“Don’t you ever just, like, want it out there already?”
This question was asked of me by my brother-in-law at a recent family gathering. Over the past couple of years, and his series of inquiries into the current state of my writing journey, I’ve endeavored to explain to him that most novel-length stories are rewritten and revised, often over a period of many years, before they are ready for publication. I appreciate his interest, and he’s evidently begun to grasp what it entails, but I suspect he still thinks I’m hedging.
The question speaks to the anxiousness of those around me. Those who care about me wish for my success. It’s difficult for those who’ve never tried to write one to understand how a successful novel can be so difficult or take so long – particularly if they know a complete draft exists. It’s sort of funny, but in some ways staying patient is more difficult for those who care but who aren’t constantly exposed to the vagaries of the publishing industry, and to constant conversation about the need for diligence and perseverance among writers seeking traditional publication.
I suppose I’ve developed an odd sort of ambivalence about publication. As much as I want it, and as long as I’ve striven for it, I’ve also grown a layer of psychic armor—an emotional shell for my literary ambition to retreat into. If I get to another New Year without a publishing contract on the horizon, it’s no big deal. I’ve already been through several New Year’s Days with the realization that I thought the prior year would be ‘the one’ on the prior New Year’s Day. Why set myself up? It’s really about having grown as an artist in the prior year, right? No idea which manuscript will be ready or when? Ah well. C’est la vie. Check the armor and continue the climb. It’s like a sort of artistic somnambulism.
As much as I hate to mention the phrase, I may be guilty of too tightly embracing the notion of the artist’s journey. It’s not about the destination, but the journey, right? Embrace the moment, love what you’re doing this very day, this very moment. Be diligent, be grateful, continue to learn, to seek. An artist can only be happy if they accept each artistic effort as a step in a never-ending quest.
Well, I have learned a lot. I am grateful. And don’t get me wrong: I love to write. Once I’m into a story, there’s nothing better. I am often perfectly content in the knowledge that I’ve made progress. But getting myself back into a story I’ve already rewritten several times takes no small amount of effort. And in the process of getting there, Resistance (with a capital R) often rears its ugly head. I admit, for a few weeks this past summer, my diligence slid into a slow idle. I knew I had important work to do, but artistically I was sleepwalking through it. I knew my Resistance was just a part of the journey, but my motivation to continue the climb sort of got lost in the clouds on the horizon of that never-ending quest. The darn summit is obscured by the knowledge that it’s only the first of more heights to conquer beyond it.
If you deny the existence of a destination, it’s sort of tough to convince yourself how wonderful it will feel to vigorously climb on.
A Niche of a Niche:
Those of us still seeking our first publishing deal have all seen the warnings. We know that our lives will not be magically changed by having our books published. We know that new trials await us, that life in the world of publishing isn’t always grand, or even fair. We’ve been warned to keep our post-debut aspirations in check. [Read more…]