Thursday, April 16, 2009

Shortcuts Make Long Delays

As you may have noticed, many of my friends are writers. Very talented writers. The links for some of them are at the left (in the current template anyway). And they all work at their craft to make it better. Some are at the point of putting their babies in front of agents.

One friend recently entered a contest with a big prize--publication by a major publishing house. Pretty cool, huh? This friend made it through the first cut but did not make it to the last round. Bummer. And I would be bummed, too. Think about all the steps you could skip just by winning this contest.

That's the dream, isn't it. Not having to do the slog. You know the one. The seemingly endless querying of agents. Realizing after you hit the on the email to Agent A that you've left in the opening paragraph that relates to Agent Z. Getting rejection after rejection. Then a request for pages. Which turns into a rejection. Lather, rinse, repeat. Then finally getting the agent only to have to go through it all again with editors.

It's why we go to conferences and put ourselves through pitch sessions. Or join social networking groups in order to maybe possibly meet Agent J (or his cousin) or Editor M (or her mother's neighbor's best friend's daughter). Anything to get us closer to the person who will say yes without all the other nonsense. And it's why we enter contests.

But I'm beginning to suspect that writing is like other things in life. Most of us have to do the slog. Write. Rewrite. Rewrite again. Query. Submit. Query. Submit. And while you're querying and submitting, you're also writing and rewriting other things.

The only shortcut I see is to keep writing through the disappointments. Because if we let each and every setback stop the process for a few days or a month or a year (and that has happened to more than one of us), then it just becomes a longer and harder slog. With the feeling that even more is on the line. The little successes can interrupt the flow, too. Oooh, Agent S asked for a full. I'm going to send it off and celebrate by not writing anything until I hear back, because she might want some big revisions and I want to be waiting by the phone. Uh huh.

Maybe the biggest revelation in all of this is that, for me, the writing has to be an end in and of itself. Maybe that needs to be the goal. Not nabbing an agent. Not getting published. Writing. Just for the sheer joy and necessity of it. Publication can be the extra sprinkles on top. Because if I don't love the writing, why am I doing this? There are easier ways to make a buck. Other things I enjoy doing in my free time. And focusing too much on that end of things can make me forget why I started doing this in the first place. Because I love putting one word after the other and seeing what they create.

Not that I don't want the sprinkles.

And whipped cream.

And maybe a cherry.

3 comments:

Ali said...

Good point, Deb. It's funny, too, that when I think of it, it's often the writers who talk only about getting published (and never about the craft itself) are those whose writing is the least likely to hold my interest - and I'm not half as tough a sell as an agent/editor.

Fleur Bradley said...

Couldn't agree more. Success comes and goes, published or not, agented/editored (is that a word?) or not. It has to be about the writing.
I've had some highs and lows, but I have to say the biggest highs still come from reading my own stuff, and feeling good about what I wrote.

Jenny said...

I recently read an ariticle in "The Writer" by John Jakes and he talks about the three Ps of being a writer. One of them, and the one that stuck the most with me, is 'practice'. You've got to keep on learning. He compared writing to playing an instrument. Just because you play at Carnegie Hall doesn't mean you get to stop practicing the music. Your muscles atrophy and that high C? You can't hold it anymore if you don't practice. You won't learn anything new. Recently I've been in the 'publication slog' and desperately needed to be convinced that life was more than that. So I wrote. And I'm writing something (a couple somethings actually) that I'm having fun with.

Just keep practicing. It's good for you.