I miss childish times when believing was unhampered by the distractions of adulthood; making a living, raising a family – you know, the stuff of life. The little guy above; he doesn’t quite understand the meaning of a simple tree ornament, but he believes there is magic in his hand.
I attended holiday gatherings the last couple weeks with friends I hadn’t seen in a while. The inevitable question arose, “how’s the writing going?” I delivered the usual pitch; published a couple short stories; working on finishing another manuscript, etc. etc.
We’re expected to call ourselves writers when asked. It is part of shoring up the walls of self-belief. Folks who ask, respond as expected with, “Gee, that’s neat. What have you written?” Cue awkwardness. “Oh – uh – I write apocalyptic, little paranormal – got a couple short stories in a mag you never heard of – oh, there’s my wife. Can you excuse me a moment?”
For those of us who write but have few if any credentials to show for our hard work, the magic of believing wanes over time.
When I first embarked on this venture decades ago, it was to prove that I had it in me to write a book. I had fun doing it. Wrote another. I believed in myself. I graduated to magazine articles and crafting words for new stories. A real full-time job and being a parent kept the effort to stolen snippets of time. I wrote without a clue how the book industry worked, blissful in my belief that I was ready to test the literary waters.
I discovered myself afloat against a tsunami of content and woke up on a desert isle of disbelief. Reality set in with the chain of five-percenters – five percent of all writers finish a book, five percent of that never submit, five percent of that never land an agent, five percent of those never see the publishing light of day …
What the hell was I thinking? Even if I managed to flag down one of many gatekeepers, I was up against seasoned professionals. That childish belief melted like a snowman in a winter thaw.
Imagining stories and writing them down had always been easy for me. Who knew there were rules, lots of rules, pretty rules for the gate-keeping cadre? Took the next few years to learn how to write, but at least I kept at it. It changed my writing style, some of it good, some of it that chipped away at my writing voice. I emerged as a self-taught gatekeeper and entered a mobius strip of write, edit, critique, prune, rinse, repeat. I’d write ten-thousand words, and trash about eight. Where once it took me six-to-eight months to finish a book, now swelled to a couple years.
Then someone asked, “Why are you still at it after all these years?” It was the same as asking, why do you still believe? Good question. I didn’t have an immediate canned reply. In a moment of self-reflection, I rephrased the question. What plants me in front of an empty screen starving for words? I found the answer in the bio I’d written many years ago.
With an imagination that never sleeps, DT has a muse who refuses to be hobbled as a mere dream.
I’d forgotten that I write because I can’t help myself. I don’t need a reason. All I need is to believe I can translate the muse in my head and create magic on a page.
As for swimming the murky waters of publishing, cue line from the movie, Galaxy Quest. Never give up, never surrender. If the current project doesn’t float, I’ll move on and write something new. For me, the real fun is in the creating.
To my fellow writers, may your holiday spirit be amply laced with a child-like belief in yourself.
J.S. Pailly said:
I’m with you. I keep writing because I can’t help it. But all that business-y stuff with publishing and marketing does get in the way.