Posted in Writing

Hurry Up and Wait

Today I had a publisher interested in my manuscript. You know, that one novel I wrote once upon a time. I had sent it to every major agent in the business, and received a resounding chorus of, “It’s definitely good, but not excellent.” To which, I inwardly responded with, “Isn’t that a better state than half of the books published out there?”

Eventually, I ran out of names of all the top agents in publishing. With nowhere to go, I shelved the project until I could think of a new plan. Or at least find the time, energy and focus to do yet another rewrite to achieve that illusive, “excellent.”

Then, one ordinary day, I inadvertently stumbled across a small, independent publishing house. Having fallen prey over the years to the scams that guise themselves as “vanity publishing,” I was all the wiser, and did some research. Overall, they seemed they might be a good fit.

So, I dusted off my marketing materials, and put together a proposal. I sent it off, and then I waited. And waited. And waited. I went through a break-up. I got a new job. I almost lost my apartment. I saved my apartment. I had Thanksgiving….Then, yesterday, I heard back. They wanted to see the full manuscript.

My heart fluttered. I dashed home, and pulled out the files. I reformatted. I changed a few verbs here and there. I decided the book sucked and needed a complete overhaul. I started the overhaul. I thought about changing the names of all the characters. I had a panic attack because it was two a.m. and I somehow felt I needed to get the manuscript to the publisher by the morning or they would forget who I am. (Irrational thinking, I know, but we writers are sensitive, melodramatic bunch).

So, this morning, I refused to read another word of the manuscript. I dashed it off to the publisher, took a deep breath and said, “Well, that was that.” Then, I slept off the adrenaline rush, woke up, and refreshed my e-mail about every ten minutes for an hour. More irrational thinking.

Realistically, it should be close to a month before I hear anything back. Publishing is a hurry up and wait business. I know this–it’s an industry cliche. Based on my brief forays into it over the years, I know this is true. But, it sure is excruciating.

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Posted in Life, Writing

The Cycle of the In-Between.

I think I chose a bad profession. There’s just not a lot of room in our world for writers. That is–unless you go into scriptwriting, which is all plot and dialogue and leaves little room for playing with the beauty of language–my favorite part of writing.

But, writing is the talent God has given me, and I’ve at times felt he was rather adamant about it…in a tender, beautiful sort of way. There is nothing more touching in the world to feel the Almighty God demands you do the one thing in the world that makes you the happiest. I hope every one of you gets to know that feeling. It’s exquisitely, heartbreakingly beautiful and freeing.

So, God gave me this passion, but in our world, there is little lucrative use for it. So the pattern my writing career has followed thus far, goes something like this. I get a job as a staff writer somewhere, usually working from home. I work at it for a while, bursting out of my skin because I actually get paid to write. Then, eventually, the powers that be realize that having writers on staff is a waste of money, because writing just flat out doesn’t sell. Then, the job gets “restructured,” or the company folds, yada yada yada…I’m out of a job.

So, then I do the only other thing I know how to do–work retail. I get some even lower paying retail gig for a few months, until I can find another low-paying writer job that pays a little more than the last one, leading me to believe that I am climbing some sort of ladder. So goes my professional life.

I am aware of this cycle, and I have often wondered if I should go back to school and be retrained to use my talent in a new way. Perhaps my undergraduate education is outdated, and I need new, updated skills to survive in this market. Then I scoff. That might be true if I were in a technology field. But, in English? I doubt sitting around in stuffy classrooms, analyzing Charles Dickens would do much for my professional marketability.

My only other option would be to do something radically different, like move to the Cayman Islands and teach Scuba Diving or something. Given that I have a debilitating fear of fish in their natural habitat, I guess I have to make it as a writer.

So, this week I finish out another cycle of the retail phase. I spent two months at Office Depot (Want a printer, anyone?)–and now I will start another full-time writing job. I am optimistic about this one, I’m making more than I’ve ever made, and the company seems to be a good one, a lot of good energy. So, I’m happy. But, I really would like to break free of this pattern. This sort of “in-between.”

A couple years back, I met with a business consultant about my writing career. He said my writing was all over the place, and I needed to focus my vision to build a consistent brand. I know he’s right.

But, whenever I start thinking about all of that business stuff, my head starts to hurt, and I feel like that guy in Jerry Maguire. He was the top draft pick, and all the agents were fighting over him, and he picked up his hotel phone to another sales pitch, and he interrupts them and says, “I just want to play football,” and hands the phone to someone else. I relate to that guy sometimes.

Posted in Life

Playing With Fire

I have a confession to make. I like to burn paper. It’s a weird nervous habit I have. Sometimes, I see a lighter, or a box of matches sitting on a counter, I’ll just sit there and burn the edges of any paper that may be around. It could be a piece of junk mail. It could be an envelope, a grocery list. Whatever, I just somehow feel the need to set it on fire.

Now, I don’t set it ablaze, mind you. I simply light the edge, and I get an odd satisfaction out of watching the fire eat the paper. And, just before the fire gets going, I hastily put it out. Then, I start again. There’s some kind of thrill of watching the destructive power of fire, I think. And there’s an even bigger thrill, in seeing how far I can let the fire go, before I know it’s time to put it out. I love to think about the phenomenal energy of fire, and how it’s all at my whim. That the power of my inevitable breath, will trump the fire and stop it dead. I am greater than fire.

I think there’s some sort of psychological principle at work here. Maybe there’s basic spiritual human instinct. I have a God given authority over nature, and I am not afraid to use it. Maybe it’s a control thing, and the power of control over destructive forces. Or maybe my sin nature gets off on the ability to destroy. Maybe it’s some kind of rebellion against childhood rules about playing with fire. As an adult, I can play with fire if I damn well please. (Real mature thought process, I must say).

Maybe I think too much. Maybe I just think fire is interesting. And really, if you think about it, if God created fire, then wouldn’t appreciating the complexities of it, in fact be a form of worship? I would like to think so. Beyond that, I don’t know why I do the things I do sometimes. And, you know what? That’s okay.