Besides writing, I also like to draw, though it’s a hobby that I devote almost no time to, these days. As with my writing, I prefer to draw things that are, by nature, either fantasy or science fiction. Several years ago, somewhere in the early part of the decade, I posted several of my fantasy pictures to a website devoted to fantasy art called “Elfwood“.
A couple years ago, I was perusing my old elfwood page (which I hadn’t updated in ages, because of the aforementioned neglect of my drawing hobby) when I noticed that someone who had left a comment on one of my pages had passed away. The person was a writer who had uploaded some of his written work onto the elfwood site. When I read his biography, it told how he was a career businessman who retired and had started a new career as a fantasy writer. The year he passed away he was expecting to get his first novel published.
I realized then that this is my fear: that I will work hard throughout my life at a career that ultimately does little to satisfy, and when I am finally freed from the shackles of the corporate world, I pass away before seeing the publication of any of my real work. A story like the one from the writer who commented on my elfwood page reminds me that this is not an idle fear. It is a reminder to “carpe diem”, as they say, and to do now what you can do to succeed and make something positive of life.
But if your goal in life is to get published, it’s not that easy.
When I was an undergraduate in college, I decided to pursue a degree in Business Administration. It was not a subject for which I had any great passion. But I made that choice with a purpose in mind. I knew that one day I would be a husband and father and that, as such, I would have a responsibility to provide for the needs of my family. To fulfill that responsibility, I would need a career with some reasonable amount of certainty, a job with some security and I knew the vagaries of a writer’s life were filled with uncertainties. Or at least, I had read as much, in advice written by other writers, already successful and of some renown in their field. And if they, being successful writers, had cause to offer such warnings on the uncertainties of success as a writer, I reasoned, what cause had I to suppose that my own fate in that line of work would be any more certain?
I choice a career in Business because it should prove a sure path to relatively secure and certain employment.
And it has been relatively secure, despite a few hiccups along the way. But what it has not been is a sure path to self-fulfillment. For that, I have my family, and I have my writing.
I personally know of three people, not counting myself, who have aspirations to become fantasy novelists. Of course, I know many more who just enjoy reading fantasy or consuming fantasy and science fiction in various other media. But I have to wonder: is this an anomaly, or is this normal? Are there untold numbers of aspiring fantasy and science-fiction novelists, or do I just happen to know an unusual few? Does such a high percentage of us, comparatively speaking, desire to write? My gut tells me that this is normal, this is a trend, that there is an unusually high number of people who would be writers, if only they could be. I’ve seen other evidence of this assertion, as well (the fact “how to write science-fiction and fantasy” books continue to sell – surely I cannot be the only one who reads these – or the number who post sample works online, and still other evidence beyond that). And that’s a sobering thought. The fact is, statistically speaking, of the three I know and myself, not a one of us is likely to actually be successful in seeing our work published by a major publishing firm. Of the countless number of those who would be published, some will fail because they lack the motivation to keep trying. Some will fail because, frankly, they lack the talent and skill (and I pray that I am not among them!). But there are many who will have the motivation to keep trying, who have the talent and have honed their skill, and yet will still fall short of that goal.
If they have the talent and the perseverance, then why do they fail?