I've been going over old writing this past week, checking out my stable, as it were, because it's writing contest/awards season; otherwise, I probably wouldn't have bothered. On the one hand, I'm looking at how much are really still works in progress. On the other, I'm looking at how good these works are. This is a change for me, folks, because before, I would nitpick at all the stuff that's wrong about these stories. This time, I'm reading and almost forgetting I wrote it because I'm getting absorbed in the story (I say almost because I'm aware enough to make changes here and there). These stories are strong, even if they don't ultimately win any contests or awards. I'm noticing how much I've improved upon my craft and it's relieving to see, actually. I'm falling in love with my characters all over again, and I know that I will be proud when these manuscripts are finally ready for publication.
Perhaps it's the way I'm approaching this writing contest season now, in that I won't consider any response, whether good or bad, as the definitive word on my talent or the opportunities I have to make it in this industry. In fact, I went back and looked at some old "rejections" (either regarding poor scoring in contests or unsuccessful queries to publishers/editors/agents)--none of them said I couldn't write. I'd been too absorbed in the "no" to really read everything that was being said in the responses. I can write. I've had wonderful friends and mentors encourage me on that front, and every author needs to hear that from someone other than his or herself to remain sane. The real concern, for me especially, was and is truly, "does anyone but me care about this story?" That's what's great about being able to independently publish. It doesn't much matter if a publisher cosigns you or not, I as an independent author can share my story directly to the readers and have them decide if they care about the story. I don't have to worry about publishers playing the odds against my book to determine if they'll foot the bill publishing it (although that is still one goal of mine, as publisher have a larger readership pool to access than little ol' me).
I first heard this from Evelyn Palfrey, even though I'm sure countless others have said it--there is a reader for every book, but no book for every reader. I'm grateful for all the readers I get, truly. I've had so many people come up to me and say things such as, "yours is the first interracial/multicultural/fiction/African-American book I've ever read and I loved it! Comments like that help ground me and keep me focused on why I'm writing in the first place. Making a true living off my writing really is a main goal, to be sure, but I'm trying to write stories people want to read but may not be getting in mainstream publishing.