I'm a fan of fairy tales. Not so much the Disney re-tellings—though some are good—but rather the rich lore of the originals.
But what if your writing career was a fairy tale? Which one would it be?
Cinderella was a hard-working young woman cursed by a stepmother who didn't care one bit about her dreams. But Cindy was special, so when a fairy godmother showed up and offered her a pretty dress, slippers, and a carriage to the prince's ball, she headed out the door. Even better, she came upon Prince Charming, who fell in love with her at first sight and made all of her dreams come true.
I used to believe this was the writing fairy tale! I'd get my fairy godmother agent who'd set up my meeting with a publisher who'd fall in love with my writing...and together they'd make all my dreams come true. Yeah, I was a little naive and starry-eyed back then.
Look, I'm not knocking Cinderella's work ethic—the girl is forced into servitude and hangs out among the cinders to keep warm, for heaven's sake! But she's not the hero of her own story.
Likewise, imagining that someone else is going to deliver your writing happy-ever-after on a silver platter is a bit unrealistic these days. Be your own fairy tale hero. Get the manuscript finished, be smart about your choices, and take charge of your writing success.
Snow White is a tale of jealousy, pure and simple. An evil queen approached her looking glass each day and asked how she measures up. But she didn't do it based on how looked the day before or how she'd look the day after. She compared herself to others. And what happened? Well, she got bested by a sweet young thing who hung out with seven dwarfs in the deep of the forest and a local prince who fell in love with that black-haired beauty. As Dr. Phil might say, "How'd that work out for you, Queenie?"
Yet, plenty of us fall for the same thing. We plug away at our writing, look over and realize that someone else is ahead of us, and become discouraged, frustrated, and jealous. Well, guess what? Someone will always be ahead of you. If you write 5,000 words this week, someone else will write 10,000. If you get a five-figure book advance, someone else will get a six-figure one. If you hit the New York Times bestseller list, someone will too—and stay on it longer.
What if the queen had just looked in the mirror and concluded, “So I’m not 20 anymore, but I look dang good. In fact, I'm one hot mama. I’m going to get on my exercise steed, use a beauty product or two, and look even better tomorrow”? Of course, there'd be no conflict and thus no story, but everyone would have gotten a happy ever after!
Forget how you measure up to others. Write the best story you can, so you can look in that mirror and say, "Heck yeah, I'm the fairest I can be!"
Rapunzel was locked away in a tower at the age of 12 and didn’t cut her hair for years. Of course, it was the enchantress who shut her away in the story, but it's a story of isolation until some guy comes to rescue her. (And here's where the Disney version is better, because she totally rescues him back. So there.)
Do you, like Rapunzel, feel isolated and alone in this journey? We've all heard those stories of the writers who lock themselves away for the sake of finishing a manuscript. They ignore healthy eating, sleeping, and grooming and write so much that they're only a few hours away from naming their blinking cursor "Wilson."
But is the "always writing" approach a great idea? Actually, more and more research is showing we need playfulness and novelty and social interaction to keep our minds functioning at full capacity. It's okay to let down your hair now and then, take care of yourself, and enjoy time with others. Maybe hang out with some other writers. I hear they're a cool bunch.
Beauty and the Beast
A widower in need of sustenance came upon a palace and found food and water within. But the Beast who owned the palace would not let the man go unless his daughter took his place. Once the daughter arrived and swapped spots with Daddy, the Beast tried to woo her, but she would not return his affection. Finally, he let her leave to visit her family, but after a while, Beauty worried he was back at the palace dying without her. Upon her return, she found the Beast almost dead, realized she loved him, and brought him back to life—as a human prince.
Writing can be a beast, can't it? Maybe it's at the level of drafting the manuscript, when you can't seem to make it all work. Maybe it's just finding time to write among the pushes and pulls of life. Maybe it's marketing that makes you want to roar like a beast yourself.
And yet, stories keep wooing you, and deep down, you know you love writing. It's just a matter of bringing them all to life with all your Beauty-ness. Mind you, it will take time, and you wish the road was easier. But with some attention and nurturing, you may well turn your beasts into bestsellers!
Now that would be a happy ever after.
Can you compare your writing journey to any of these fairy tales? Or how about others?
Julie Glover writes cozy mysteries and young adult fiction. Her YA contemporary novel, SHARING HUNTER, finaled in the 2015 RWA® Golden Heart®. She is also co-author of the Muse Island supernatural suspense series, which begins with Mark of the Gods, under the pen name Jules Lynn.
When not writing, she collects boots, practices rampant sarcasm, and advocates for good grammar and the addition of the interrobang as a much-needed punctuation mark.