Sunday, February 3, 2013

Life owes you nothing

By: Joelle Charbonneau

Yep – by the title you can guess that this is not going to be a cheery post.  Or maybe it is.  Only you can decide. 

No matter where you are in life or your profession, you get up, you get out your toothbrush and toothpaste (I hope), you get dressed and begin your day.  After the sun sets, you finish your day by going to bed. 

Exciting right?  Everyone does the same thing.  Get up.  Brush your teeth. (Yes, for some reason this is very important to me.) Get dressed.  Do stuff during the day and go to bed.  Day after day.  Year after year. 

But in between those day to day tasks, we do other things.  And those other things are what defines who we are and how we see ourselves.  For some of us, we write, which in the case of the fabulous Chuck Wendig, means we might never even bother to get dressed before we start pounding away at the keyboard.  Day after day (wedged in between periods of sleeping) we add pages to the pile until finally there is an entire book.  Woo hooo!  Score!

That book should be published and make a million dollars because we created it.  We love it.  Life owes us something for all that work.


Life owes us nothing for getting up and writing.  It owes us nothing after hours and hours of rewriting and reworking and submitting and finding an agent.  It owes us nothing after submitting to editors and getting a contract.  It owes us nothing for going through more revisions and going through copy edits and proofing pages.  And more –life owes us nothing even after the book hits the shelves. 

Whether you go through traditional or self-publishing channels to see the book available for the reading public, you have done a lot of work.  And despite all that work, the book may barely be a blip on the reading public’s radar.  And while that is disappointing to hear, it’s the way it is.  No matter how many promotional blog posts you write and how many bookstores you visit, your book may never sell more than a handful of copies.  That book could be the best book ever written and this is still the case.  Because luck plays a part in everything and life owes us nothing.

Thousands upon thousands of books are traditionally published every year.  Thousands more are self-published.  So if you think life owes you the top of the list and a ride to the bank to cash all those royalty checks, you are probably setting yourself for disappointment.  I mean, ask yourself how many books you bought and read this past year.  Even if your reading count is high, it’s only a drop in the bucket compared to the titles which were published.  Think of how many books you never had an opportunity to hear of and know that if you write and publish a book—that could be you. 

See—I told you this post was going to be a downer.  Or is it?  Because while life doesn’t owe you the trappings of success, it does owe you the opportunity to sit down and type.  After that it is up to you.  You owe it to yourself to take advantage of that opportunity and celebrate the victories that you accomplish every day.  Writing a page.  Two pages.  Finishing a chapter.  Reaching the halfway point.  Typing The End.  Life doesn’t owe you those moments, but rather you owe them to yourself.  And when you are done writing a book, life doesn’t owe you fame and fortune.  If you are writing to achieve those things you are most likely going to find disappointment at the end of the publishing rainbow no matter what happens.  But if you go into this business remembering that life doesn’t owe you anything and that you are doing it for yourself—then each day will be a triumph and every reader who sends you a note telling you how much they enjoyed the story will make you feel as if you have found a pot of gold.

Writing is about you and the story.  A published book is about the story and the reader.  And that is the case whether life owes you anything or not.


Dana King said...

All writers (musicians, artistic people in general) should read this. We chose these endeavors; no one forced us. We all had the choice of doing what we loved, or being secure; you can't ask for both. Every writer/musician/artist should be grateful our lives worked out to give us the option to be in this situation. Many--possibly most--people do not.

Supriya said...

As always, Joelle, you inspire me even when you may not realize it (like with this particular post). I read it last night before writing, and while I found it a wee depressing when I first read it, I totally got it---and appreciated the message---while I was writing and even after. You gotta do it because you love it, not because it's going to have any other payoff. Words to write by. Thank you again, wise friend.