Friday, October 16, 2009

Do People Understand Your Writing Passion?

Well, here it is - my vintage Canadian Post Office desk. It took me forever to tuck all the wires away, and they're certainly not out of sight, just tidy-ish, at least. I haven't decided which things I'll store in it yet and even the drawers remain empty until I decide what to stash there. The whole thing needs a good wax and buffing, but I wanted you to see it now. The flap, which forms the desk top when down, needs a new cover. Green felt is my preference, but I'd have to age it a bit, as it would look far too new for the rest of the piece. I'm guessing the desk is from the 1920s, although one of you might know more. As I mentioned when I first bought it, it's meant to be attached to a wall, but I won't be doing that here.

I should be wearing a green perspex eyeshade, I think, sitting here.
Post Office People wore them back then, and editors, of course. I looked for a Norman Rockwell type picture of someone wearing one, but couldn't find a thing. Forgive this garish, modern example. Funny thing is, someone gave me one some time back - I think it had "Sydney" emblazoned across it (in that case, for tennis use), but I don't seem to have it now.

I spend a lot of time alone. I think of myself as a loner. Even before I was married, in my little basement apartment in Darlinghurst, in downtown Sydney, Australia's most populous area, I enjoyed my solitary state. I quietly went to and from work, walked my dog, saw a guy or two, and occasionally socialized with the girls at dim little jazz clubs. But being alone was always preferred. I read hugely, practiced my flute, painted and wrote. I had no TV.

Now I have all the time in the world. No kids around, no demanding job - especially no commute, which takes up a huge chunk of our lives, and I live in a quiet town with few interruptions in my day - or even my week. I now spend most of my weekday waking hours writing. I get strange looks from people when I tell them this, usually accompanied by little remarks..."Goodness, I don't know where you get the patience..." "Poor thing, do you ever do anything exciting?" "That's nice...I always thought I could write a book."  "But what else do you do?" "Oh, so you don't work?"

They just don't get that I am the happiest I've been in years.

Do you get similar reactions? Does it irritate the hell out of you? It does me. Except for a documentary film producer I met (at a huge gathering of descendants of my children's paternal genealogical tree) in London in August, and all of you who share this blog with me, I have never spoken to anyone who understands this creative pleasure. But it isolates you, doesn't it, not being understood? Of course, the answer is to be published. No one would ever question the writing life of a real live author.  It's funny, but I feel just as real, and live, as any of my favorites.

I've referred in the past to the embarrassing bloopers made by some members of the publishing world. The following snippet is from an item by John Carroll, of the San Francisco Chronicle:

"I remembered the story of Chuck Ross, who, in 1979, submitted the first 21 pages of Jerzy Kosinski's much-praised "Steps" (it had won the National Book Award in 1969) to four publishers, including the original publisher of the book. All four rejected it, most with form letters. Ditto about 30 literary agents. Not one recognized the book as the award-winning novel. The experiment did seem to confirm that reputation and personal connections have as much to do with garnering fame and fortune as actual quality does, however defined."

You can read the whole article here:

Little curiosities like this are my modest way of pointing out that the powerful guys that we stress over are not infallible, nor, in some cases, particularly astute. I want you to feel better if and when you get another rejection. And, of course, it's fun to smirk, isn't it? We read that they do quite a bit of that themselves, at our expense, after all.

I'm past the 40% mark with Summer Must End. I've noticed that my best writing seems to occur from around 2 pm until 7 pm, with breaks for cat-tending, meals, etc. I work away, feeling a stronger and stronger forward momentum that builds up feverishly until I've said everything I need to say. It's almost orgasmic. Then I sit back, and that's it for the day. Done! Or I believe it is...until something else pops into my head, and I trot back quickly to get it down while I'm still in that afterglow. I do write in the mornings, of course, but the afternoons are best. I've cleared my desk, so to speak, of inmail, and Google reader, etc., and know my time is then purely for the book.

My friend in Oz keeps asking for the first three chapters. It can't be done yet, I say. I'm still heavily into flipping back with insertions  and corrections, brought about by situations in the current chapters. This is the fun part, tweaking that earlier work, accessorizing it, if you like. The newest pages are more demanding, like starting a Times crossword puzzle. There's no clear pattern to it at first, and then it starts to reveal itself, and finally it all fits in perfectly, once you've amended the words you wrote three weeks ago.

Anyway, I told my friend I'm not quite ready yet, but I can't give her a time frame. I feel that it's close. But who knows?

Have a good weekend, all of you. Oh, and I want to say again just how much I love the comments I get. It makes our blogs so worthwhile, doesn't it? No one wants to feel that they're writing into thin air. We do enough of that with our manuscripts...

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Quotes to Consider

"If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, Either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing." ~Benjamin Franklin

"Well behaved women rarely make history."~Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”~William G.T. Shedd (1820-1894), theologian, teacher, pastor

"It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." ~Franklin D Roosevelt (1882-1945), 32nd U.S. president

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), essayist, poet, philosopher

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." ~Mark Twain

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
~ Wayne Gretzky