So far, this summer has been a busy one. I mean, I don’t know which summer hasn’t been busy because seriously, Canada only allots me about 8 to 10 good weeks of summer weather, and the rest of the time, I contemplate immigration. In any case, this means my short summers are jammed packed with social gatherings, family parties, and barbecues to enjoy the limited sun and bathing suit heat we do get. This year though, something has changed.
I’m going to be a published author.
Yay me, right? Don’t get me wrong, I’m ecstatic. This has been my life dream since before I had any concept of the real world or the feasibility of a career in writing. Well, I’m getting there and people are realizing that too.
But it’s not without struggles. In light of more editing, deadlines, and enough promotional materials to sink a small ship, I’m facing some new situations. Not all are bad: most are awesome and everyone is supportive.
But one makes me want to scream.
“So, you’re getting published, right?” Asks some distant relative, or friend of a friend, or colleague of my mom’s second cousin at that barbecue or other social event.
I shift uneasily. I can hear the words that are coming next. They resonate in my brain before they’ve even been verbalized. Abort mission, Michael. ABORT!
“Well, what’s your book about?”
There it is. I freeze. My palms get sweaty. My mouth is dry and I fumble to do something else with myself. Perhaps I need another drink. Perhaps I need to help that older lady climb the stairs. Perhaps I need to start cleaning up this mess because although this party has just started, fixing those misaligned paper plates would make me more comfortable than answering that question.
“Well, you see,” I start. “I’ve written a post-apocalyptic fantasy novel about a village of surviving humans who are stalked by mutant demons that have evolved in the jungle following Earth’s destruction.”
And then comes my favourite part: the glazed-over look in their eyes, the furrowed brow, the confusion. One of two things has happened just now: either they have no idea what I’m talking about, perhaps hung-up on words like post-apocalyptic, or they’re just frightened.
“The apocalypse?” They say. “Oh, that’s… interesting.”
That’s my exit cue. That’s when I normally reach for the vodka bottle for some social lubricant. Maybe I’ll also adjust those paper plates. Things would be much less tense if they weren’t misaligned.
But the struggle must continue. I know what’s coming next, almost like the way you can feel a bad cold by the preceding chills and slight light-headedness.
“I’ve always wanted to write a novel,” they say. “I have all these ideas and I really think I could get somewhere. I just don’t have any time, you know?”
My insides start churning. I feel like I should say something, like I should tell them that writing isn’t something you just wake up and decide to do. It’s not like buying a latte. You don’t just walk up to a writing bar, give some money to a writing barista, and then BANG! you got a novel.
Not that I mean to disrespect baristas or anyone who actually wants to be a writer, but what people don’t realize is that writing is work. Just like any job, you have to put time into it. It’s like running a marathon. I can’t get up tomorrow and place first in a 20K. I’d fail. Miserably. In fact, I have failed. Writing itself comes with a lot of failure. You gotta go through a lot of rejection before you get ANYONE who believes enough in you or in your work to take you on. I just mean to say that what this person is implying is true: yes, anyone can write. Everyone has ideas that could be novel worthy.
But being a writer? That takes more than just a half-realized fantasy and some spare time.
I don’t say any of these things, of course. Instead, I smile and say “well, you should try it some time”. And this, I actually mean. Give it a try. Set forth, my child, and write away. At least then you’ll realize that writing is more than just a finished product or a contract. Writing is work. Writing is committing yourself to a passion even with other pressures and responsibilities like a full course load or a full time job. Writing is pursuing a dream even when you’re tired and grumpy after a long day and 2 hour commute. Writing is a lifestyle.
What writing is NOT, however, is a snap decision. It most definitely is NOT something that is accomplished easily with a little spare time and a ballpoint pen.
Hope you all are having a wicked week!
What writing (if any) are you pushing through?