I graduated college in May 2007. I had no idea what to do next. Luckily, I landed a job interview with a well-known publishing company, and it turned out to be one of the best, hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn.
Dear Kristin circa May 2007,
Oh you beautiful, delicate flower, you. I know you think you’re really good now. Your writing isn’t bad. Really! I like how you use poetry-like metaphors that only a few people seem to understand, and your interesting paragraph structure. It’s all about the self-expression amiright? Yes, I am right, and so are you.
Like the Terminator, I come bearing news from the future. In a month or two, you’ll have an interview at a big publishing company. Yeah, I KNOW. Good job!
But you will not get the job. Wah wahhhhh. And it’s important that you don’t, so don’t go trying to change it. One of the most important life lessons you will learn happens in that interview.
In the interview, you’ll have a short conversation with the Associate Editor. She’ll tell you that after leaving college, she was idealistic. She was after changing the world. “Cool, me too!” you’ll think. And then she’ll drop this bomb on you. “But this is a business. Yes, it’s a publishing company, but it’s still a business.”
At the time, you’ll wonder why she’s trying to crush your spirit and decide she hasn’t had her coffee yet. In the months after the interview, you’ll understand.
No matter the cause or mission statement, every organization is a business. Every business needs to make money. If they happen to make dreams come true along the way, that’s cool. But the bottom line is that a company needs revenue to continue.
This is where you come in. You love writing, and you do it pretty well. Keep doing it. Keep getting better, keep making friends who are professionals. But also remember this: a publishing company is a business. In order for anyone to read those flowery prose pieces you like so much, you have to make sure they are sellable. Make sure the story is compelling, new, unique. You love experimental writing, and I’m not saying you should stop writing it. But you should also hone your skills on telling good, tight stories that publishers will want to buy.
The future is bright. Hone those skills. Write sellable stories while staying true to yourself.
Oh, and stop with the flowery prose. No one seems to like those but us. Er… me.
Hugs and Kisses
Keep on keepin’ on,
Kristin circa August 2014