Are You Tough Enough to Be a Writer?

This last week has been a strange one. Of course, you have to know it snowed a little. Okay, a whole buttload. (That is not the actual name of a measure. The word butt is a measurement of alcohol; it’s a keg.) We got caught in the path of two snowstorms, one following the other by a slim margin — one and half days. Anyway, we had about eight to ten inches. I can’t tell you that was the official total, but according to the ruler I bought at the store, that is what was on the ground.

It brought back some memories from my youth in Des Moines. Here I thought I would never have to shovel snow again. Hah! Just when I thought it was safe, along came a couple of winter storms and proved that something could make me do something I swore never to do again shovel. It wasn’t near as bad as I remembered.

Back then, I could throw the snow up as high as I could, and it wouldn’t be high enough. Of course, that year, it snowed more in one day than it has in the last couple of days did here. The blizzard of ’64 snowed around four feet one day. But having said that, somebody will fact-check me so they can embarrass me. If I was a politician, I’m positive someone would fact-check me. If it didn’t happen in 1964, check around that year by about two or three years on either side. Also, don’t be surprised that the official totals might not agree. What I remember was the snow was higher than I was tall.  

So have fun checking my story out. Someone will let me know just how close I was to the actual event.

It doesn’t matter to me, though. I am just giving people with time on their hands some ungainly employment.

During the snowstorms, I worked on a couple of big things. I sent The Dao Factor off to a publisher to see what they think about it. Then, I sent my first foray into Non-fiction off to a publisher too.

I always get, eh, I guess giddy might not be the exact word but it’s close. Yeah, that’s it. I always get a little giddy after sending a piece of work off. We call our products WIP (Works In Progress). It makes us sound like we know what we’re doing.

Oh, Well. I always feel great after sending things off. When I hit send, I’m sure that the publisher or agent will say yes, but I remind myself that it doesn’t always work out that way. I refer you to Ralphie’s A+++ theme in A Christmas Story. It turned out to be a C.

But it is fun as hell sending stuff off. It’s almost like Christmas if you compare the internal excitement. I know the odds of them both returning with a good outcome for me is astronomical, but that is not enough for me to cringe. On the flip side, it is not as daunting as the words, “So, I read your book…” or even looking at the email address from an agent or publisher that I’ve queried, before opening the said mail. You need to know that the negative news way outnumbers that of the favorable by about a gazillion to one.

Everyone thinks authors are a strange lot. This is probaably why. I mean, Harry Potter and Dune (which you probably already know we’re huge sellers unless you’ve been slithering around under rocks) both had a considerable amount of rejections.

But that sick to your stomach, oh, my God, I don’t want to open this. Or when someone says they read the book. You automatically look in their eyes; no, don’t do that. Are they smiling? Do they have a serious expression? Do they look like they are in pain and about to throw-up?

At this point, many things race through an author’s head, both excellent and catastrophic.

Then, you open the email. The letter inevitably says it was the worst thing ever, and the agent or publisher cannot understand why anyone would ever want to read your writing. 

No. The letter never says that. It just seems to say that while you read the email. This whole senario is so engrained in the author’s life that even when I received my first email that said, “We would love to publish your book.” I still felt that soft pukey feeling and had to read it over several times. I didn’t even send back my decision to say yes for almost half a week. I had to sleep on it, several times, first. To that, I had to lie awake and stare at the ceiling for at least one night. I think I got up once or twice and padded through the darkened house like a trained ninja to look at the acceptance again.

 But that is what makes things lively, the uncertainty; that’s what spices things up. It’s often referred to as paying your dues. As with any club, there is some sort of thing like dues—lots of times, it is money. But in a creative endeavor, paying dues is like that period spent receiving very little recognition of that particular field. For example, it usually takes ten years of trying hard to become a recognized writer.

That’s not bad either. Think of Van Gough. He didn’t sell, but one or two paintings, and they were for tuppence. He was a great talent, undiscovered while he still lived. Where the graphic arts are concerned, that is not unusual.  

Now that I’ve gotten my excitement under control, I can see clearly, and do you know what? We can compare paying the dues thing with a cocoon or chrysalis. There was an unbelievable learning curve to be climbed. I had to learn; not the least of things to absorb was how to have a thick skin when someone wants to be frank. Then there is the candid friend who always reminds you with each regection that the field is challenging.

If you want to be a writer, author, or novelist, you will develop friends like those mentioned in the previous paragraph. And you know what? That kind of advice needs to be there. You have to toughen yourself. If you can’t stomach that and dig down within yourself to learn even when no one wants to help, you won’t make it through the dues.

No matter. I’m climbing out of the doldrums; it feels great.

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