It’s a ridiculously hard time to write. No one is feeling productive. Many people have been plunged into financial uncertainty and feel vulnerable to a virus that’s an invisible menace.
Some people have even started wondering: what’s the point of writing? What kind of a world will even be left for me to publish a book in?
Don’t be paralyzed by our present circumstances. There will be a time after this one. And we’re going to need books.
We need your writing.
The last apocalypse
In 2008, I was just starting my career as a young literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. I had written a novel out on submission to literary agents, but it was floundering. An agent wanted edits I didn’t think I could pull off.
Then the financial crisis hit. Publishers started shuttering imprints and many of my editor friends were laid off. My boss came to work one morning and advised me against submitting any books for the rest of the year. This was early October!
I faced the daunting prospect of building a career in a shrinking industry. I suddenly had a lot more time on my hands because I wouldn’t be managing submissions.
So what did I do? I wrote.
One day I had an idea for a novel about a kid trapped on a planet full of substitute teachers. I worked really hard with my extra time. I finished Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow in six months.
In April 2009 I started submitting it to agents and found one by the end of the month. In July 2009 there was an auction and Penguin won the bidding.
In nine months I went from feeling like I was living through an apocalypse to living my wildest dreams.
You can do this
Right now, I’m as uncertain as you are about what kind of world we’re going to emerge into. What we’re experiencing feels bigger than 2008 and is happening in a political climate that already felt completely tumultuous. The world is not going to look the same when we’re on the other side of this.
But there will be a time after this one. There will be books. People are going to be reading.
Even if I hadn’t ever found a publisher for the novel I wrote during the financial crisis, it still would have been worth it.
Writing is an act of hope. It’s powerful to lose yourself in fictional worlds. It’s how we can take the badness out of the air and turn it into something better.
There’s no better time to go after your dreams than when things feel the most uncertain. Create something for the world you want to live in.
Don’t despair. Write!
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Art: Woman in the sunset by Caspar David Friedrich