Like this kind of security gate

Writers: Don’t gatekeep yourself

A couple of debates on social media concerned me as a writer. One is the controversy over a best-selling author who now offers a $500 boot camp that guarantees writers will get six-figure book deals like she did. The other is about whether there’s a distinction between a writer and an author. Both tie into something that disturbs me, gatekeeping.

We writers face enough obstacles in getting our words to readers. First is just creating the book. It’s a long and difficult process with many dead ends. (You can watch a video about what happened with a YA fantasy series I started a couple of years ago.) Then there’s the submission process with its many, many rejections. And even when we get the book published, we still have to market it and deal with one-star reviews. On top of all this, we have to deal with imposter syndrome, the doubts of family members and friends, and the struggle to gather enough energy after a long day of work and household chores to write a few paragraphs.

It’s worse when we use language to gatekeep ourselves.

Inherent in both the $500 boot camp and author vs writer debates is the idea there are different levels of writers. Writers only have value if they are published authors, published authors only have value if they’re traditionally published, and traditionally published authors only have value if they get six-figure book deals. It’s like we have to separate ourselves like kitchen staff in a Michelin-starred restaurant between the executive chefs, line cooks, and dishwashers.

That’s not how writing works. Just like there’s no such thing as an aspiring writer, there’s no such thing as different levels of writers.

You’re a writer whether you’ve published 20 books, or if you haven’t published your first. You’re a writer if you’ve been doing it for 40 years, or if you’re just starting out. And I don’t think a writer is superior because they’ve gotten six-figure book deals. The New York Times Bestseller List is full of drek, and some of my favorite books are from indie authors. (Check out this one, Madcap Serenade by Dan Kopcow, that’s coming out July 11.) Our mission is to connect with readers. Whether you’re John Green or, well, me, the work we do is valuable and necessary.

The danger of these gatekeeping terms and ideas is they discourage writers from developing their craft. They tell writers if they don’t get the big book deal with the Big 5 publisher, they failed. There’s a whole world of options with small presses and indie publishing. You have many ways to get your words to readers. And if they make a difference for even one reader, you succeeded.

Writing is challenging enough. Don’t gatekeep yourself by other’s language and expectations. Write what you love and find the best route to bring it to readers. Your writing matters, and there’s someone out there who needs it.