They say that if you love to cook, the last thing you should do is open a restaurant, because it will ruin cooking for you forever. I won’t go as far as saying that becoming a professional writer will ruin writing for you. I don’t know what it will do for you, frankly. I can only tell you what it did for me.
From the age of about twelve onward, I wanted nothing more in life than to be published. Once that happened, writing was no longer something I did just for fun. It became something I did with the expectation of pleasing others: agents, editors, publishers, and finally the reading public. That automatically changes everything. I’m sure it’s easy to see why. It’s a lot of pressure.
Then again, if I am to be honest, I never really wrote just for fun. I write because I can’t help it. Jack Kuniczak, my mentor, told me, “Fate has handed you a whip, and you’re going to flog yourself with it until you drop dead. Congratulations.” My seventeen-yearold self felt a peculiar pride when he said this to me; I felt that I had been accepted by a Real Writer, who sensed in me one of his own kind. If I had known what he actually meant by these words, I might have run screaming from the room.
I say that jestingly, for the most part. But the life of a professional writer is often very frustrating, even when things are going well. It really does involve a lot of selfflagellation, of the metaphorical sort. (I don’t actually own a flagellum.) And past success is no guarantee of future performance, as the mutual fund disclaimers say. I’ve had books take off like Roman candles, and I’ve had books sink without a trace. Regardless of what happens, it’s never satisfying. No book ever feels finished, done, or right. And no one ever quite seems to understand what we’re trying to say.
Regardless of whether you are a compulsive writer, or someone who writes because she feels she has something important to say, or someone who is just playing around, or someone who is desperate for attention, everything will change for you once publication enters the picture. So be careful what you ask for. You just might get it.
Learn more about William Kowalski at https://www.williamkowalski.com
Read Will’s followup article: Agents: Do I need one?.