Do you ever worry that after you have invested days, weeks, and months researching and writing a manuscript that it will not be publishable and that you will have wasted your time? That is my biggest fear about writing. Time. It is so valuable and there are no guarantees that you will see a return for the sweat, sacrifice, and soul that you have poured into page after page. Is it worth the risk of your precious, measured, quickly-slipping-away commodity?
I have to give myself a pep talk on this very issue from time to time, and here is what I say:
1. Any type of business is a risk. We cannot guarantee the investment of our time or money in the workplace, but we have to eat, so we continue to risk our energy and skill. The same goes for writing.
2. The outcome is never guaranteed. We think that other careers are “safer” because we can see tangible results immediately, such as a smile when we speak or a warm hug when we give or a mark on a test when we teach. But those outward expressions are only symptoms of a possible outcome. We don’t know what goes on in each heart and mind. Only God knows which seeds will produce and which will not, which will be choked out by thorns or dried up by the sun. We are not responsible for the outcome, only for the input. We can stop stressing over “wasting” time on our writing because we are not in charge of people’s hearts. (That does not excuse us from seeking out feedback and improving our writing.)
3. We learn that even though some of our work was rejected, we became better writers. The odds of publishing increase as our skill grows.
4. We discover that writing, just like any other career, is not all about us. There is a greater plan, and our work is not merely about changing somebody else’s life but just as much about how it changes our own lives. We become different people as we write. We begin to see life differently. We are able to make those life-changing decisions that we expected our writing to address in other people’s lives. Writing, or any consistent task, will grow our character. At first, I assumed that writing was all about my audience. But looking back on my writing, I can see how I have changed in ways I never would have guessed. Get the big picture.
About those manuscripts languishing in a forgotten file … all those hours have not been wasted. They are used in some other way, either as a lesson in craft, as a building block of your character, or as elements for another story. I think it’s worth the risk.
If Pam could spend all day in her kitchen baking pies, brownies, and making turkey dinner for friends, she would. But Murray Pura once told her to write first and then bake—advice that she is trying to stick with these days, except, of course, when her grandchildren stop in for milk and cookies.