I feel stalled like an old car whose engine fell out on the road to Vegas and has been abandoned in the most disgusting gas station in Truckee. I still haven’t heard from the NYC book agent and I just found out that I wasn’t one of the five winners of the Shewrites contest. I suppose I ought to feel comforted that my period of extreme rejection has begun. The sooner I rack up my rejection account the sooner I can get to the part where I get published. I should rejoice in being part of the well-respected depressing part of the writer’s life. This is it. I have a book and am beginning the process of getting nowhere with it like thousands of other writers out there. Today it feels like joining a cult that you know is going to take all your money and burn you on a special author-sized rotisserie.
The usual advice for writers who’ve gotten to this spot in the life of writing is to remind them that they aren’t writing for the sake of fame and fortune, right? We’re really all just writing because we are driven to write, because we HAVE TO WRITE. I’ve been asked many times “If you knew you’d never get published would you still write novels/poetry/blogs/stories?” and the answer is yes and no. Yes, I’ll keep writing whether I get published or not. But I don’t write simply to pursue pleasure. This is not, for me, a fun hobby. It isn’t something I do lightly or for the joy of it. I do it for what I could make of it, for what I can build with it, for what it can become, for what I can create and then contribute to the world I live in. A writer who has no desire or fire to be published is not a writer in the deepest and truest sense. Not in my opinion. A “real” writer is someone who feels compelled to share their words, who has a strong drive to tell other people stories, who wants more than anything in the world to be heard because they have something to say.
Being published isn’t the same as seeking fame and fortune. I think every writer dreams of making enough money to live well on, to support their families on, and every writer hopes to have a name that means enough to publishers and agents that they can continue to publish as they create. But being published and fame and fortune are not necessarily the same thing as many writers will tell you if only you will listen. The J.K. Rowlings of this world are few. However, a large audience is necessary to remain in print. To get your story out there. To say what you are burning to say you need people interested in listening and the best way to get more people to listen is to find an advocate with power (an agent and/or publisher), the power to put you in front of an audience.
Being published, no matter how you go about accomplishing it, is the most important thing a writer can do aside from the actual writing. So yeah, this is incredibly important.
But I’m only in the beginning. How to keep myself from getting bogged down is the question. How to go through this process and not lose faith in myself or the strength of my the book I’m trying to get out there. I don’t know. I am itching to start work on Jane Doe but that one is so dark and I feel like having a book out there that isn’t published and working on others is like typing in the dark. If Cricket and Grey turns out to not get published because it’s complete crap but I don’t find that out for five more years – what if I am just writing more crap? What if I’m writing thinking I’ve written a great book and really it’s horrid but thinking it’s great I move forward in that style?
This is why even though Cricket and Grey is meant to be a series of four books I’m reluctant to work on the second one before knowing if anyone will ever print the first one. I have my sights set on Jane Doe because it’s entirely different and at least if Cricket and Grey turns out to be a genuine bomb I will have a second (completely different) book to push. That feels important. Of course, if anyone does publish Cricket and Grey and likes the series idea I will probably have less than a year to write the second one even though the first one took two years to write.
Two years. Two years of work and I love what I made but have no way of knowing it it’s viable in the publishing market and may not know for another two years. My grey streak is getting thicker and whiter by the day. I’m a little awed by the vast difference between the book writing and publishing time frame and the blogging publishing time frame. A book can take years to see the light of day. A blog post can take seconds. I publish myself every week and it takes so little time. I write a book and it took me two years.
I can’t see the future. I can’t know what I really want to know. Today I’ve lost a writing contest and I may very well soon get my first agent rejection. My happy reflection is that I haven’t gotten it yet and as long as I haven’t heard from her she has not yet said no. Since I can’t see the future I have to move forward, like all people do, listening to my instinct and trusting that while there are so many opportunities out there that aren’t meant for me, I will eventually find the one that is.
One last thought I have is that as disappointed as I am for myself, I am happy for the writers who are getting their book deals, agent offers, and winning contests because in a way they’re all part of a broad creative cultural family I belong to. They are all people who may one day give me inspiration, courage, and help on my own path. Learning not to resent the people who’ve finally found purchase on the ladder going up is part of being a truly professional writer.
I may feel stalled but I need to keep the momentum going so my goal for the next week is to research agents and pick five of them to query. Meanwhile I will begin reshaping Jane Doe with the goal that by the new year I will have a finished first draft to start polishing up.
Goals are important.
I would also recommend that you don’t ever get stranded in Truckee.