Writing Is The Long Con

What do I mean by that?

I mean that writing isn’t necessarily about the sale you make today.

It’s about establishing a solid base of work that then reaches critical mass and becomes self-sustaining.

In the corporate world, my salary or bonus was generally driven by what I did in that year or that quarter.

Sure, I was hired for a new position or assigned to a project based upon historical performance, but no one was coming up to me in 2010 and saying, “You did such a great job on that project in 2005, here’s some extra money.”

No.  The working world was a constant “what have you done for me lately?” situation.

But writing…writing is different.

That great story you write this year may not sell until 2015.  Or it may sell and no one will notice it until 2017 when you publish your first novel.

Writing is…sticky. Once it’s out there (at least in this day and age) it doesn’t go away.  It can benefit you at any point in time.  Or continue to benefit you for the rest of your life.

So those short-term goals that drive a corporate world–quarterly return, year-end profit, etc.–are not good metrics to apply to writing.  Writing is more like R&D investing.  You have to allow room for failure and sink time into it before it produces results.

That’s why I call writing the long con.

It’s frustrating for me.  I like things to either happen NOW or to have a clear path to success.

I guess maybe write and publish seven books is that path?  (Because there seems to be some general agreement that you need to get out a certain amount of product before you really see momentum build.)

But no.  It’s just not the same as “show up for your job for two years and do a good job and you should be promoted to senior sales associate.”

You can publish those seven books and have nothing to show for it.  Or publish one and make a bestseller list.

All I know is that for me, I have to remember that this isn’t an overnight thing.  Slow and steady wins this race.  Writing season after season, year after year.  Constantly improving.  Being willing to grow and experiment.

That’s what works.

If I’m patient enough, someday it’ll pop.

(I just may be eighty when that day comes…)


About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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