So it’s happened. I’ve let ‘er loose. As deep and dark (at times) and thrillingly scurrilous as this book is when need be (don’t worry, it has plenty of redemption) I am still going to think of Dark Prairies in the feminine. If you’ve read my blog much, you know I believe my muse is feminine in nature. No, I’m not gay. However I have no problem connecting to what I consider the fairer of my emotions. I can easily be made to cry at a good love story. I have sobbed at a movie and it doesn’t even have to be your traditional “Me & Marley” moment (although wow, did I not see THAT one coming).

Introducing, My Muse. (I wish.)

Point is, my muse is female, and this IS my magnum opus, so the book (in analogical terms) is a girl. My new, bouncing baby Betty (those who have already read the book will get a laugh out of that).  So she’s out there. I’ve nudged my wonderful little sweetie out of the nest and she has flown. At least I hope she has flown. This is that point where you’ve made a sale or two, at least one to a friend or colleague, and you are praying the numbers start to climb. In other words that she starts to fly.

But this blog is much more than a promotion. It’s a blog written in my normal wheelhouse: helping Indie writers cope with, well, being Indie writers.

It’s a tough, tough gig. A whole new way to “pay our dues”, right? But I was thinking aloud about something today and I wanted to share it. The thought/story made me feel a lot better and I thought it might do the same for you (Mr. or Ms. Struggling Indie Writer).

I answered an interview question today about “when I decided I wanted to be a published author”. Long answer short, it was the invention of the Personal Computer when I was in college and the Computer Lab that gave me unfettered access and 5.25″ giant floppy disks on which to save my text. You see I had until then been sitting in my Married Student Housing unit (that would have made a Quonset Hut seem luxurious) tapping away on a good old-fashioned typewriter. I didn’t even always have the GLORIOUS correct-ribbon…whiteout was the name o’ that game. I swear, if I had been forced to work on a typewriter, I’m not sure how far I would have ultimately gotten. I can be a bit lazy (note my other answer in my Wed interview regarding quitting learning to play the guitar–-even though my father was a MUSICIAN—because I couldn’t stand the pain on my fingertips and was unable to hold out long enough for the calluses. (Plus I have chubby, inflexible fingers.).

Which (thankfully, I’m sure) takes us to the inspirational story. It stars none other than STEPHEN KING!! Those who have read On Writing, his MUST READ for writers, or any other in-depth history on King, will remember that when he wrote Carrie it was on a beat-up (forget the brand name) typewriter in the back of a trailer, working some horrible job to make ends meet while he tapped away patiently (and a bit feverishly) on his book. When you read King’s actual accounting of the time in his life, you realize that we are damn lucky, as writers, to live in a technological time when we can post our writing wares for the whole fucking world to see (yes, I admit, if they ever FIND IT)…but it got me to thinking even further.

I count sales. I think we all do. One, two, seven. Oh shit, a refund. Back down to six. And now many of us even count borrows.

It’s painful. Excruciating. Irritating. Disappointing. Crushing. Vexing.

Did I miss any emotion? Is there anything worse, Dear Struggling Indie Writer, than counting our failure one stinking sale at a time? Two steps forward, one step back.

But yes. There is a story much, much worse. And it happened to a man most of us know would at least consider a pillar (and moniker, even) of SUCCESS:

Stephen King.

Art credit The Art of Ryan James

Imagine Stephen in that dilapidated trailer, barely able to pay the heat oil bill, tapping away on that shitty little typewriter, then getting (can’t remember) 50, 60 rejection letters? What do you think just ONE of those sales we count each hour would have meant to the Master of Horror then? Imagine it. He can’t even muster anything more than a form rejection from every publisher to whom he mails his hundred pound manuscript. No one but his wife, Tabitha, has read his words.

At that moment in his career, what would he have given to know that even ONE STRANGER in the world paid good money and read Carrie?

I can’t speak for the man, but I’m guessing such a sale would have made him drop to his knees and squirt tears (to quote the Master).

So buck up. I’m going to. As I launch my third (and most precious by far) book, I am going to try and be patient and proud. I am going to think of Stephen King. Not the super rich, Übersuccessful writer, but the young, dreamer-writer, laboring (and then loitering) away in his trailer, pining for the day his work would find its way into the hands of a reader. Or two.

And then I’m going to weep because I witness another refund. Just kidding. Dear Struggling Indie writer:

Keep writing, and keep the faith.




24 Responses to Dear Struggling Indie Writer

  1. KD Rush says:

    I’ve read ‘On Writing’, but you’ve put a new spin on it for me. That was encouraging and a bit inspirational sir. Thank you.

  2. I have “On Writing” in my Kindle, so I will read it as soon as possible.

  3. Katy Sozaeva says:

    This looks like a nifty book; will definitely watch for it if I get a gift cert or something I can spend on books. I still need to read/review your other books, but have a mess of blog tours coming up, which will keep me busy for awhile. Meantime I’ve sent this post to my Facebook peeps.

  4. Caleb Pirtle says:

    Keep the faith. And keep your friends. Someday, the sales will come. A writer can be an overnight success. But nights often take years to end.

    • rsguthrie says:

      I quoted you today. You are brilliant. Come visit me so we can drink coffee and talk into the wee hours. My dad, father-in-law, and both grandfathers (all with whom I was very close) are gone. If you and Bert moved next door I would build a shrine or something, I promise. Thanks, Caleb.

  5. Jack Durish says:

    Left brain/Right brain, Anima/Animus: Every human has both. I too consider my creative side to be feminine. I believe that “she” told me stories when I was younger to provide me with a world where I was safe while the real world, peopled with an abusive parent, was dangerous.

    • rsguthrie says:

      Don’t even TRY and tell me I didn’t get the right image for my muse. I mean for crying out fucking loud (excuse French) I’ve reread by blog seventeen times just to look into those eyes…sometimes what they can do with computer graphics and enhancements is all right by me. 😉

  6. Thanks for this. I often think about King working away in that big old laundry when I consider my own position. I work as a nurse and it sucks and all I want to do is be the next Stephen King!
    For me the real crappy thing about wanting to be a working author is the fear of being stuck in my job if I don’t make it. Keeps me going but also keeps me neurotic.

    • rsguthrie says:

      The laundry. DANG, for the life of me I couldn’t remember his crappy job. Did he work at night so he could write during the day? I couldn’t remember that either. They’re all crappy jobs when you are a writer inside.

      KEEP THE FAITH. Only you can decide ultimately what dreams to follow. WORK AT IT. WRITE. 😀

  7. Scott Bury says:

    I think you’re right about the typewriter. I’ve started so many stories and novels with pens and typewriters, but never finished them.
    Maybe with a computer, there’s less of an excuse not to finish the novel.

    • rsguthrie says:

      When I got a typewriter with correct-ribbon, I thought I’d died and gone to writer heaven.

      • Jack Durish says:

        One day I said to my wife that I wanted to write a book. My wife immediately went out and purchased a brand new IBM Selectric and a ream of paper for me and told me, “Write.” I did and published my first book after keeping the neighbors awake all night listening to the damn thing pounding away. Just turn down the volume and you can write day and night and the neighbors won’t be calling the police.

  8. Julie M. says:

    BRAVO! Downloaded and read it through in a single sitting this morning. Recognized the people and the places (smiled at many of the people and place names you chose to include or change just a bit). I can see all the places in and around ‘Wind River’,and your descriptions took me right back home again.

    Carole Richie, Eb’s sister is a member of the group “If you grew up in Pinedale …” Believe I’ll hit the group page and make mention of your magnum opus. I am certain I’m not the only current or former Sublette County resident who will enjoy this read. After the wait between the excerpt and the fully finished work, you did not disappoint. It was well worth it.

    • rsguthrie says:

      AWESOME…thank you, thank you, thank you Julie!! And please, please, please, write an honest review on Amazon!! 🙂

      • Julie M. says:

        I’ve been thinking on that some … trying to write of why I so enjoyed the read without giving away too much. I’ll get there.

  9. Kay Glass says:

    Absolutely needed this. Someone tweeted it and when I read it all I could think was, “Yes, this is what I needed.” I really must go download On Writing and read it through for myself- and probably again and again. Sales are low so far this month, I’ve had a return, and I just got a weird 2-star review saying the book sucked but I have potential. Thanks for this blog, because I needed it badly today.

    • rsguthrie says:

      Yes, do get “On Writing”…it will (among other things) help when you feel like its not happenIng (which as we both know can be more often than we’d wish). Check out my blog, “A Famous Disappointment Revisited” for an account of me, King, and the book. Might give you
      Another scrap to gnaw on. Thanks for making me and the blog feel useful! 🙂

  10. Yes, it’s easy to forget that the greats had to start off just like anybody else. If we don’t believe in ourselves, no one else will. When I sell a couple of books it’s a real lift. It’s also kind of humbling. I’m not sure why.

    • rsguthrie says:

      It isn’t always as humbling for me as it should be. I released a book yesterday and it’s “only” sold 13 copies so far. I am trying to get to that point where it IS a real lift (as it should be). Of course, after a drought, it’s ALWAYS a lift. 😉

  11. Congrats on the release of Dark Prairies!

  12. Jericha says:

    The truth is, I hated that part of On Writing. Why? Because all of a sudden he sells Carrie for FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS. Man, did that NOT make me feel better.

    All the same, Rob, I wish you even more luck than Mr. King, and far less dilapidation & despair.

    • rsguthrie says:

      Thanks, Jericha. I’ll paraphrase/quote John Candy from “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”: “Still a million sales shy of being a million-seller!” 😉

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