"Write without pay until somebody offers to pay you. If nobody offers within three years, sawing wood is what you were intended for." -Mark Twain.
I'd like you to re-read that quote. Back? Okay. Now tell me if it pisses you off or not.
No? Then you're a traditionally published author, a hybrid author, a successful self-published author, or ultimately contented with your work and don't care whether you're paid or not for the words you put down.
If it does upset you, you haven't made much money from your writing, you've queried agents until your fingers bled, or you're like me who thinks Mr. Samuel Clemens was either being facetious, or truly believed that's what an author should do.
Either way I think the quote is a load of complete horse shit.
How many great authors would we have if the writing world was some sort of dystopian society and after three years of toiling in the word mines a person was required to hang up their shovel and go sell Orange Julius. FOREVER.
Orange Julius is pretty good...
But still! How many fantastic books would we miss out on if a person limited themselves to a timeframe for success? Becoming a successful author is not a four-year graduate degree. There is no guarantee that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. There is no healthcare. There is no retirement plan. No promise of anything that will come to you.
You know what else there isn't?
There's no pedigree.
No writer, NONE, has sat down and created a masterpiece without toiling away, without chipping out the words that sometimes are moored in the subconscious marble. No writer opens a vein and bleeds a great novel onto the page without looking where the hell they're going.
Guess what writing is?
It's renewable wonder. It's perspective. It's magic and joy and torment and horror and love and pain and driving without headlights down a highway studded with hazards and pitfalls.
And you know what else it is?
It's sawing wood.
Everyday you sit down and type or scribble with a pen or pencil and you put the words down. If you really love it you put the words down and know someday, someone will appreciate what you've written. You read, you learn, you strive to be better because no one is ever as good as they can be, they always have the potential to be better.
There is no 'given' in writing. There is no sky for a limit. There is only the words to create and string together into a chain that leads you somewhere. If you're an author you might write a year before getting paid for your work, you might write a decade.
But if you're truly in love with the written word, with being a storyteller- if you are a writer in the very catacombs of your heart, you don't follow another's roadmap for your career.
You fucking draw your own.
And you never say die.