Wednesday, October 12, 2011

There's no such things as dues

Writing is free.  Anyone who tries to tell you differently is selling something.

But in all seriousness, I've seen enough backhanded compliments to writers and read enough angry posts on forums to know that there are some people who believe in "dues."  What are dues exactly?  From what I've gleaned they are: being old enough, being rejected enough, writing long enough, writing well enough, being humble enough, being rockstar enough, being involved enough, or all of the above.

But I hate to break it to you, dues are a figment of your imagination.  This writing gig?  Anyone can do it.  Now I'm not saying everyone  who writes a book can or should get published, and there are a lot of fabulous writers out there who only concern themselves with writing.  But if you are holding yourself back from writing because you're young or you don't have a degree or you're pretty sure people will laugh at you, you're doing yourself a disservice.

There will always be naysayers.  Those people that scoff at the teenager who is writing a novel.  Those that will post nasty messages about writers who get book deals with seemingly no effort (no one gets a book deal without effort -- even celebrities have to find ghost writers).  Others who will say you aren't a real writer until you've been rejected dozens of times for representation or publication.

And then they'll say something about dues.  About how they've paid them and you haven't.

Here's the thing though:  You don't have to pay dues to write a book or land an agent or get a book deal.

Your dedication - your persistence - your passion: that's all that's required.  And you don't owe it to anyone but yourself.


  1. It is the natural call of the long suffering (who should always remember others have been suffering longer).

    I understand, though I don't necessarily look at it from a 'dues' POV. If I see a young writer or a new writer snag a crazy deal on his/her first book (i.e., no trunksters), I experience the pinch of the green-eyed monster.

    That being said, that doesn't mean the person (in whatever venue) doesn't wholly deserve the accolades/adulation/ remuneration etc. It doesn't mean they do deserve it either, but the same can be said for anybody out there who has paid his/her dues.

    And whether or not a person (in whatever stage they found success) 'deserves' whatever they got, it's a waste of time (albeit a natural one for many) to dwell on others' laurels. You got your own to grab.

    For the record, I consider myself quite fortunate to have gotten a deal. Sure, I think my book's good, but I don't mind having some Irish on my side either.

  2. Very insightful post. I think those who think of themselves as having paid dues should remember that EVERYONE has, we just might not be able to see it. The young writer, who got a contract on her first book--she might have been reading and analyzing books for years. She might have experienced life, death of a friend, etc. in a deep way that gives her particular insight. No one might ever know that, but it's still there.

  3. Have you ever heard the expression "The world doesn't owe you a thing; it was here first"?

    Yeah, that. Keeps me humble. :)

  4. thank you! you are so encouraging.

  5. Yes, this. Some writers write for 10 years before getting published, some for 1. Some writers sell their 10th novel, some their 1st. Would I be slightly jealous and frustrated if I were the 10 years and 10 books person? Yes -- because I'm only human. But that doesn't mean the 1 year and 1 book writer doesn't "deserve" their success.

  6. I think many times it's how people cope with rejections... with the idea that it's a necessary process to endure before they finally "make it." I must confess that I have sometimes thought in terms of dues... but usually when I was struggling with finding an agent and wrestling rejection letters. It's a hard thing to grasp. There is no "line" to getting published. People don't go in order.

  7. Very true. Yes, those of us who have been at it a long time might feel passed over when a newbie waltzes into success, but the truth is that they just had the right thing at the right time. Dues don't factor.

  8. Amen, sister! Have you ever read Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins? I love it. Lots of philosophical arguments about suffering and artistry and whether or not you have to "pay your dues".

    For my own self I often will think I haven't paid my dues yet, but that's because I personally don't feel I have gained the experience I need to do what I want yet. I think that's something we can only say about ourselves, not others. To attach the comment on others is simply a matter of being jealous.

  9. Beautiful post, and such truth. Thank you so much for sharing this. :)

  10. That line of thinking reminds me of those who say you have to "suffer" to create great art. I don't begrudge anyone's success, and I doubt anyone would turn down a great opportunity on the basis that enough dues had not been paid.

  11. Back to the best comment you've ever made: eyes on your own paper.

    It's different for us all. We just need to keep looking forward, because glancing in our peripheral will only get us disoriented at best, and lost at worst.

    great post!

  12. How was I NOT following your blog before now? Well, that's fixed. Love your place! And your post is spot on. I admit feeling like that before, but never thought of it as "dues." Keep going and keep reaching will get you there. :)

  13. Well said, Gennifer. :)if you are passionate and dedicated to what you are doing, that should be enough.