5 hurdles to leap if you want to be published

May 10, 2011Write!

As I look back over the past 8 years in this publishing journey, I’ve seen many hurdles I’ve had to leap over. My hunch is that if that’s your heart and goal, you’ll need to leap too. I’d love to prepare you for those hurdles by identifying them and giving a wee bit of advice along the way. Ready? Here goes.

Hurdle #1 Pride

What it looks like: You can’t accept other people’s critique. You are a better writer than everyone else. You love your words so much that you can’t stand the thought of altering them.

How to hurdle: In the early stages of your career, take every single piece of advice and try it on for size, even if you feel the person giving the advice is an inferior writer. It’ll take several years for you to find your voice, and when you do, you’ll learn to discern what pieces of advice to throw and which ones to keep. Also realize that you’re not God’s gift to the literary world. You’re one of many struggling writers. And the truth is, we all have to walk through a period of apprenticeship.

Hurdle #2 Laziness

What it looks like: You desire to be published, but it’s such a long, boring bother. Why can’t things just happen? Why not take as many shortcuts as you can just to see your words in magical print? Why entangle yourself in things like critique groups? Why hire an editor? Why hone the craft? Why try marketing?

How to hurdle: Sorry, this one is almost impossible to overcome unless you really, really want to. Truth: this writing gig is hard. Only the tenacious survive. Only those who doggedly pursue perfecting their craft, learning as much as possible, will find success. Sure, these days anyone can be “published.” But what is the longevity of terrible prose? Dare to think in terms of the long view. Don’t put anything out there for public consumption that isn’t your very best at that moment in time. You need to practice patience. Remember the 10,000 hour rule: Anything of genius takes 10,000 hours. Don’t try to be published at your 25th hour. Apprentice yourself. Humble yourself. Do the hard work. Dare to.

Hurdle #3 Fame Addiction

What it looks like: You’re not particularly interested in becoming a better writer. Instead, if you’re honest, you really want to see your name on a book. You want the “fame” of an author without the sweat. The glory without the long journey.

How to hurdle: Remember, publication is a marathon, not a sprint. The fame is entirely elusive and fleeting, if it happens at all. Don’t go into it with those types of expectations or you’ll be deeply disillusioned. I love this quote by Anne Lamott: “Expectations are resentments under construction.” Instead, expect to improve in your craft, in your knowledge of the publishing industry, in your connections with other publishing professionals. Lay your need for recognition at the cross. Remember that Jesus could’ve had all the fame in the world, but He used His position in order to serve others, not be recognized by them.

Hurdle #4 Ignorance

What it looks like: You send in full articles to editors. You self publish a book, then expect it to be picked up by a traditional publisher. You don’t want to know the inner workings of the publishing world. You don’t know what a managing editor is, or what an acquisition’s editor does. You don’t understand advances, royalties, or earning out. You have never been to a writing conference. You’ve never read a book on how to write. You’re happy to be blissfully unaware of the publishing industry or the writing journey.

How to hurdle: Make a choice today to become a student of the craft and the industry. Subscribe to Publisher’s Weekly PW Daily email here. Write for the inspirational market? Try Christian Retailing’s daily email here.

Hurdle #5 Fear

What it looks like: You’re afraid you’ll fail so you don’t try. You’re afraid you’ll succeed, so you don’t try. You’re terrified of rejection, so you don’t query. You’re afraid of being exposed, so you don’t write what’s really in your heart. You’re afraid people will find you, so you forgo the internet. You’re afraid to promote, so you don’t. Fear, fear, fear. It immobilizes, makes you stuck.

How to hurdle: Put on your big (girl/boy) pants and dare to trust God for the outcomes. If you can’t, you might want to find some other writers to share your stress with, who will understand your fear, but push you beyond it. Better yet, bring together a prayer team to pray you through your fear. Another way to work through it: think of the worse thing that could happen if you dared to write for publication. It’s not as bad as you think. Can you live with it? Which is bigger, your fear or God?

I’m sure I haven’t identified every hurdle, but as I look back on my career, these were the biggies for me. How about you? What are your hurdles? What are you afraid of? What prevents you from being published?