SCRIBBLING FORTH A WORLD
When you are born, your work is placed in your heart.
The same week I was putting final touches on the revision of my novel, Garrison Keillor wrote in an op-ed piece: “… I think that book publishing is about to slide into the sea.” Referring to today’s writer, “blogging like crazy” and more inclined to self-publish his or her books, Keillor painted a picture of “18 million authors in America, each with an average of 14 readers, eight of whom are blood relatives. Average annual earnings: $1.75.”
Yeah, yeah… a bunch of publishing insiders were quick to challenge this view, suggesting in so many words that Keillor is a misinformed, nostalgic old fart and that book publishing is merely evolving, not disappearing. But bytes of info that crossed my desk and my screen last week engendered a sense of trepidation as I delivered my manuscript to the P.O.
There was the news item about Kathryn Stockett’s novel The Help, the fourth best fiction seller of 2009, with two million hardback books in print only 15 months after publication; I was in mid-cheer when, reading on, I discovered that her book garnered 40 rejections before anybody decided to take a chance on it. Huh? Forty pros in publishing failed to see its potential?
There was the Facebook post from Michele Young-Stone, friend and author of the widely-praised The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors. She posted a request for somebody, anybody, to come over and visit the Barnes & Noble where she was sitting alone at her book-signing event. If nobody showed up to buy an autographed copy of her debut novel, recently cited as one of the top ten, how, I had to wonder, must lesser books and their creators fare? She also blogged last week about the work-in-progress — specifically, the 1000 pages she herself rejected, the 17 revisions of the subsequent 400-pager, and its recent rejection by her editor (whom Michele, nonetheless, celebrates for having “the balls to tell the truth”). A long-haul, this business of writing to publish.
Oddly, enough, the war stories keep me going as well as my refusal to think much about this manuscript during the next four weeks when, ideally, the agent will read it. I have family and friends who reinforce for me the power of intention. The universe is conspiring in my favor, I tell myself, regardless of outcome. Today’s email to me from TUT.com reads, in part: In the end… it’s ALL going to be about… how much you enjoyed your life.
There you have it, I thought. The act of writing is easily as much the enjoyable part of my life as anything I can think of — more enjoyable, dare I say, than a few of the most primal of pleasures. Take the act of eating, for example, I’m not one to ever miss a meal, but a week ago, while tweaking my manuscript, I completely forgot to “do lunch.” Totally absorbed in the wordplay, I’d have skipped supper, too, if someone hadn’t reminded me to show up for it.
The times when the right word or next step in the story eludes me can be downright crazy-making, but at the best of times, for me, putting a pen to paper (or tweaking words on a screen) is the best kind of play. When, like Harold of Purple Crayon fame, I’m deeply into scribbling forth a world all my own, I become the kid who has to be called in to supper and complies, but only reluctantly. So why enter the fray by writing to publish? Why not simply enjoy the writing process itself?
I scribble because, increasingly, I feel it is something I was born to do. This may be a huge conceit, but I’ll say it, anyway. I envision readers, too, entering the world I’ve scribbled into being, and, if I’m lucky, reluctantly removing themselves from it only when forced to do so. My growing sense is that not only is writing something I’m meant to do for pleasure, but that at least some of what I end up scribbling – that work placed in my heart — is meant to be shared with the world.
I think I did pretty well considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper. Steve MartinExplore posts in the same categories: Uncategorized