Attacking that Pipe Dream Mario Style (with a little help from Robert Heinlein)
October 9, 2011 § 2 Comments
For a long time I didn’t tell anybody that I wanted to be an author. Even now, I’ll mention to people that one of my short stories is being published in November, and they will say “Whaaaaa? I didn’t know you write.” The big reason it took so long to tell people I wanted to be an author is that it feels like everybody wants to be an author. I can think of a half-dozen people off the top of my head that have, at one time or another, mentioned that they have a book idea, partially completed manuscript, etc. The fact that so many people say they want to be authors (preferably of the published variety) and so few ever get to that point makes writing feel like a pipe dream. I hesitated to tell people about wanting to be a writer because A) half the time I felt like I didn’t stand a chance of my writing ever going anywhere, and B) I didn’t think people would take my aspirations seriously, which made me even more self-conscious.
The thing is that we have a certain amount of control over whether dreams are of the pipe variety or not. Robert Heinlein, one of the three “fathers of science fiction,” once gave five rules to follow if you want to be a published author. He said he didn’t have any concern about giving away the rules because he knew almost no one would follow them. First, you have to write. Second, finish what you write. Third (and I’ve taken Robert Sawyer’s wording on this one) “don’t tinker endlessly with a story… stories are never finished, only abandoned — learn to abandon yours.” Fourth, put your story on the market. Fifth, keep your story on the market until it sells. And Sawyer added a sixth that I like as well: start working on something new.
Obviously there is a lot to writing beyond determination (like practice), but of all the people I know in my life who want to be published and aren’t, none of them have followed these six rules. Robert Sawyer goes into a bit more depth on each of the rules, which I really appreciate, so if you’re interested, head over his way.