks and crannies of his creativity and find out how an idea makes its way to paper. It was refreshing to see that even the authors who have it made are still trying to figure things out. Us amateur writers still have a chance. Rejoice, all ye who wander through the barren valleys of our works-in-progress!

Writing is an incredibly personal thing, and yet sometimes a writer can’t help but want to tell the world about what he or she is working on. These days there are so many different possible ways one can get published, and those opportunities have bred a movement of writers of all ages. Self-publishing has become its own industry and websites like Amazon.com give you the ability to publish and sell an e-book in a matter of minutes. There are tons of literary magazines (both in print and online) that publish original work and if you want people to read your work, it is possible.

But if you’re like me, you dream even bigger. Ever since I was young, I’ve wanted to write a book I could randomly come across in a bookstore somewhere. I want my books to spring away from me and spider-web across the world, be translated into a billion languages and have readers hand off their books to their loved ones.

And, at the pinnacle, I want action figures of my characters.

Even though I was little, I knew that I needed to have an incredible story to make that dream happen. And I couldn’t just be a good writer, I had to be a great writer. I had to be amazing, damn it. I had to be able to write sentences that caused people to throw the book down and take a long walk just to process them. The problem was, I didn’t know how to do that. And I hated reading the books that people proclaimed were the Best Novels Ever Written.

In high school I slugged through Pride and Prejudice and The Iliad, because they weren’t connecting. There was nothing there I could identify with. My teacher would point out the greatest sentences and they slushed through the recesses of my scattered brain, as if time had reduced their greatness to a bowl of soggy Rice Chex.

What I’m getting at is, if you’re a writer or if you have dreams of writing a novel, dream big. Do everything you can to write the best possible story and get it in the hands of the people that will love it. Whether you choose to self-publish your book or you have the patience to endure the literary agent path (trust me … as someone who is chronically impatient, it’s a struggle), never settle for a book that is less than your worth. Never allow your story to suffer under the constraints of time and life and all the other things you could be doing.

Too often I see writers rush into publishing the first draft of a story. It’s a little like tossing all the ingredients for a cake into a pan, then sticking it into the oven without measuring anything out.

If you’re squaring off with writer’s block like a bull in an alley, just write. Write until all you’re writing is “I don’t know what to write,” and keep writing that over and over again, until something new comes to mind. All books take time. All stories demand hard work and plenty of attention.

Dream big. Write about everything. Never compromise. And maybe one day, you’ll be lucky enough to wander into a small bookstore in Belgium and notice a scuffed up copy of your novel tucked beneath all the others. Even dreams can collect dust. That doesn’t make them worth anything less.

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