The many shapes of a writing career

Elsewhere we’ve been talking about how the blogosphere gives a skewed view of what a writing career looks like, because we’re all more likely to talk about our successes than our setbacks, probably because we’re all a little afraid of looking not-successful in public.

This means when one reads about writing online, one can begin to believe it’s supposed to be a straight and easy path, and that anything else means you’re doing something wrong–which is bad enough when you’re just getting started, but is even worse when you’re going through a rough patch and begin fearing that maybe you’re the only one.

Real life conversations with writers tell a different story though, at least in my experience–one that shows nearly as many paths to a writing career as there are writers.

So I’m putting out a call for writers–at all stages of their careers–to talk about the roadbumps, the setbacks, the rough times. Because we all need to see that too, and too often we don’t. And if we all do this at the same time, maybe admitting to having imperfect careers will be less daunting, too.

So here are some of the things I don’t always talk about much when I talk about my writing career:

– I began writing in 1990. That means I’ve been doing this almost 20 years. I sold my first short story just out of college–but after that, this hasn’t been quick, at all.

– My first three books were published in 1996, but my fourth wasn’t published until 2006. I kept selling short stories in between, but still … that’s a ten year career gap, and it wasn’t until near the end of it, talking to other writers, that I began to understand how common ten year career gaps really are.

– During those ten years I wrote three proposals and one novel that never sold, as well as a work-for-hire project that started out sold but wound up not-sold. I also wrote the book that broke the career gap–it took more than five years to sell that book, and at one point my then-agent told me that if it was going to sell, it would have already done so.

So post about yours–the roadbacks, and setbacks, and rough spots–so that we can all get a better sense of all the many ways in which careers happen. (And if you remember, link to the posts here, because I’d love to hear about them, and be reminded of all the different ways in which careers can happen myself.)

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