Brittany ThurmanComment

Naysayers: A Cautionary Tale

Brittany ThurmanComment
Naysayers: A Cautionary Tale

Let's take a trip back in time, say 2015, when I was having one of my many moments of self doubt. Pre 2015, I had graduated from Carnegie Mellon University, with a Master of Fine Arts in Dramatic Writing. By all means, this made me a master at my craft, but I have always felt that learning never stops. I don't know it all, and if a chance presents itself for me to improve my craft, I'll take it. 

After graduating from CMU in 2013, I wrote off and on, but I needed a little bit of guidance. So, that led me to taking a Creative Writing class at a local community college. Community colleges can be great for a number of reasons. 

-Cheaper and more affordable than University...

- Offers classes regular folk can take when they want to learn a thing or two..

- Smaller class sizes...

The list goes on...

My goals for this class were to:

Finish my YA Novel

Get advice on publishing

Learn the ins and outs of going the traditional publishing route, vs. self-publishing

I struck out on my not so mid life crisis, and in the freezing cold months of November and December I would walk from my home to this community college to take this one course. 

-Ya'll Pittsburgh is COLD, so you know I must have been going through something serious...

In terms of getting feedback and direction on my novel, the class was ok. I say ok because in hindsight, I know I could have done a better job at revising if I had just stayed at home. But, it's always helpful to have others look at your work and hear their criticism. This brings me to another point which I might write in a different blog post- Being selective of the feedback you receive...

Anyway, one day in particular the class was focused on learning the differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing.

Self Publishing: The author uses various means to publish the works him/herself.

Traditional Publishing: The author seeks an agent who then represents the author and his/her work by presenting them to editors/publishing houses. 

The instructor asked who wanted to go the self-publishing route and who wanted to do traditional. 

Let's envision this:

Instructor: "If you want to self publish, raise your hand."

The entire class (except me) raises their hand. 

Instructor: "If you want to go the traditional route, raise your hand."

I raise my lonesome hand. 

At the time, the instructor also had a guest self-published author in the room. His response to me wanting to go the traditional route was:

"It's not going to happen. The chances of an unknown author getting an agent are slim. You might as well give it up. Do you know how long it even takes for an author to get an agent? There are so many people vying for agents, your chances are nonexistent."

At that point my ears automatically converted his words into,

"Wah, wah, wah. Blah, blah, blah. Yada, yada, yada. Wah, wah, wah. Blah, blah, blah. Yada, yada, yada."

Because, at that point I knew I was going to get an agent. 

One of my many pet peeves is someone telling another person that the cannot do something. 

Now, I'm not saying that in some ways he didn't have a point. Yes, it's tough to get an agent. Yes, this industry can be competitive and selective and, yes, the rejection is high, the waits are long and sometimes along the way, people give up. But that does not mean that you cannot get an agent, which is finding someone who believes in your work.

That does not mean you cannot get published. 

After that incident I stopped going to the class. (Did I mention Pittsburgh is cold during winter?) Instead, I continued to write at home and sought out ever article, piece of advice, conference, writer friends, and opportunities I could find. I knew that continuing to go to that class, where the instructors did not believe I could achieve, would only stifle my growth at a writer and the confidence in myself. 

Some opportunities came to me, such as an author friends introducing me to other authors, who then have come to be friends and mentors. 

Other opportunities I had to seek for my self, such as going to conferences when I had very little money, being robbed pre-conference (yikes! another story for another day!) and applying for scholarships that I prayed I would get. (News- I did!)

If someone wants to self-publish, more power to them, but that does not mean you should try to squash someone else's goal for their future. 

What I'm trying to say is don't give up and don't give in, and most importantly, don't listen to the naysayers- they don't know what they're talking about.