The step from notebook to manuscript—even when merely contemplated and not yet taken—can be a terrifying one. The heights are high above and unseeable; the depths are unfathomable.
The story invites. It tugs at the sleeve, inviting the writer to follow. As of yet, there’s no way to know whether we’re being led up a ladder of light or off the edge of a cliff. Scary place to stand.
This space has seen more than its share of notes about holding off the actual writing until the critical mass of the story is near the point of exploding one’s head. The progress of foreplay, building toward an inevitability. At that point, fear is not a factor: compulsion is.
And still, there is one thing scarier than starting a work.
Sending it out.
Searching out an agent, that preening dance of self-promotion, is a horrifying prospect…the story should stand on its own, shouldn’t it? Why oh why must the seeking be so fraught with anxiety?
Fear of rejection. An unwillingness to see the work turned away by “lesser” minds. Blah blah blah. Here it is. It’s good; recognize that. Take. Do. Make happen. Work half as hard for the book as I did in the writing of it. Wake me when someone buys it. Tell me where to go to do readings. Make sure the checks get to the right address. Other than that, leave me in peace. Let me write. That’s why I’m here.
The “just let me write” self is a two-faced critter. One face is real and true: Writing is all I really care to do. The other face looks through eyes of avoidance. I know that. And that avoidance is the cliff’s edge.
The writer regales herself with the many stories of books rejected by umpty publishers before rocketing to the top of the best seller lists. She looks to the horizon at the welcome island of self-publishing waiting to receive the writer if all else fails. She reflects on the sorry state of the publishing industry. She watches as a generation of people refuses to read anything longer than a Twitter feed, and thinks that the right genre-bending approach (hers) might help to remedy that. She dreams of success even as she primes herself to fail. The way of the world.
This is the land of the If-Onlys. If only a friend had a connection who would fall instantly in love with the work and its creator. If only lightning would strike twice, and the writer would find an agent on the first try, and a publisher, too. If only I was free to do what I love to do: Be a little idea factory, leave my guts on the page daily, and leave the rest to the rest.
A book in a drawer goes nowhere, except to the eyes and minds of a few trusted friends. As wonderful as it is, that is not enough.
We write to be read. That’s the damned honest truth of it. That’s what authors do. Which means that I’ve got to suck it up. And put it out there. In a step that no one can take but me.