I think there comes a point in every writer’s life when we have to ask ourselves if we’re really persistent or completely delusional. (I touched on this in my post on Monday; how I wonder if I’m like one of those awful contestants on American Idol; the really bad singers who are convinced that they are going to make it to Hollywood and then go on from there to win the whole competition, even though their singing could get them fined for disturbing the peace). Sometimes I wonder if I’m one of those people. I think of how, despite all of the rejection I’ve received as I writer, I keep on believing in myself. I wonder; am I persistent or delusional? It doesn’t help when your family doesn’t understand how the publishing business works.
My mom, for instance, has been asking me for the last five years, “Have you sold your story?” (I keep wondering which story she’s referring to, and if she thinks I’ve been sitting around moping with the same manuscript since 2007.)
“Well, I was just telling Brenda the other day I can’t understand why someone hasn’t picked you up yet!” (My mom thinks the publishing industry is like the NBA draft.)
I said, “Why did you tell her that?”
“Because you can’t sell your story!”
“Mama, it’s not that simple.”
“As good as you are I know someone’s gonna pick you up!” (I don’t know how she knows I’m good since she hasn’t read anything I’ve written since third grade. The story was called “Sheeba the Cat” and was so awful I don’t blame her for running every time I show up on her doorstep with a recently completed manuscript.)
The truth is that even if I took the time to tell my mother:
1. My previous projects were okay but probably not so great.
2. Writers get better with age.
3. What’s good or bad in writing is completely subjective so agents and publishers probably aren’t the vapid blood suckers we writers think they are.
4. Self publishing is a viable option but is something I need to fully understand before jumping into it head first.
5. Just because she thinks I’m good doesn’t make it so.
6. Sometimes, these things just take time.
Even if I took the time to explain all of this to her, I’m sure she would say, “Well, I still don’t understand why someone hasn’t picked you up.” And I would end up pulling my hair out and vowing to never talk to her about my writing career again.
It also doesn’t help that whenever I tell someone that I went to school for creative writing they look as if I just told them I’m getting a leg amputated in two weeks. Their faces say, “Oh, no. You poor dear. I’ll pray for you.” And then I wonder if I should have studied something more practical, like acting.
The only consolation I have is that yes, I am getting better. But I still wonder: will it ever happen? Unlike an NBA career, there is no cut off point for a writer. We can sit and wish and say, “Maybe the next project will be the one” until we’re ninety. Although that thought scares the crap out of me, there is still a glimmer of hope that yes, this project, will be the one. And then I tell myself that I am good, if only because my mother says so, and then I get up and push through the doubt and write. No matter how frequently I am plagued by “but what if this project doesn’t (fill in the blank)” I know that I have to forge ahead, believing, like those American Idol contestants, that no matter what anybody else says, I’m gonna win this thing.