The other day I was in the car running errands. The radio was on, which for most people isn’t unusual, but I rarely listen to anything but books. It’s not that I don’t like music; I just like to take every opportunity to read more. That day, I had given up on two books on CD. I hadn’t fallen in love with the characters (oh, no, not that lame excuse again!) and the dialogue was cliché (or that!), so I ejected the discs and flipped the channels around, looking for a song I connected with. I was looking for something; I just didn’t know what.
As I scanned channels, I came upon Alicia Keys singing “Empire State of Mind.” For some reason, I got all choked up. I love New York, but I don’t think that was what struck me.
I’m from New York
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There’s nothing you can’t do
Now you’re in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Let’s hear it for New York
It might have been the melody pulling at my heart or the relevant lyrics, but mostly it was her stunning voice. The delivery. Just as in a novel, a good plot and interesting characters are essential. But if I don’t deliver the story in a compelling way, no one will want to finish reading and no one will remember it if they do.
Long after the song ended, it played in my head. Recalling Ms. Keys’ words, I couldn’t help but feel inspired. And I started to think about this dream of mine, to not only spend my life doing what I love best—writing fiction—but to also get paid for it.
As writers, we need to stay motivated. It’s a tough industry, full of rejection. Plenty of gifted writers give up their dreams all the time. We’ve heard it before—it takes more than talent. Rachelle Gardner recently blogged on perseverance. And Nancy Kress recently wrote that it takes practice. Ms. Keys believes: There’s nothing you can’t do.
Since that day in the car, I’ve had the song on my mind. I listened to a few versions on YouTube. Ms. Keys recorded one version with Jay Z, but I was looking for her solo version. I found it on “I Heart Radio.” At the beginning of the clip, she talks about her excitement at hearing one of her songs on the radio for the first time. I imagine it would be much the same as an author seeing her book on the shelves for the first time.
We are so lucky to have many new readers, thanks to our new Facebook page. We are What Women Write, and one thing I’ve noticed (in addition to a few of you being men!) is that the writers following us are in various stages of their careers. Some are new writers looking for advice on craft, others on querying, and still others have published one, two or many books. We have some industry folks as well. What do we have in common? Our desire to succeed in this crazy business.
Thanks for joining us here and remember: There’s nothing you can’t do!
For you pubbed authors, tell us, what did you do the first time you saw your book on the shelves?