A few years ago President Gordan B. Hinkley compared life to a journey on an old fashioned train. He said, and I'm paraphrasing, that most of life contains cinders, soot, noise, unexpected jerks and stops, cramped seating, and fatigue. Then he said it is the unexpected, beautiful vistas enjoyed here and there and arriving at your destination that makes the journey worthwhile. I've often thought of that statement and added my own interpretations to it along the way. Lately I've been comparing it for a young friend of mine to becoming a writer.
It's important to pack properly for your journey. Some of the items needed for your trip include: a love of stories (that includes a lot of reading); a sound grounding in grammar, spelling, word usage, and an appreciation for words; you'll also need a computer with the right software installed and the ability to use it both for writing and research (Gone are the days when handwritten or typed books are accepted by a publishing house and no matter how much better and easier to use Word Perfect may be than Word, manuscripts must be submitted in a compatible format to that used by the publishers you plan to send your submission.), and you'll need a generous amount of time.
Speaking of time, time isn't something that just happens. Those of us who hammered out our first stories on an old Smith-Corona with a baby on our laps, a four-year-old watching cartoons, and an older child grudgingly practicing the piano all in the same room learned something about making time. Today's young writers face those same obstacles plus the lure of social media and often the need to work to keep a roof over their families' heads. Making time to write isn't easy, but it can be done if the desire is strong enough.
The ride itself is bumpy and discouraging at times. Years of rejection slips, computer glitches, rewrites, submissions to agents or editors that seem to go nowhere, critique groups that find fault, and so many other disappointments, including seemingly no return for long hours of work. It's easy to see why many give up or attempt shortcuts to publication.
There are lovely vistas along the way---a meaningful writers' conference, a helpful class, encouraging words from your critique group, established writers or an agent who see something in your work and provide advice and encouragement, getting a request for the full manuscript, and perhaps most important of all, the sheer joy of writing.
When that much anticipated call finally comes and you learn a publisher wants your manuscript, it's not the end of the journey but simply an announcement that your stop is coming up. There are still rewrites, editing, contract approval, preparations for publicity, and so many new, unexpected things to learn and do.
The day you first hold a published copy of your book in your hands, the first time you see your book on a bookstore shelf, the first time you pass a car in a parking lot and realize someone is sitting in that car listening to your book, when you board a plane and notice a copy of your book on someone's lap, when a total stranger approaches you at a book signing and says "I loved your book" or you receive a note that says, "your book changed my life"-- those are the grand vistas. In some cases holding a royalty check in your hand is a memorable vista. Just knowing you've succeeded in reaching a difficult goal you set for yourself is perhaps the grandest vista of all. But that isn't the end of the ride. There's always another journey, another destination, another book to write, another goal to reach.