Please welcome back guest H.M. (Heather) Bouwman, author of A Crack in the Sea (forthcoming in January 2017) and The Remarkable & Very True Story of Lucy & Snowcap (2008). Heather lives with her two kids in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she teaches at the University of St. Thomas and writes novels for middle-grade child readers. She is a martial artist, a homeschooling mom, a reader-aloud of books, and a baker of cakes. In her free time, she does not clean house or care for her lawn. Her neighbors love her: she makes them look good. Connect with Heather on Facebook and on Twitter.
Writing (in the) Happy Middles
I tell my creative writing students—I got this from somewhere, but I no longer remember where—that the difference between a comedy and a tragedy is in the last ten minutes of the movie or the final tenth or so of the story. A comedy is made, in other words, by its ending. Middles aren’t happy.
But what if they’re all we ever have? The story of a writing career isn’t necessarily one with either a happy ending or a tragic one. For most of us, the writing life is a story without an arc—or at least without an arc that is discernable from our perspective as we slog away in the trenches.
I write this essay as someone who spent long years (between book one and book two) in the arid desert, my writing receiving rejection after rejection. And I write this essay now as someone who finally did get a second book contract (and a third) with an amazing editor, at a wonderful publisher. Things are rosy. But that’s not the writing life. And this essay isn’t a story about trudging to reach the bright horizon.
About a year ago (before the sale of book two), I started a once-in-a-while journal about my writing path, taking stock of how things were going and checking my emotional temperature. I won’t quote from the journal here: I’m pretty sure the actual words are of no use to anyone but me, mainly because they don’t go anywhere. There is no trajectory. Every entry—some of them spaced months and months apart—is essentially the same: publishing is currently stinking; this is a low point in my publishing career; but I love writing. [Read more…]