Why I Quit RWA

The complete answer to the RWA survey that was sent to me when I did not renew my membership.  Why should we be in such seperate h...

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Why I Quit RWA

The complete answer to the RWA survey that was sent to me when I did not renew my membership. 

Why should we be in such seperate hast to succeed, 
and in such desperate enterpirses?
If a man does not keep pace with his companions,
 perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.
Let him step to the music which he hears, 
however measured or far away.  -Henry David Thoreau

I Am A Writer
Triage: Do the next most important thing. Concentrate on that. This quote has been my motto for the last several years. I wish I knew who said it. I found it scratched across a tiny folded, faded scrap of paper while decluttering my files. Had I needed it before? All I know is it speaks more about my life right now than any explanation I could give.

I’ll spare the details.

I know other writers go through difficulties and still find ways to write. I try. I still write every chance I can, but the chances are woven thick through with the upheaval of my life. Often, I flounder. Writer’s block, though I’ve never believed in it, haunts me. Chaos block, more likely.

And how frustrating that is when, of course, I write, I am a writer. I have always been a writer. I’ve known since I was eight I was a writer. That sounds as if I learned I had some super power and kept it secret. In some ways, that’s true. As a teen, I knew I looked at things differently than my friends. Worse, like many writers I was, also, an introvert and shy. I wore my disguise and I wore it well.
Back in the beginning, back when The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E Woodiwiss and Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers first appeared on bookstore shelves. I would read twenty or more books a month.  Soon, I set out to fulfill my childhood dream and becoming a published author. I wrote as much as I could knee-deep in cloth diapers and motherhood.

Once my boys were in school, I lowered my standards around the house, used child labor, did whatever I could to write mornings. I could have the writing career I wanted and still stay home to raise my boys. I worked toward my goal with my husband and boys perplexed support. But there was a lot to learn: type, computers, plotting, character development; and life happens.
Life is messy, even cruel, but I kept striving. Through broken arms and computer crashes, through teen love angst and OS changes, through weddings and conferences, through illness and aging parents.  

That was a great time in the industry. The romance genre boomed. Romantic Times came out and had a few pages of instructions and advice for the writer in every issue. Soon after Romantic Times began, Kathryn Falk published How to Write a Romance and Get It Published. I devoured it. Not long after that, RWA formed and produced their wonderful magazine for their members that concentrated on helping romance writers publish. Those first RWR magazines were not the slick magazine we have today, but they covered a ton of material. It still does.

Publishing Now
Here’s the thing. Publishing in romance went from a cottage industry, where novice writers, mostly women, writing at their kitchen tables, got lucky and published. Went from submitting a novel with hope in your heart, to stressing that your synopsis and/or pitch wasn’t perfect. Then it ramped up.
(Don't get me wrong, these writers were good, better than good. They were lucky because they were able to devote all their writing time to writing, research, with just a little promotion.) 

You needed a group to workshop your novel, you needed near perfect editing before you even sent your work out, you needed a platform, which meant you had to make sure you had a media presence, that was ever more unique or eye-catching. The RWR magazine went from helping you with pacing, plot, character to helping with your synopsis, how best to promote, how to manage your social media, what your numbers mean, algorithms on standings, on trends and on and on.

It’s gotten so complicated, not just competitive, that it’s overwhelming. It doesn’t seem any of it is about writing anymore. It doesn’t seem anyone has the time for even some of it. Oh, yes, the best writers, the ones who can still write beautiful, heart-stirring words with all the back noise going on are going to make it. Established writers who have help with research, online presence and promotion are still going to publish.

But wait, there is always self-publishing, right? If possible that is even more time consuming with all its complications and dangers. I can see how all of that is necessary. The ones who have learned to promote, know how to network and don’t mind doing it. The ones who can step up to the new rules for being full members of RWA. The go-getters, the noisy wheel are going to make it. I’m not saying that those wonderful, determined writers don’t run into life too. I know they do.

But we, others, we are of a different breed. We want to write, want to publish, want our words printed for all to see like the others. We just don’t want all the noise. We don’t want to do all the crazy-paced self-promotion, the social media, the networking and the socializing. We don’t have time or money for conferences. We don’t have time to do much more than our beloved writing. So, we write and struggle along with the others, as best we can and we close our eyes to the rest. We pray things change, because things always change. At least, that’s what I do. I have to.

If I look too closely at all the other stuff, I would give up. Give in to the fight I have every day, because I fight giving up enough with the reality of just my everyday life right now. But I’m holding on to my writing, knowing I’ll likely never be published, but I still hold out this little, tiny, bubble of hope because I was born to be a writer, it is the soul of me. This is not something I think, this is something I know.

I understand the world of publishing has likely passed me by and others like me. I recognized the warning sign many years ago when I was dealing with a dose of life. I ranted and railed against it, I cried and grieved. Ranting and railing have no sway with life. I knew. I knew that what was now required of a writer to be published was in all likelihood beyond my capability. Still, I held on to that little grasp of hope, even after they changed membership rules for RWA. I decided, by damn, I’m going to stick it out. Not all’s lost. Not yet. Of course, life laughed and reality whispered in my ear again, that very year. I knew my dreams were mostly dust. They’d been fading for years, because of circumstances beyond my everything, but also because of how the publishing industry has changed. I hung on, but I knew.

RWA is a great organization. It has and continues to help so many struggling, aspiring authors. It helped me. Without RWA, we would certainly be missing a ton of favorite writers who made it, partly by reading RWR. The reader in me is grateful for that.

I use to sit down with the RWR magazine and read it cover to cover. I found brilliant articles, great advice between those covers, advice I use in my writing still. But lately, even those articles have changed and the content now leans more toward that other breed of writer. That is appropriate. There are many more thems than mes. That other breed of writer is having great success and any success helps us all.

For Me, For Now
But I noticed about six months ago, I started avoiding the magazine, putting it in my little pile of must read writer’s magazines like The Writer and Writer’s Digest. I started letting the months stack up. Picking the current issues of one of the other two to read when I wanted a dose of writing how-to.
Reading RWR depressed me. It brought home how far I’ve been left behind, brought home that I could not catch up. No way, not at my age or circumstance. The whisper of quitting would get louder; the sitting at my desk seemed pointless, and I would ask myself again, “why are you wasting your time?” It was getting harder to find the answer until the wonderful, helpful article’s words faded from my memory. The magazine, through no fault of their own, was demoralizing me.
I am a writer. I was born a writer. That is my truth.

I’m saddened, too, because I no longer belong, not even a little to that organization that I joined when it was in its infancy. I see things were stacked against me through no one’s fault and I won’t go into why here either. That’s another essay/blog for another time. I know I don’t belong and truly, when I think about it, I don’t want to be that other kind of writer. I admire them. I even think I envy them a bit. The time and effort they spend on it all, the writing, the revising, the workshopping, the tweeting, the Facebook paging, the blogging, the self-promotion. The time they put into promotion and networking and conferencing. Necessary time. A fact in the climate of the publishing world today. I know that.

Publishing has changed.

In addition, the changes has opened the possibility to publish, made it possible for so many more writers to publish in new and creative ways. That’s a good thing and yet…

I write. I revise. I plot and research. I hope. But I don’t fit in and can’t act as if I do. I don’t do much social media. Conferencing and networking is impossible in my current circumstance. If I could and I won’t go into detail all the ways it’s impossible, I don’t want to. That is not the career I dreamed of when I was in the 5th grade. It is not the career I longed for when I started writing back in the 80’s when my boys started school. I don’t want to race around promoting, spend hours on the computer getting my name out there or worrying about my status on Kindle.

It’s not as if I haven’t tried. I’ve blogged, might even again. I’m on Facebook. I’ve gone to conferences, I entered contests, I’ve networked. Mostly, I’ve put my butt in the chair, day after day. I’ve taken workshops and classes. I’ve had successes. I’ve published several short stories, a dozen essays, poems. That speaks of me not sucking.

I’m not abandoning what I’m doing, but I’m no longer chasing. I’m consciously exiting the race and I don’t want to read about the shoulds that I cannot manage. I don’t want to see all the new necessaries.  I’m stopping that madness.

I’m saving my writer self. She needs me to do that.

When I began, I wanted to write. Publish, do a few bookstore appearances, then go back to writing. That was the deal.

I think writers like me, and I think there are a whole bunch, because I’m just not that  extraordinary, are not served any longer by all those shoulds. It’s not RWA’s fault. It’s not our fault. The change may very well mean we never publish. We do not conform to the new publishing and writing world.
So we have to have that other reason. The love for the writing for itself.

And hope.  I can keep hoping. I’ll read The Writer and The Writer’s Digest for my inspiration, for instructions, even for a little reality. Those two magazines cover all the kinds of writing, which gives a writer like me, options, gives a writer like me, a few opportunities. I find that these two magazines are not as commercial or narrow-minded. They acknowledges there is reason to write aside from publishing and encourages writers who are different. Yes, they have articles about social media, networking, alternate ways of publishing, etc. but the two subscriptions are cheaper for a year than the dues for RWR.

 For a writer unlikely be published that seems like a sound budgeting. I’ll keep buying those magazines. I’m well aware that the dues for RWA do more than provide a magazine, but these other magazines serve all my writing, not only my romantic novel writing. And they don't have rules for whether I get the full use of them either.

They are a tradition, after all, a gift from my father, in a way, who use to leave those two magazines on my bed each month when I was a teen and my life spread out ahead of me. He encouraged a dreamer, with a heavy dose of reality. He died when I was eighteen.

As with any break up, there has been tears, regrets, the knowledge that there will be things I miss. I will no longer know what new trend is selling in Romance. I won’t get the latest industries statistics. I will no longer stress about the things I not doing to succeed in the Romance genre. I won’t belong to a community of writers that are the most supportive and kind people I know. I will have to work to find a one someone who I can talk writing with.  

The trade-off: I’m going to write. I’m going to write again as I use to. No more must dos, no more worries about all those things besides writing I should be doing during the pocket of time I have. I’m going to write without any regard to what is trending. I’m going to bury myself in the words I love, the worlds I make up. I’m going to write poetry and essays and short stories. I’m going to write with all the joy that writing can bring when not worrying over too many should.

Circumstances might prevent me from working on my romance novels right now, prevent me from publishing ever, but when I do return to writing, editing and finishing my romances, I’m going to do it all from my heart. I’m not going to listen to the must haves or must dos. I’m simply going to write. I may never publish, but I will have the full joy and freedom I had in the beginning.

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