Your Discouraging Words

I’m shy when it comes to my fiction writing life. I don’t go to a lot of events for writers. I’m not in a writer’s group. I study writing every day, but I haven’t taken a creative writing class since high school. Occasionally I go to author readings. I like going to readings because I can sit in the back of a room where nobody will notice if I don’t raise my hand. I won’t get called on to share my opinion.

I like going to readings, but I don’t like when published authors begin by telling an audience of writers how impossible it is to sell books these days. Some even carry official statistics from a guild that they belong to that says how few books were sold last year. This happened at a reading I went to this week at my local library. After a brief hello, the author took out a piece of paper and shared the grim numbers. In case we didn’t get the math, she paraphrased it for us:

You don’t stand a chance at making money from your fiction writing. And sorry, but it’s just going to get worse.

Then she told us to write anyway because writing is the best feeling in the world. I liked and agreed with the second part, but it was too late when she said it. She could have started with the part about the best feeling in the world. She would have hooked me there.

The main purpose of the event was to give a chance for some of the author’s workshop students to get up and read from their works-in-progress. Three writers were chosen. Though not yet published authors, their writing was polished. They read beautifully. In fact, the author seemed stunned by the quality of their writing. She even admitted to feeling a bit nervous about following up with a reading from her own up-and-coming book. But she read and her piece was good and funny as we all expected. After all, she has sold lots of books.

When it was all over one of the audience members took the time to tell the author she had a lovely jacket. Others waited for their turn to offer a compliment. But, it was too late for me. I couldn’t shake off that sour introduction. The note from the guild. The statistics. The warning not to try to write fiction for money, even though she did. That’s the thing I will remember about this author, unfortunately. Those discouraging words.