Two weeks ago, we had the privilege of hosting artist Jake Murray for our “In the Biz” column. This week, we return to writers with blogger Rebecca Hargreaves from Diary of a Virgin Novelist. Whether you’re looking to write your first e-book, or determined to go the traditional route, Rebecca’s fearlessly candid responses are as refreshing as they are inspiring. But don’t take my word for it…
What made you want to write?
I love to read. I was that kid who stayed up late devouring a book a night. My old blog was called This Reading Is Manic! because my mother was known to utter that phrase whenever she found me in the same position – on the couch reading – as when she’d left for work that morning. As an adult, I find great pleasure in stories and plays and making people laugh and observing all the minute details of life. I love nothing more than untangling life’s intricacies with a good friend in a darkened bar and I am always striving to express the whirl of emotions and ideas in my head in a way that someone else can truly ‘get.’ Yet, I never thought of those interests or patterns as anything more. Not for a long time anyway.
For a million reasons, I didn’t think that being a writer was an option for me. It really never once crossed my mind. Being a writer was what other people did – geniuses, chosen ones – certainly not me. So I went about my life exploring more “serious” pursuits. I dove into the analytical world, studied economics and public policy, worked in finance and management consulting. I tried job after job, hoping that this time I would find what I was looking for, this time I would find my calling.
A lot of what drove me was fear, and without going too much into the details of all that, two years ago this fall I decided I was done with living like that. I quit my job, started freelancing (mostly with a great group in San Francisco, where I have been lucky enough to focus on projects I genuinely enjoy), and started writing. Sure, I’d journaled and blogged before, but I’d never seriously tried to write. I hadn’t written a word of fiction since fourth grade and I was much more familiar with mathematical symbols than punctuation, but I just started. And I think that is the most important thing for all the aspiring scribes out here. Just start.
What challenges do you face writing fiction?
Confidence. Confidence in my work, my routine, my dedication, my growth, my choices, my goals…you name it and I worry about it. It’s difficult for me to be a beginner, to not know what I am doing, to not be perfect right out of the gate. I am the classic (or I was anyway) over-achieving, type-A, perfectionist. I have fancy degrees. I went to Harvard! I wore suits, goddamnit! With writing I am tentative and anxious and nervous. So getting over that and just writing – every day, as much as I can – is my greatest challenge.
Authors are encouraged to blog, tweet, Facebook, etc. What benefits do you see to building a platform?
I blog and tweet to be part of a community of writers and supporters. This is critical for all writers, but especially newbies, who are so unsure. Being part of this community helps my writing, whether it be informative posts, craft tips, or reading recommendations, and connects me to the network and support I need. In the future, when I have a book to sell, do I think having this “platform” will help? Absolutely, but I don’t do it just for that reason. If you want to build your platform organically, I think your activities and online presence need to be authentic and something you enjoy doing. It’s a whole lot more about giving back than taking.
‘Platforming’ is time-consuming. How do you decide when to write fiction and when to work on everything else?
I haven’t figured it out yet! I’d like to say that blogging and tweeting comes after fiction writing and work, but that is not always the case. I have daily or weekly writing goals and weekly work goals that I try to hit. How I get there on a given week – and how much blogging and tweeting I do as well – is anyone’s guess.
Thank you, Rebecca, for your sincerity!