What I wish someone had told me.
When I started writing I quickly discovered how good it feels. I experienced that indescribable sense of flow when the words pour out oh-so-effortlessly, that stroke of brilliance when a plot twist strikes out of nowhere. The feeling of creating something that no one else has before. It’s what powered my drive to write my first book, a YA paranormal romance.
But submitting my hard won creative product, then finding readers willing to purchase it, started to suck out the joy. What I wish someone had told me were the following stats:
- It is currently estimated that there are over five million Kindle eBooks on Amazon alone. There are around 2,000 new eBooks published each day.
- Bowker, the US company that issues International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs), reported that the number of ISBNs from self-published books grew by 375% between 2010 and 2015.
- Over one million books were published in the US in 2009, more than triple the number published four years earlier (2005).
- Experts estimate that the average self-published author sells less than 100 copies.
- For those seeking traditional publishers, it is estimated that the big publishers receive 4,000 to 5,000 submission per year (about a hundred per week). A proportion of those don't meet the submission guidelines or aren't professionally presented and are automatically rejected. Of the remaining proportion, 90% are rejected by the first paragraph. 98% are rejected by the first chapter.
- People are reading less and less. In 2015, 43 percent of adults read at least one work of literature in the previous year, the lowest percentage in any year since 1982, when the literature reading rate was 57 percent. The average number of books each person reads over the course of a year is 12, which is probably inflated by voracious readers. The most frequently reported number was 4 books read per year.
I would have reached the conclusion that grit—the ability to stick with things that are important to you (no matter how hard or boring or stressful or frustrating)—is essential to your writing success so much earlier!
As a practicing psychologist, discovering the power of grit was a powerful turning point in my writing career. As someone who juggles a fiction and non-fiction writing platform, as someone who has limited writing time thanks to a deeply rewarding day job and a family that I wouldn’t trade, and as someone who is plagued by self-doubt, dissecting its components was life-changing.
I define grit as comprising two parts—passion and perseverance. I’d already articulated the passion part—I write to connect and contribute to others. But the perseverance part? That needed some work. My persistence and commitment tended to wax and wane depending on whether I’d recently experienced a ‘success’. I would sink into periods of being unable to write and my dream of earning an income from writing would stagnate. It was inevitable that there were times I considered quitting.
Once I reframed my mindset (I call it ‘gritty thinking’) and what I was actually doing with my time (gritty actions), I developed determination and resilience. And they’ve made all the difference. It was a journey, but I now set my alarm for 5:30 every weekday morning so I have an hour of writing time before my responsibilities as a mother kick in. Most evenings I edit or research or read, usually I write some more. Every Sunday I publish a blog post for my PsychWriter followers.
To date, I’ve published three books, a novella and a short story. I’ve won multiple awards and hit number one in a few Amazon categories. PsychWriter has made it on the Top 100 Websites for Writers and I’m a resident writing coach for a popular writing website. The emails I receive from readers and fellow writers are overwhelmingly positive and encouraging and truly touching.
This is what I wish someone had told me, sat me down, looked me in the eye, and said—grit matters.
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