It’s not easy being a writer.
We have a love-hate relationship with our profession. We get writer’s block and carpal tunnel. And unless you’re JK Rowling, you’re probably living just above the poverty level.
Sure, there are careers for writers, like working as a journalist or grant-writer. We can pen screenplays and marketing campaigns and ad copy.
But most writers I know want something more than just a paycheck: they want to write the stuff that’s stewing in their heads. It could be a memoir, a work of science fiction, a travelogue.
And therein lies the frustration.
Consider this: an agent could get something like 500 manuscripts to read a month, and maybe one of those will get accepted and published. Those are small odds.
I have often compared publishing to winning the lottery, though that analogy isn’t entirely correct. Megabucks is a completely random thing; publishing can happen, and you do have some control over that.
It’s taken me a long time to feel even a little confident that I could pen a book — or even a story in a national magazine. And it has been the words of the late Maya Angelou that has helped me believe in what I can do.
The author-poet-activist, who passed away last week, was truly an inspiration, not just as a writer but as a human.
The gift she gave many writers: the courage to speak.
Here are a few of her quotes that have echoed in my head for years:
“You can never be great at anything unless you love it.”
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”
These are great words to live by, whether you’re an aspiring writer or not. It’s about loving what you do, accepting who you are, and getting it done. Really, are there any other options?
Angelou taught people how to think about the world around them, how to navigate what’s important and screw what’s not. She famously said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” And that’s easily the most important lesson anyone can learn.
“You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.”
— Maya Angelou, 1928-2014