I am learning to let go
I am learning to stay out
of those dumb
I am learning to stand up
Even though sometimes I
I’m surprised at my moxie
I wasn’t sure that I had it
I am learning to let go
We all deal in language, us writers. We are limited by the alphabet, by punctuation, and the curve of the font. Yet, some vowels, commas, and deckle-edged pages come together in such a way as to produce magic. Spun gold that leaves the rest of us wondering if some people are working with better materials than others.
You might argue that artistry is about innovation. And that’s true. But isn’t artistry also about availability? You have to work with what you have, but what if you don’t have everything you need to elevate? To wit:
I came across this image today. It’s fly larvae that made cocoons out of gold leaf and precious stones that were provided by a forward-thinking artist. Ever thought fly larvae interesting? Me either. But suddenly….
I realize there is no way to literally gild writing. But writers sometimes short-change themselves of the most precious of all commodities: time. We rush, we waste, we stall, and all the time, that material is slipping through our fingers.
Titles are tricky. They’re used to market the book, and to give readers a hint of what’s inside. The title of my first novel, ANGEL’S GRACE is a pun, only you don’t realize what the pun is until you get to the end of the story. I thought Simon & Schuster was going to change the title, but it turned out that they loved it.
This new story doesn’t feel that clear-cut. I keep waiting to have a moment like Madeleine L’Engle had when her mother lifted the title A WRINKLE IN TIME from a line in the story. My story involves jumbies, Caribbean spirits, but there’s already a YA book out called THE JUMBIE. My original title was eleven words long. And while I loved it, it had some problems (besides the fact that it was eleven words long).
Those that I’ve shared my current story with seem to like the title, but my agent feels it’s too generic. I see her point. But I haven’t been able to summon up something better. So how do you title a story?
You could go epic, using the name of the character, like PERCY JACKSON AND THE LIGHTNING THIEF. You could go with something more subtle, like WONDER, leaving readers to wonder what it’s all about. You could go with something very obvious like ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE, or something really vague like THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING. Personally I like simple, like FRANNY AND ZOOEY. But none of that has helped me so far.
The title search continues.
It’s not news that I don’t like Valentine’s Day. In a word, it’s dumb. But this is the first year that I remember Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday being neck and neck. It’s interesting that all the denial associated with Lent starts up right before a day when people go to unnecessary excesses to prove their love, or their worthiness for love, or perseverance in the face of a cruel dating scene, or whatever the hell it is Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about with all the candy and overpriced roses. I know, I know. My husband’s a lucky guy.
Anyway, while others are embalmed in syrupy goo, I am thinking about what I’m going to give up for Lent. A friend of mine is giving up Facebook. I would too, but I get a lot of editing clients through Facebook. I considered giving up bitching, but a friend insisted bitching was essential therapy. Then, while trying to track down a Prabal Gurung jacket at Target, it hit me. Shopping. I’m a bit of a shopaholic. Not a deep-in-debt shopaholic, or a whiny but-I-deserve-it shopaholic. Just an average, oh-isn’t-that-pretty? shopaholic. So can I go 40 days without buying something that isn’t food or groceries?
Okay willpower. You’re on.
But she too had some changes in mind.
I got her notes on December 12th, but didn’t start working until January. Today, I finished typing up the last edits.
It’s not over yet. I still need to do a final read and there will certainly be some tweaking. But I see the light at the end of the tunnel. And boy am I glad to see it.
For years, I’ve been telling people that they can make time to write. Even with the full-time job, and the full-time parenting, and everything else that they do, it’s possible. But I had been working from home, which is far less exhausting than commuting an hour into the city and back, dealing with energy-sucking co-workers, and then arriving home to help two children with homework, make dinner, and then summon up the energy to be creative. It turns out, I could do it, but writing while exhausted is good for nothing. It’s not good for me, and it’s certainly not good for my books.
So the first thing I’m going to do is apologize to anyone who may have felt awed, or floored, or cowed by my seeming ability to juggle 8 million things at once. Working an 8 hour day is quite different without the exhausting commute and succubi.
But I’m not giving up. I have a plan. And that plan is to make the most of my weekends. I have been spending my Saturdays running errands and driving the kids to their extra-curricular activities, but for the next couple of weekends, I’m making that my husband’s job. He will do the running around for groceries, etc. Or the kids just won’t go to their extra-curriculars. Sacrifices must be made, after all, and I am going to be ruthless in my need for TIME TO WORK. It’s the only way it’s going to happen.
With the publishing world moving at the speed of a glacier, you have to be prepared for a whole lot of waiting before things happen. Good things, bad things. If you’re impatient, publishing is not your field. You could wait months for a response to a query, even when you have partials and fulls requested, it could still take months for a response. If you’re waiting to be happy until you get the actual book deal, you’ll be waiting a hell of a long time.
I used to reserve my happy to the end. And then I realized, there are plenty of happy moments along the publishing road. Granted there are no bigger happy moments than making the sale and getting an award after it’s published, but you can be happy in smaller increments for some many other things leading up to the big one. Among my favorites:
- finishing a first draft
- editing a first draft
- feeling that a story is done
- writing a damn good query
- getting a request for partial or full
- getting a bite of interest
- reading good reviews
- getting nice fan e/mail
With all of that to celebrate (and much more), what’s the point of waiting? Be happy now.
Having trouble? Let Bobby McFerrin, Mr. Noodle, and Mork show you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-diB65scQU