Many an author warns “pre-pubbed” writers to enjoy the journey. Publication opens a whole new can of worms. They tell us that they long for the days before deadlines, worries about sales, and the pressure to produce the next great book. We don’t listen, of course, believing that the goal of publication brings nothing but blue skies with fantastic new horizons, and important to most of us – recognition.
The children’s story The Velveteen Rabbit resonates with me because 2013 has been my year of becoming a “real” writer. The journey to publication leaves me feeling empathy for the toy rabbit whose transformation to a real bunny involves pain and struggle.
The Skin Horse tells the bunny, “Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
New authors may have moments of pulling their own hair out in frustration at the conflicting advice and intimidating learning curves involved in setting up a website, blogging, and promotion. Our eyes become red and our vision blurs from hours on the computer or with notepad and pencil – additional hours, beyond the precious time spent creating fiction. Loose in the joints as we neglect our exercise programs. Shabby? There are entire online conversations about the fashion-challenged writing community.
The paradox is that I was just as “real” as a writer before I sold my book. What I notice most is that publication has given me legitimacy in the eyes of non-writers. You can paint a picture and call yourself a painter, but in order for people to believe you are a writer, it seems you must have a printed book in your hand. That painting may be hung on a wall as evidence of your dedication, but few people (other than critique partners or beta readers) are interested in reading a novel in progress. They want the finished product. For them, what makes you real is achieving that goal, crossing the finish line of publication.
(Just a side note: Emily Dickinson published few poems in her lifetime, and those anonymously, did not seek publicity, and is one of our most revered American poets.)
For some folks, publication may be necessary to justify to the demanding people in their lives the time they spend writing. Years can go into learning the art and craft of writing fiction before any reward is realized, financial or otherwise. Outsiders just don’t “get” how long it can take to catch that dream.
I wouldn’t trade my new status for thicker hair, clear eyes, and a less flabby middle. Becoming real for me, as for the Velveteen Rabbit, has been worth every painful step.
Have you experienced transformations in your life that made you feel you went from an imposter or wannabe to a recognized expert in your chosen endeavor? What were the upsides? Any downsides?
Goodreads has a page devoted to quotes from Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit. If you haven’t read this wonderful children’s book, treat yourself to a nicely illustrated copy.
Thanks so much for being my guest here today, Catherine.
To Catherine Dilts, rock shops are like geodes – both contain amazing treasures hidden inside their plain-as-dirt exteriors. Publishers Weekly calls her novel Stone Cold Dead – A Rock Shop Mystery, an “enjoyable debut,” and that “readers will look forward to seeing more of this endearing and strong protagonist.” Catherine works as an environmental scientist, and plays at heirloom vegetable gardening, camping, and fishing. She has published short fiction in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.
Stone Cold Dead: Business at the Rock of Ages is as dead as the fossils cluttering the shop’s dusty shelves. When her brother abandons the family rock shop, recently widowed Morgan Iverson reluctantly becomes the manager. Her first day in charge, two pet donkeys escape. While rounding them up, Morgan discovers the body of a Goth teen. When a newspaper article hits the streets hinting that Morgan witnessed the murder, she becomes the victim of escalating threats that make it clear the killer thinks she holds a clue to the teen’s murder. Morgan knows her life won’t be worth a pile of fossilized dinosaur dung unless she can dig up the murderer.
Catherine is giving away an advance review copy of Stone Cold Dead to two lucky readers from the U.S. or Canada who leave a comment on this blog post before midnight Tuesday, December 17 (Mountain Time). The winners will be selected and their names posted here on Wednesday.