I’ve always been a big nerd. To others it’s been clear for a long time, but I’ve only recently been able to admit it to myself. I mean, the signs were all there: I read a ton. I love playing Boggle. I get upset when others use “who” when they mean “whom.” I don’t own a pocket protector but it wouldn’t shock me if 10 years from now I had one … made out of leather … and embroidered with my initials.
But for one shining moment, one GLORIOUS MOMENT, when I finished writing my book, OH BOY, YOU’RE HAVING A GIRL: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters, I felt like a complete and utter badass. Here’s why.
1. Writing a book is hard.
If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say, “I have an idea, I’m going to write a book about it” and then watch as they never did it, I’d have—well, I’m not sure exactly how many nickels I’d have because I’m terrible at math, but it’s safe to say I’d have a ton of them. Many people don’t write a book because it’s extremely hard. Forcing yourself to sit down, brainstorm, write, edit, rewrite, edit, cut, add, rewrite, workshop, rewrite and rewrite some more until you’ve got somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 words is grueling work. Most can’t do it. When you’re one of the few who can, it really makes you feel good about yourself—an important quality in a true badass.
2. Editing is painful.
All the effort and time put into writing a scene can all go for naught if it doesn’t mesh just right with your story. It doesn’t matter if it’s your favorite scene: If it’s not right for your book then it’s not right for your book—and has to be cut. Deleting your writing, especially words you’ve sacrificed so much to create, can be incredibly painful. But you do it in spite of the pain because, deep down, you’re tough as nails and you know your book will be better off for it.
3. Knowing when you are “finished” is impossible.
Is your Chapter 1 strong enough? Are you doing enough showing and not telling? Should your main character be walking or sauntering in this one particular scene? You’re on draft #17 and, after reading it again, you think an 18th draft may be necessary. (There’s one sentence in OH BOY that I rewrote every time I reread it!) Finished may be a definitive term when it comes to the end of a baseball game or a Broadway show, but it’s relative when it comes to writing. After all, in writing there’s no clear sign that your manuscript is perfect. At some point, every writer needs to take a leap of faith and have confidence in his or her work. It’s not easy to do, which is why it’s a form a badass-ery.
4. Cold-querying agents is scary.
Cold-querying agents is like knocking door-to-door in an unfamiliar neighborhood and trying to convince people that they should not only appreciate your haircut, but they should invest in your haircut. It takes a lot of guts to put yourself (and your manuscript, which you’ve been working on for who knows how long) out there for the world to judge. Not many people have the courage to do that, but badasses do. [Like this idea? Tweet it!]
5. Rejection is everywhere (and yet you still carry on).
Whether the rejection is from an agent, a publisher, a writing group critique partner, your inner critic, or a family member who doesn’t believe writing is a good use of your time, you still battle forward to accomplish your dream of completing a manuscript and having it published. Persistence and determination are necessary traits in a writer (as well as a badass).
6. Getting paid for your work is harder than ever.
We all daydream of seven-figure advances and splurging on something we’ve always wanted, like a fancy car. But the truth is a majority of advances are so small that they aren’t even enough to buy a used car whose heyday was nearly a decade ago. If you’re writing a book, you face difficult odds and little reward—and yet you press onward because writing is what you were born to do. Sounds like the same mantra of a superhero—and a superhero is just a badass in a costume.
7. Accomplishing a dream is rare—and awesome.
Many people try to write a book but only a few ever succeed. Whether it’s because they didn’t put it in time, make the difficult sacrifices, were too scared they weren’t good enough, gave up when the going got hard, etc., they didn’t do whatever they needed to do to make their goal a reality. If you’ve finished your manuscript (or are on your way to completing it), you’re part of a small, select group of people in this world who have. And anytime you’ve worked hard to accomplish a difficult-to-achieve dream, you are, without a doubt, a badass … and no one can ever take that away from you.
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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.