Yes, for those of us who have taken awhile to mature as writers these lists can be annoying: Best Writer’s Under 40, Most Promising Debut Writers, Yale Younger Poetry Prize Winners.
Some of us take longer than others to publish a book. Here is by no means an exhaustive list of what I wrote, sometimes with collaborators, before publishing my first book in 2011:
- 500+ Poems
- 30+ Short Stories
- 6 Novels
- 12 Screenplays
- 1 One Act Play
It took me nearly 15 years after graduate school to publish a book. But it took less that 5 years after that to get to 6 books published (or soon-to-be-published).
What has been the difference in my recent publishing success? Simple: I have gotten better as a writer.
I have many writing friends who have the talent and material to get a book published, but have yet to break through. I am convinced that they will, but there is some level of luck involved.
My book “Captive” won the De Novo prize, C&R Press, after being a finalist 20 times in poetry book competitions. I never wavered in my writing, my reading, my submissions, or my belief in myself. This is where understanding yourself and what motivates you as a writer becomes important.
I love the process of writing. It is a part of my life. It is my hobby. My passion. My outlet. My greatest love (outside of my family and friends). While I understand that publishing and readership are arrows on the path to becoming a better writer I have also, at times, been motivated by self-competition, external competition, jealousy, accolades, a need to create art, obsession.
One of my favorite self-mantras is that “Writing is a marathon, not a sprint.” Writers at every age should feel encouraged to continue working in their craft. Success, if at all, may not come or may not come to the level we believe. As long as we believe in our work, we will get better and others will eventually take notice.