Have you ever heard of the toxic myth of overnight success?
It goes something like this: author writes blockbuster. Media gushes about author’s meteoric rise to the top, omitting the years and sweat it took to get there. Newbie authors (like myself) look at Overnight Success Author and wonder what we’re doing wrong – why we haven’t gotten that dream agent / publishing deal already.
Gillian Flynn and Sabaa Tahir are my inspirations, because they both write so openly about the road it took to get to their “overnight success moments,” and the self-doubt they felt along the way.
In a recent New York Times article, Flynn describes how she had been laid off her job when she started writing Gone Girl. She already had one book published and another written, neither of which was game-changing for her. She wrote Gone Girl because she had to earn a living somehow, and did not expect it to explode on the book scene. And in the midst of writing it, she had moments of doubt that had her saying to herself, “‘I don’t know where [the story] was, I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t know who this character is. What is this?'”
Sabaa Tahir is one of the Young Adult book world’s most prominent stars with her Ember in the Ashes series. She went from having never published to bestseller status with one book. But it took eight years of hustling and self doubt from the moment she started writing the first book in the series until the day it came out. Tahir has done so much to counter the toxic myth of overnight success by speaking openly about her writing journey.
So I want to say a big “thank you” to Gillian Flynn and Sabaa Tahir for sharing their writing journeys openly and honestly, and reminding those of us still trudging through our manuscripts that it’s ok if we’ve been writing for years. It’s ok if we doubt ourselves. It’s ok if we’re hustling to make time to write in between “real life” obligations. It’s ok if we have no idea if our books will ever see the light of day.
The key is to keep going. Keep writing.
And when you feel like you want to quit, look for stories like Flynn and Tahir’s, and remember: even authors who are at the top of their game spent years getting there. You are not alone, and you can do this.
Yours truly, one word at a time,