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I am the only one awake. Rain falls outside the window on a world not winter, not spring, a landscape that ought to be white this time of year but isn’t. Bleak, nondescript sky, fawn colored grass, even the evergreens look subdued and tired. But on both window sills a splash of color – yellow daisies. Flames crackle and dance in the wood stove, warming the morning chill, toasting my bare feet.
If I listen, the clamor in my brain tells me I should be writing, I should be journaling, I should be cutting every last word I wrote yesterday from the work in progress and sending it where the sun don’t shine. I should be cleaning, I should be looking at taxes, I should be making something special for breakfast because it is, after all, Valentine’s Day, and how selfish am I that I didn’t buy everybody something?
In my head, plot points and characters swirl amid the noise of the real life demands. I am, I think, waiting for a moment of clarity, but I’m not sure that it will come to me. I would like to believe that if I sit here long enough, all of a sudden there will be a moment of angel song and all of the pieces will fall into place. I know better. Before anything happens, before anything is done, I will have to make decisions and take action. Some of my decisions will be good, and some I will regret.
Any moment now, somebody will get up and the silence will be shattered. Real life demands will present themselves, shaping the day, pushing me into action or reaction.
But at the center of all of that noise, all of the conflicting directives and the guilt of the done and undone, I may linger for this moment for no other reason than because I choose.
And in this moment, I am at peace.
Yesterday evening when I opened up Twitter at the end of a long day’s work, the first Tweet I read was from a literary agent, and it read like this: “Just received another offer.”
Simple words. They mean great news for somebody. Some lucky writer is about to be published. Some lucky agent was smart enough to sign that writer, and savvy enough to market their manuscript to the right publisher.
On reading this, do I experience a rush of happiness for agent and author?
Hell no. What hits immediately is a wave of jealousy. Inside, I’m a four year old child, stomping my feet and screaming, “but I want that. It’s supposed to be mine!”
I am not by nature a jealous person. I don’t envy you your brand new car, or your shiny new job, or your mansion on a hilltop somewhere. (I might envy you your maid or your cleaning service, if you’ve got that, but not the house itself.) When it comes to writing related news, however, I turn into a vindictive jealous bitch with the most casual comment.
You’ve written 8000 words today and every word is golden. Every agent you’ve ever queried has requested a partial or a full. You’ve finished your WIP and it’s brilliant beyond your wildest dreams. There’s a bidding war for your latest manuscript and every publisher in New York is ready to kill somebody to sign you up.
Sure, I’ll send you a note that’s all sweetness and light and encouragement, and I’m truly happy for you, and wish you the best. I do. But at the same time I’m raving on the inside.
That said, I’ve been noticing something. With possible exceptions of really famous writers whose thoughts I have no access to, nobody seems to have “made it” to the point where life is golden and there is nothing left to worry about. In fact, all of those events that I dream of and long for, seem to come at a cost.
I’ve noticed that writers who have achieved agent status are now stressing about manuscripts out on submission to editors. Those with a sweet book deal are engaged in frenzied revisions, or might even be in contention with an editor who doesn’t see eye to eye on certain points of the manuscript. Even those authors who are published and selling are worried about sales and agonizing over the next WIP.
It appears that writing is not the sort of calling, or career, or whatever it means to you, where you ever get to sit back and say, “that’s it, Baby. I’ve made it. I’m golden.” There will always be one more novel to write, one more sale to make, one more sales goal to reach.
Success, if I’m going to stay sane, has to come from somewhere else. Perhaps the joy of completing a WIP, the knowledge that this manuscript is better than the last, the accomplishment of conquering all of the doubt and fear and avoidance that gets in the way of finishing a piece of writing. Or maybe, better yet, the simple pleasure of writing itself.
I had one of those days a week ago. You know the one: you are writing, and you are in the flow. Words spill out of you, ideas clamor for your attention, the hours go by without any dilly dally at all. A day like that makes up for all of the hours of despair, the moments where you have to threaten the words with thumbscrews and drag them screaming onto the page one at a time.
A day like that even makes up for the rejections and snubs that are an inevitable part of seeking publication. And on a day like that, I wouldn’t trade my unagented status for the most successfully published novel in the world.