A successful writing career begins with knowing.
I’m not talking about knowing the market–What’s in? What’s out? What are the taboos? Where are the holes I might fill?—though knowing the market is certainly useful.
What I’m talking about and what is far more important for a successful writing career is knowing ourselves.
Not knowing in negative western psychological terms, the kind that concentrate on naming dysfunction: “I’m a narcissist with a touch of megalomania.” We need access to our own deepest energy. We need an understanding of its origins. Because that’s where our strongest stories lie, that place where our longing lives, our struggles, our unrequited loves, our grief.
That’s the place our fiction come from, of course. We all know that. But it’s where our best nonfiction lies, too. The topics we can explore most successfully will be the ones that touch into our own energy. They are the information we seek for our own understanding, the facts we gather and retell to sooth our souls.
This is true not only with the complex stories we gather for adults and for older children. It is true even for the topics we choose for the very young. For my first non-fiction books for young readers I proposed a series on weather. Wind, Clouds, Snow, Rain.
I didn’t come up with the topic because I had done my research and discovered that I could find many books on weather for older children but none for the very young. I did do that research and found that to be the case, and I used that information when I proposed the series to the publisher. That wasn’t, however, my reason for coming to the topic. I stumbled upon the idea of writing a series about weather simply because I, a true Midwesterner, live in constantly changing weather. And I love every manifestation of that change. Seventy-five degrees and sunny day after day after day doesn’t represent the Good Life for me.
My Good Life is waking in the night to a thunder storm, watching fog wisp from the autumn valleys, stepping into the pristine silence of the first snow fall. So when I turned to researching clouds and wind, snow and rain I was immediately enchanted. The learning was fun. The writing was fun. And the small books that emerged captured a bit of my soul..
The results of my passion for weather turned into a series that has proven to have legs. The first books came out in 2003, and they have done well enough that the publisher recently reissued them with redesigned covers. And then asked for two more titles, Rainbow and Sun.
That’s the way passion works. If I love my topic, truly love it, my chances of making my readers care about what I have written rise exponentially.
Of course, my love of a topic doesn’t guarantee that the manuscripts I create will sell, either to a publisher or to the public once they reach the marketplace. But if I love what I’m learning, what I’m relaying, editors and readers are much more apt to love it, too.
Because love shows.