Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Am I Wasting My Time?

I get asked this question quite a bit. The questioner really wants to know if I think their writing is good enough to get published. How do I know? Lots of things get published that I don't think are particularly good, or interesting. Lots of things that I like, other people don't rate. Lots of books that are held up as literary 'greats' I haven't read (eg anything by James Joyce). Was Dan Brown wasting his time? I'm not a fan, and thought he'd certainly wasted mine when I read the Da Vinci Code, but lots of people think it's the best book ever. Who's right?

And time makes such a difference. I tried writing several novels in my twenties. I didn't finish them, but I bet they wouldn't have been publishable even if I'd ever managed to struggle beyond chapter 3. Now I expect whatever I write to get published. (Gosh, that sounds arrogant. I'm not saying what I write is great literature, just, it's of publishable quality.) But I think the real answer to the question "Am I wasting my time?" is another question:

Do you enjoy wasting your time in this way?

If the answer is no, then you are wasting your time. If the answer is yes, then carry on enjoying yourself - and that's never a waste of time.


Jane Lovering said...

But at least the comment 'am I wasting my time?' shows that they have humility and not the feeling that they somehow 'deserve' to get published simply because they wrote a book! Too often I get manuscripts under my nose with the peremptory demand 'tell me who will publish this'. And usually the answer is, no-one. But if you know that writing isn't a sure-fire certain way to a million quid that has to be worked at, at least the asker is some of the way there.

Sarah Callejo said...

The thing is, I like to know I'm doing something right. Even if I do enjoy it, maybe I should look for something that I enjoy and also do well. It's such a long-term event without knowing if you're heading in the right direction.
And it's probably never time wasted, because hopefully you're improving, but what if you could really be doing something else much better? (Sorry, I got in a tangle there, so I probably am wasting my time!)

Sarah Duncan said...

I obviously get a humbler class of questioner - I don't think anyone has demanded I tell them who will publish their novel. But you're absolutely right, better to be uncertain than over confident.

Sarah, I know what you mean, and obviously validation along the way is great and it reaffirms our faith in what we're doing. But my point was really that you should enjoy the journey, because getting published is such a random thing.