I am Molly Greene, and I am a writer

Image by Sarah Stierch

The journey is the reward: How I made bad writing the basis of a great life

Backstory:  I wrote a Really Bad Novel (RBN) in 1997. Not that I thought it was awful at the time – like many novice scribes, I was sure I was on to something big. So I crafted a query letter (better than the novel itself) and bagged a couple of interested agents. Julie Castiglia asked for more, then declined. (I don’t blame you, Julie.) But the epitome of rejection AND the highlight of this process was a phone call from a Midwest agent (illustrating how far-flung my efforts) the only purpose of which was to share that, after a read of my first three chapters, she could assure me that my novel would NEVER, EVER (no exaggeration) be published.

Well, you were right and thank you, whoever you were. My RBN never became a book, but your personal attention helped me open my eyes, grow a spine, and increase my resolve, if only to someday prove you wrong. I found help, I grew as a writer, and although I never re-worked my original novel, I wrote another that’s pretty good, and am working on a third. It’s even better.

One of the greatest rewards of my bad-writing journey was the discovery of editor Laurie Rosin. Her patient enthusiasm and in-depth written critiques were like a how-to-write-fiction tutorial, akin to coursework in one of the country’s best creative writing classes. I re-read my RBN, titled Light as a Feather, a couple years ago and emailed Laurie an apology. “I’ll bet you wanted to slap me,” I said, “er, I mean slap that whiny victim of a main character …” I hope I made her laugh.

I loved having Laurie’s help, and I recommend her as an editor. The truth is, her tutelage improved my ability so much that I went on to get paid to write, as MarCom Manager for a huge national mortgage company. Not exactly my dream, but definitely on the right path. Moral of the story: Find qualified help. And don’t wait too long between attempts. I didn’t sit down to pen another story until 2009. Ooops.

BTW, I also sent LAAF to Superstar Agent Sandra Dijkstra (who also declined, no hard feelings). In retrospect, I think I really, really wanted to be Amy Tan. Now, I’m aware of the biggest difference between myself and Amy (other than writing skill level, fame, and publishing credits, ha ha ha): As an author, Amy knows that people will be interested, will feel differently, will gain insight and grow as a result of her stories. And I’m not quite there. Amy, I want you to know that every day I’m working to dissolve this belief. And I don’t want to be you, any more. I want to be me. I guess I better get busy discovering who I am and represent. Maybe I’ll write about it.

I realize that thinking I’m good enough to write a successful novel requires a certain naïve approach to life, which I posses up the ying-yang. I’m okay with that. Being naïve has copped me a few of the most awesome adventures of my life. Naiveté helped me believe I could write a novel, move to a new town, buy and remodel property alone, bull my way into a job that was beyond my skill set at the time. Yes, I often feel as though I’ve jumped out of a plane without a chute. So what? So far, I’ve successfully pulled off all these experiences (well, except the marriage part, hummmm). I am single, I may not be a “published” author, I still don’t earn as much as I would like, and the doors I installed in my latest remodel suck. But the writers of Ancient Chinese Proverbs are right: The journey is the reward.

In Bird by Bird, one of my favorite books of all time, Author Anne Lamott [Anne has no website!] says that we should write really shitty first drafts. I’m with you, Anne. Just get the words on paper. Because in writing – as in life – if we overthink and overplan, sometimes the project never gets under way. We can’t complete a goal that’s never begun.

I am Molly Greene, and I am a writer. My advice to you, and I feel qualified to give it, is this: Life is short, and there is much to feel, experience, be, do, accomplish. Just begin.

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32 Responses to I am Molly Greene, and I am a writer

  1. Jacqui Murray May 12, 2011 at 1:28 am #

    Nicely stated. It’s daunting to declare yourself a writer. I’m like a writer only agent-less, which is now in vogue. That is one of the big reasons to have an agent: it affirms your condition as a writer. You must be a writer or you wouldn’t have an agent.


    • Molly Greene May 12, 2011 at 6:21 pm #

      Jacqui, thanks so much for visiting and taking the time to comment! I hear what you’re saying but think the industry is changing so much that literary agents maintain their importance but no longer determine our status. I decided to define myself as a writer last year. If I say it’s true, it must be so (ha ha ha).

  2. Pamela Beason September 22, 2011 at 11:01 pm #

    We should write shitty first drafts? LOL! Like I have a choice? I find doing the first draft is kind of like emptying a purse or backpack–I’ve got to dump everything out before I can figure out what’s worth keeping and what needs to be thrown away. I’m not sure that the “journey is the reward,” because that sounds a lot like what editors say when they don’t want to actually pay an author, but it sure beats not traveling down the writer’s path at all!

    • Molly Greene September 22, 2011 at 11:07 pm #

      Made me laugh! Pam, whatever your process is, it clearly works. LOVE your books, so glad we’ve connected, can’t wait to hear all about your success with Berkley!

  3. faith hope & cherrytea September 23, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

    i remember when Lynn Austin sat beside me at a fundraising dinner describing her desire to be a writer, then declaring herself to be a writer… guess who’s a writer?!
    great post! thanks for the inspiriting…=)

    • Molly Greene September 23, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

      I love it! Thanks so much for sharing this, we all need a reminder that declaring our intentions can be powerful.

  4. Massively encouraging and generously honest. Thanks Molly. Cathyx

  5. Kristen Pelfrey October 28, 2011 at 8:08 pm #

    Write on, Molly!

  6. Beverly Diehl October 28, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

    Molly, loved this post. Like you, I wrote a Really Bad First Novel, though I had the sense to never send it out. Then I wrote another one, better, but (despite snagging me some reads and an agent) was truly Not Ready for Prime Time, also.

    Now I’m editing novel #4, and feeling like this one is going to do it. However, when it sells (note I’m saying when, not if) it will be because all those other words needed to be written, those writing and editing muscles needed to be flexed.

    So nice to find people like you on this journey. 🙂

    • Molly Greene October 28, 2011 at 8:28 pm #

      Thank you so much! Same to you, and best of luck on your project!

  7. John Abramowitz (@onthebird) October 28, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

    This is the second time in my life that I’ve wanted to write for a living. I gave it up the first time after realizing that *ALL* of my novels were RBNs. Coming back, and realizing that I really have grown as a writer since age 15, has been a long and slow process.

    I wish that, at the time, I had realized that *everybody* writes drivel before they write good things. I also wish I had realized the importance of having a set of eyes to bounce your work off of. You live in your head, so of COURSE your characters’ actions and responses are going to feel believable to you. Getting the feedback from somebody who has only what’s on the page to go on is crucial. (I try to get more than one set of eyes when possible.)

    Thank you for sharing your journey, and by the way, Ms. Rosin, if you’re reading this, and feel like taking on a new mentee, I’m in the market ….

  8. Patricia Marques October 29, 2011 at 10:46 pm #

    I think this is a great post and a great mind set too. We need thicker skin as writers but we also need to push on through. This is the second post I’ve read today that’s made me want to keep at it until I get there. I finished my first novel about a year ago… and it’s not great. Far from it but… I guess that’s just how it starts.

    Good luck to you with your writing!

    • Molly Greene October 29, 2011 at 11:02 pm #

      Thank you Patricia. I agree, keep on until you get where you want to be. Giving up is not an option!

  9. Marjaan January 20, 2012 at 5:10 pm #

    What a sound piece of advice penned down in the most simple and direct manner. Thank you!!

  10. Peter Paluska February 3, 2012 at 9:09 am #

    A brave, entertaining post!

  11. Rae Ellen Lee February 25, 2012 at 6:48 pm #


    To write makes me feel braver than I am. After writing my first short story, a writing prof said, “Do us all a favor and don’t write any more fiction.” I thought, “He must know what he’s talking about.” But I kept getting ideas for novels. Finally I took an Artists’ Way workshop, and that gave me courage to write a novel. After numerous revisions, I got it published. Then I wanted to write about a dramatic life event, but lacked bravery to do that. When I read Bird By Bird, as you mentioned in your post, I found the courage to write honestly about life — and with humor.

    What I love about your post is that you declare you are a writer at the same time as you admit to feeling there is much yet to learn. Bravo. And thank you.

    • Molly Greene February 26, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

      Gotta love the people who tell us we can’t do something, makes me all the more determined!

      • Peter Paluska February 26, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

        I could not agree more! I actually think our real mentors are the ones who tell us never to do anything again. Within reason I suppose. 😉

  12. Rusty March 2, 2012 at 1:04 am #

    Really loved this post Molly! It is actually very encouraging and has some real jewels for anyone who might wish to write! I guess we all get a boo at the beginning, and we don’t get scared off then great things can happen! Thanks for sharing!

    • Molly Greene March 2, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

      Thank you so much, Rusty!

  13. Perry Block April 1, 2012 at 7:43 pm #

    “How I made bad writing the basis of a great life.”

    Well, that really sounded like the blog post for me! Then I read it and found out you’re suggesting we try to IMPROVE in order to have the great life. Darn it …. that’s the hard part.

    Very nice inspirational post, Molly. Thank you very much for writing it!

  14. John-Paul Cleary April 12, 2012 at 9:31 am #

    Great blog post Molly.
    Very inspiring.
    Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Molly Greene April 12, 2012 at 11:33 am #

      Thank you so much for the read and comment!

  15. David P Perlmutter April 19, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

    I agree and love the post.

    I am a first time writer and its been a long and tough journey but now nearly 50,000 words, 200 odd pages, ebook cover complete, editor intact and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but still using a flash light!!!

    Following you Molly, love what you wrote….why not check me out at http://thewrongplaceatthewrongtime.blogspot.pt/

    My first book, a true story and the background on my twitter page is the cover…@davepperlmutter

    Great to connect with you..

  16. Michelle Garcia December 14, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

    I loved reading this post. I’ve never met an author who hated their first work. We all cherish it–even when we’ve gained enough experience to see how unpublishable it was. Keep going and good luck! The journey is really the important part 🙂

    • Molly Greene December 15, 2012 at 9:08 am #

      Hi Michelle! Thanks so much for your encouragement – best to you in all you do.

  17. Patricia Sands August 23, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

    Molly, you have an innate ability to peek inside the minds of writers (are we sleeping when you do this … or stuck into our writing …?) and then articulate our thoughts. Thank you from all of us for sharing our journeys and reminding us what we’ve learned.

    • Molly Greene August 23, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

      Aww, Patricia! Thank you so much. I’ve learned a heck of a lot even since I wrote this post, and it seems the lessons will not end 🙂

  18. cindy January 11, 2015 at 5:49 am #

    Molly, you never fail to inspire me, so when I need a little hit, I come here. Thanks for always having something perfect for me to read!

    • Molly Greene January 11, 2015 at 8:45 am #

      Thanks Cindy so much. Mwah!


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