When I wrote my first blog for Writers of the Future, I was basking in the glow of my first sale. You can almost smell the excitement coming off my words. It was December 2019. I talked about how I track my word count, aiming for the mythical million words of competency. I talked about how Writers of the Future was absolutely foundational to my writing journey and how my journey to becoming a writer was nearly synonymous with my journey with Writers of the Future.
None of that has changed, and so this time, I’d like to talk about that journey and how valuable it is to remember that writing (and life) is a process, not a result.
When I wrote that first blog, I had around 450,000 words of fiction written. In the two and a half years since, that number has grown to 875,000 words. My single sale has grown to eleven publications and a position as Associate Editor at Apex Book Company and Magazine. In short, my dream of becoming a professional writer is well on its way to becoming a reality.
However, as you’ll be fully aware, the past two and half years haven’t been the easiest for anyone. Writing might be going well when looking at results, but it’s been one part of the difficult journey we’ve all been on since December 2019. The entire world has changed. I’m not sure what I would have done without writing—which brought me friendship, goals that stayed in place as the world changed around me, struggles unrelated to the chaos of the world around me, and bright accomplishments in the midst of dark moments.
Achieving My Dream
Of all those accomplishments, perhaps the most meaningful was achieving my dream of attending the Writers of the Future workshop, seeing my story illustrated by an unbelievably talented artist, and sharing pages of one of these illustrious volumes with writers who I not only admire but count among my dear friends. As Published Finalist in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 38, I even have the special opportunity to continue to submit and perhaps get to attend that magical week a second time.
Don’t Just Focus on Results
That is not the whole story, though. Focusing only on results leaves out a critical element of writing, and really, life itself. Before that magical first sale, for instance, were three years of nothing but rejections. It was seven months after my first sale before I sold a second story. In 2021, I sold four stories while receiving 107 rejections. There were times before I got that first finalist call that I despaired of ever being good enough to get into the final eight. (In fact, when I answered the phone to “Hi Rebecca, it’s Joni!” I said, “No, it’s not!”)
But I kept writing, kept submitting, kept studying and trying to get better. In 2021, I was a finalist three times—what a result for all my hard work!
It’s easy to focus on the results. They’re shiny. The results become the purpose, the ultimate proof that we’re really, truly writers. The doldrums between sales can feel like failure. Many writers struggle with a deep-seated fear that we’re frauds, imposters. Results help combat that fear, but results are inconsistent, out of our hands, and subjective. Writers love “rejectomancy,” poking at submissions data and trying to infer editorial decision-making from scant information—all in the name of results. We celebrate acceptances, sales, and completed projects.
I wish, instead, that we focus on what is in our control, what we can do—which is write, read, submit, and believe. Not believe in results—because, as I said above, there’s only so much we can do to control results—but believe in the journey. The journey itself is worth our time and effort.
For example, my first sale, “Whose Waters Never Fail,” is one of my favorite stories to this day, but not because it was my first sale. It’s because when I look back on the journey that I took with that story, I can see a professional writer growing, and that makes me proud. The story had to lose a thousand words to meet the submission’s call, and my critique partner kept asking for more insight into the character’s feelings. Fewer words, more feelings. Easy, right? Ha. I labored over the story up to the deadline for the submission window: cutting, rearranging, editing, and polishing. It is that work I look back on with pride as much as the result of the eventual sale.
My second sale was written in an afternoon, submitted after a few critiques, and sold within the month. Less of a journey for the story, but looking back, that ability to write and edit quickly was only possible because of my journey of years of study, hard work, and practice.
All my stories reflect my journey in one way or another. A recent sale is the result of working to really bare my heart while writing—to “tell the truth.” My published finalist grew out of research for a novel, childhood memories, and a joy in telling stories with magical animals. Again and again, as I look at my journey, I see the process changing me and the stories serving as road signs, symbols, and markers for the journey.
It is the journey that has brought so much meaning and value to my life, not the results.
It would be disingenuous to say I don’t write to sell stories, but it would also be a lie to say I would stop if I never made another cent or shared another word with readers. In a way, that’s the point. I love writing. Selling is exciting, and having my words resonate with an audience is humbling and thrilling, but it is the process, the journey, that I love most of all.
A Magical Journey
The happiest I am as a writer is when I’m writing. When the words are flowing, and the so-called real world fades away to a distant buzz while I pour bits of my soul out through my fingers and into symbols on a white screen, I am vividly alive and joyful. The unhappiest I am as a writer is when I focus on results and sales instead. When I compare my results to others or focus on achieving one particular result. And as I continue to write and study and grow, I celebrate the process and (try to) accept what results may come.
I am on a magical journey, and if I get to visit some magical destinations along the way, well, that’s just a bonus.
Rebecca grew up reading science fiction and fantasy in the Rocky Mountains. After grad school, she began writing fiction. Rebecca has lived in many places, including the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and Tokyo, Japan. Rebecca’s short fiction has been published by or is forthcoming from Zooscape, Seize the Press, Air & Nothingness Press, The Dread Machine, Flame Tree Publishing, WordFire Press, Galaxy Press, and others. She is an Associate Editor at Apex Book Company and Magazine. She currently resides in Texas Hill Country with her husband, where she juggles children, corgis, a violin studio, and writing. She only drops the children occasionally. For Rebecca’s thoughts on writing and more of her fiction, visit www.rebeccaetreasure.com.