Growing into It

Especially during back to school time, parents plan ahead for what to buy their kids. Children develop and get larger, so it’s not uncommon for people to buy clothes that are a little larger than a child needs, because then the kid can grow into it.

I smell a writing analogy.

There’s a lot of self-help literature out there to help writers. Like many get rich quick books, or life change books, these books are success-oriented, and often suggest that their suggestions will help you circumnavigate a lot of hard work and succeed. With particular methods, you will separate yourself from the herd, and publication will be yours.


Some people do get lucky, and indeed their story is published, regardless of time up front, or even the quality of the piece.

Some people also win the lottery. Some people are also struck by lightening.

For the majority of us, we have to grow to fit the shape of what will become our writing career.

The truth?

There is no substitute for hard work.
There is no substitute for hard work.
There is no substitute for hard work, ESPECIALLY if you are God’s gift to writing.
There is no substitute for hard work, REGARDLESS of who you know.

And here’s why.

In the beginning, I knew few other writers. I didn’t know which agents were good, and which were less than good. Hard work has made all those connections for me, and continues to make those connections.

In the beginning, I didn’t know that one of the things that happens is that by submitting short work and novels, and safe-guarding your reputation, you grow to fit the shape of what will become a writing career. People now associate me with a kind of genre and a kind of story. That means they might ask me for that sort of thing.

In the beginning, I was writing not nearly as well as I’m writing now. I’ll be writing even better in the future. I am a talented writer. As I write more, I become a skillful and talented writer who knows the conventions of the kinds of work I”m writing. The polish of talent mixed with professionalism is why good writers have to work hard. Alas, good writers are a dime a dozen.

As I write more, I prove myself as a professional. I know appropriate responses and behaviors in publishing. I know how to handle myself in public as a writer. I don’t make as many naive mistakes.

As I write more, I seek out opportunities to educate myself and improve my writing.

As I write more, I discover the kind of writer I am, and what I want people to know me for.

None of these things can happen unless I’m writing. I can’t gain self knowledge unless I’m writing. I can’t improve my writing unless I’m getting educated. The more I do, the more I become.

A mark of writer naivete is that rejection turns the future writer away. Of course you’ll be rejected. You haven’t built any kind of reputation. You are an inexperienced writer sending a message in a bottle out into the sea, banking on the fact that your genius will be recognized (see above about lightening and lotteries.) You generally know little about the conventions of novels or the systems of publishing.

And of course you don’t have an agent yet. Based solely on your words, an agent isn’t likely to see you as an investment of time that will help them make a living, or increase the reputation of your agency. Based on other data as well as the quality of your writing, the chances go up.

This process is not unlike being the new kid at recess. Or the intern at work. Or, well, learning and mastering any new endeavor.

As for myself, I must claim persistence. I’m okay with things. I don’t have an agent. I’m growing into one as I perfect my writing and style. You know what I really like about being a writer who’s still learning? No one sets my agenda but me. I’m practicing writing books which will become the shape of my career.

I intend to be a writer, working and improving. My motivations are intrinsic, and perhaps that is why I can take this stance. I only wish that there were more writing advice that advocated for patience and persistence, rather than creating unrealistic expectations.

There are lots of ways to measure success. If you’re sitting down most every day, and working hard, eventually you’ll have a writing career. You’ll grow into it.


Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

One thought on “Growing into It”

  1. You are reading my mind.

    I don’t have a lot of confidence in my writing, but I’m determined, and I will get better. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.