Side Roads and Circuses: On Being a Writer

One of the challenges of travelling the road of the writer is coming into contact with a persistent and limited view of how a professional writer should pursue their career. This limited view has directions plastered on billboards. Larger than life, these billboards read: earn a degree in English literature, get an agent, sign a contract with a traditional publisher, get your book on the New York Times bestseller list, make your book into a movie/television series/video game et al. Accomplish any or all of these, than you can call yourself a real writer, a serious writer.

Recently, on my journey, I’ve been exploring a side road called Government Grants. There, I stumbled across a circus I’ve encountered many times before–Traditional Publishing’s Great and Wonderful Show. It’s a circus I limit my exposure to, on account that I worked in book distribution for nearly a decade and have figured out a lot of its illusions and tricks. It might be fun if I had further access, but what I’ve seen of the show so far holds little glamour for me anymore.

You see, while researching professional development grants, I quickly learned that no matter my training (some university and several workshops), no matter my actual skill level as a writer, I am not eligible for any those grants (aka not serious about being a professional writer), because I do not have any literary credits with traditional publishers. Self-publishing doesn’t count.

Here begins that kind of clown logic I can’t stand: To acquire financial assistance for education to help me develop my writing to the skill level of the publishing industry, I have to already be writing at that skill level and prove it. I’m not even going to comment on the nature of that magician’s hoop.

The bottom line is this: There is no support for me at this circus, at least not yet.

There is a possibility, since I have already begun submitting stories to the professional markets with other goals in mind, like acquiring professional editorial feedback and expanding my readership. Now, I can add the goal of acquiring professional literary credits, which might assist with future government funding.

The key word there is future. Could be a couple months from now, maybe a year, maybe two or three, maybe never. That’s too many maybes for me. I feel like those clowns stuck great wads of gum to the bottoms of my shoes. I’m back to going at a snail’s pace with my writing career.

My desire for continuing education (both with writing and with business) is now being held up by other people. It’s a process that is out of my control. I don’t like that one bit. I could be standing at the threshold to being traditionally published for the rest of my life, waiting, hoping. So I hope you’ll understand when I say, “Yes, I’m doing what’s required to fulfill all the rules to gain access to that circus: I’m writing stories and submitting them.” But, excuse me while I scrape the gum off my shoes.

I am not going to wait to continue my education, to improve my skill and my stories, to find more readers. Life is too effin short for waiting and for maybes and for squeezing yourself into the limited vision of what others think a professional writer is or should do to become one.

While traditional publishing industry hems and haws over whether or not I’m of any value to them, I’m going to continue along the indie throughway and explore other ways to pursue continuing my education.

I already carry the cost of producing new books, hosting a website, advertising, and attending conventions. I’m hoping it won’t be too much to ask my readers to donate a dollar now and again for the content I post on this blog, especially if you find it helpful and/or entertaining. For that reason, I’ve posted a permanent Donate Button on the website. Any little bit to help further my education is deeply appreciated.

And no worries if you don’t want to donate. I won’t send any clowns after you.

[crosses fingers behind back]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *