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For me, Bryan Allain is one of those Internet-only friends we all have whom we figure we’d get along pretty well with if we ever interacted in the real world. I’m not sure how the two of us first got in touch. Maybe it was when he asked me to do something at his faith & sports site, Prayers for Blowouts. Who knows? But we know a lot of people in common, we both like the Cannarf rating system (which is his brainchild), and we play each other regularly in Words with Friends on our phones. Clearly we are BFFs.
Bryan is a great, funny blogger who has spent the last few years getting close — really close — to a publishing deal. But still no dice. As much as we talk about writing here, the truth is that it always comes from my perspective, which is skewed since I’ve already gotten my foot in the publishing door. What Bryan can offer, however, is probably more helpful. He brings an interesting perspective on the process of writing when/if official “success” has so far been elusive.
So here’s Bryan Allain with a guest post about his writing journey. Everyone clap politely, please.
Hey, I’m Bryan, and like you I love Jason’s blog. Here are the top 5 reasons why:
1. because he holds conversations with himself, which makes me feel more normal.
2. because he can kick my butt in Words with Friends, which humbles me.
3. because he can kick my butt in a fight, which scares me.
4. because he’s a smart dude, which makes me intelligenter.
5. because he has published a bunch of books, which gives me a little hope that someday I can too.
I asked Jason if I could share some quick thoughts on his blog because while I never tire of hearing stories from people who have become published authors, rarely do you hear stories from folks in the middle of that process. It’s always, “I tried really hard, I worked for a LONG TIME on my voice and my ideas…and now I’m published.”
But what about those of us who are still in stuck in that LONG TIME phase?
That’s where I am.
Over 3 years ago I had my first (of a half dozen) sports pieces published at the Burnside Writers Collective. This led to me starting a sports/faith blog, which led to me working on a sports/faith book, which came close to being picked up by a small publisher, but was eventually turned down due to my small platform.
While all of this was mildly frustrating, the more I wrote, the more I realized I liked writing humor above anything else. I started writing humor pieces for my blog every day, and as my blog traffic grew, so too did my confidence that I was starting to find my voice.
Around that same time last year I started working on my memoir, and just last month I had phone calls with two respected agents about my sample chapters and proposal. The good news: they both loved my writing and thought I was a funny guy with a lot of potential. The bad news: they both said there was a slim to none chance of my memoir getting published because of my small platform.
“5000 unique visitors a month is something to be proud of,” one told me, “but it’s going to take 5000 a day to get a publisher interested in your memoir, no matter how great it is.I wish I had better news for you.”
Discouraging? Of course. But I needed to hear it, and since then I’ve been focusing my writing energy on my blog and in looking for another project to dive into.
Some might look at my journey to this point and call it a failure, but I disagree. While I haven’t achieved my bigger goals in writing yet, over the past few years I’ve been able to improve as a writer, hone my voice, grow my blog, connect with readers, and make a whole bunch of great friends who also love to write.
One of those friends is Jason, and one of the things I am most thankful for is that he gives it to us straight. As he’s written about before, the writing life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Getting a book deal won’t solve your problems. Not working for “the man” doesn’t mean you never have crappy days. Writing for a living doesn’t cause you to poop Starburst fruit chews and glide to work on a conveyor belt made of rainbows and royalty checks. (Yes I know, Nicholas Sparks commutes this way, but believe me he’s the ONLY one.)
So to all of you out there who, like me, love to write but don’t yet have a book deal to your name, keep at it! Not because it might lead you to being a published author some day (even though it might), but because you have a voice and have something to say, and we want to hear it. And because it’s the journey itself that helps you get better at the craft.
And thanks Jason, for being honest about your life as a writer and for not lying to us about the whole starburst thing.
That would have been a HUGE letdown.
Bryan writes daily about the humorous side of life, faith, pop culture, and living among the Amish at his blog, BryanAllain.com. You can find his shrinky-dink sized thoughts on Twitter at twitter.com/bryanallain.