Creation’s Birthing Pangs

As long as I wrote on my novel everyday confidence never waned, hopes seldom dimmed, energy rarely flagged, and I looked forward to sitting at my desk, fascinated at meeting a unique character, solving a plot crisis or developing dialog (however, with less enthusiasm for cutting an overwritten scene, revising worn-out clichés, reorganizing whole chapters or worst of all, complying with my spouse’s editing advice). My only negatives concerned the future. When would the book ever be completed? Would I ever feel satisfied enough to say “Done!”? When did the editing and rewriting ever end? But these feelings, while mildly annoying, never approached disheartening in comparison to the joy of organizing, expressing, refining and, of course, polishing. Each day brought new heights of inspiration until at long last—Wallah! Rewrites accomplished! Revisions completed! Final edit finished!

Then arrived the next unexpected stage—the ugly offspring of publishing no one likes to talk about. Marketing. That post-published, head-on collision with a semi overloaded with realism. A more accurate description of marketing should be “literary cold-call selling.” The experience could be compared to skiing down a slope of fluffy, soft, virgin powder, overlooking scenes of mountains, white blanketed pines and incredible vistas when the snow runs out and rocks begin. From there on, it’s rough sledding, brother. The fun’s over. It’s all a poor novice can do to remain on his feet without emotionally crashing and dislocating all his joints. Art has turned to manual labor.

Why is this always the case? Is it disillusionment? Or false expectations? Or naiveté? All of the former, certainly, but mostly it’s plain old burn-out. Exhaustion. Too much time and effort has already been spent (some relatives might say “frivoled”), not only in writing and rewriting, but in reading, studying and learning the craft. Whatever the writers goal to begin with, whether to achieve fame, eek out a living, receive recognition, or arrive as an artist, it sure as heck wasn’t to start another career, especially a blue-collar trade selling door-to-door like marketing. What author started out with the ambition that, after all the hard work, sacrifice and long hours of solitude, to begin yet another business from the ground up?

If I’d wanted to hawk books for a career, I would have gotten a job clerking at Barnes and Noble’s. I started out to be a writer, not a merchant, would be the natural reaction of most. This isn’t why I took up pen and paper. I wanted to be interviewed, have reviews printed, and generally had my opinions sought after. Instead, I’m back to sweaty-faced grunting for a living.

If you’re lucky enough and good enough, you can hire an agent to handle all the legwork, but unless you’re a celebrity or have a “platform (following)” already, your chances of attaining notoriety would be better jogging in the fast lane of a freeway. Otherwise, be prepared for obscurity. Those are the harsh facts. So, know what’s coming beforehand, but above all, don’t get in a hurry. Don’t charge headlong into a brawl with NFL-sized editors, agents and publishers. You’ll get bloodied.

Stay as long as you can in the fun part—Creating! That’s where all the satisfaction is anyway.