There are about 300,000 books published every year in the United States. A quarter of the books will fail to cover production cost. Only 1% of those will become best sellers. Half will make less than $500. One may win a Pulitzer.
Of course, these numbers don’t always deem a book good or bad, and perhaps you’re not writing for awards or money. Perhaps you’re writing for the art. Perhaps there’s a story you know must be told. Maybe you’re writing because you have talent, or there’s emotion inside of you that must be set free. There are many reasons for writing a book, but the desire for great work never changes. Therein lies the problem.
One Book in a Million
I do not desire to write just another one of 300,000 books this year, and neither do you. We want something different. We desire a book that stands out. We want to write a great book, but stepping into great writing causes fear of failure.
The more you’re aware of the writing you’re capable of, the greater the pressure becomes to live up to that writing. Our expectation to create indelible art becomes impossible to meet, so we write nothing. We stall. Identity as a writer can equal more fear. Ironic, no?
Lose Expectations, End Stalling
Today was one of those days for me. Sitting down to write about writing can be difficult for the same reasons. I go into it thinking I must have an original thought on writing, something no one else has ever brought to the table. I stall because I spend more time spinning in circles for not having original thoughts on writing.
Once we forget about the Pulitzer and our other expectations of great writing, we can get to writing. Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird, said, “Almost all writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something – anything – down on paper.”
There must be something driving you more than the desire to be one in a million, as that appeal rarely turns into motivation. Normally, the hunger to be on New York Times Bestseller list leaves me from accomplishing everything but writing. It takes laying all that aside and saying, “Kellen, just one sentence,” to finally remind myself that writing isn’t scary. It’s challenging. It’s rewarding. It’s frustrating. It’s a long list of things, but scary it is not.
Have you stalled from the immense desire to be a great writer?
Write a small portion of a book you’ve been desiring to write but haven’t actually started. You can write from anywhere in the book.
Write for fifteen minutes. When your time is up, post your practice in the comments section. And if you post, be sure to give feedback on practices from other writers.