Write, write, write, they say.
They meaning writers, and agents who represent writers, and anyone who likes to sound important. Steven King says that writers must be readers, always absorbing words. At a bus station or waiting for a train, we must all be carrying books and appreciating the written voice. He’s right, of course. They are all right. And yet I spent two hours today fighting with a two-year-old to go down for a nap, and washing dishes, and planning my daughter’s birthday party. I went to the mall and debated for at least ten solid minutes whether I should spend a hundred bucks on a lamp at Pottery Barn. I’m ashamed to admit that I dug into my garbage pail of a purse today at the grocery store to find a pair of reading glasses in order to study a full-length essay about exactly why Katie Holmes is leaving Tom Cruise. I was just standing there reading People Magazine while other normal people whizzed by to stand in the Express Lane, or head on over to the fresh strawberries. They were all getting their stuff taken care of so they could get home and read Sherlock Holmes, most likely. All I read these days is Nancy Drew Mysteries to my six-year-old. And People, apparently. It’s disgraceful.
I write. Sure. At the trail end of the day when I’m supposed to be paying bills. I write after everyone has gone to sleep. I write despite my feet going numb and my hair a big greasy mess because it’s the way my brain processes things, and lately I’ve begun to not care how it comes out. It’s not disciplined. It’s not crafty. It’s sloppy and mushy like a Days of Our Lives re-run.
Maybe it’s no surprise that I don’t have an agent, or a publisher, or anything really, aside from a handful of dear friends and online followers who read my blog to laugh about my bad days. The fact is – I’m so good in person. Presentable and tall and fun to be with. When I give speeches, I feel the energy radiate around the room. My pitches to agents in person are always met with yes. A “send it right over to me/I’m running to check your email right now” type of yes. And then I do. And it’s forever stuck in a black hole. Or worse, rejected. Then I wallow in self-pity for not writing more, or reading more, or not working on my damn craft.
I’ve intentionally avoided looking at my novel for some time now. It’s saved in multiple places in my documents folder.
Final Draft for Agent X.
First Fifty Pages.
Some for agents, some for myself. They are all just sitting there, untouched. Silent. Forgotten.
I’m moving my focus to a new novel. A story about a disjointed family with a hidden secret. But let’s not kid ourselves. My focus is mental, meaning I think about the plot, characters, and setting while in the shower or driving the kids to the library or buying ground meat. But I’m not writing.
It took me four years to wedge a book into my then-busy life. The late nights and sparse weekends. The early mornings and babysitters. And now it just sits there in a dusty, online shelf. I have one more child now than I did then, and the thought of starting over is depressing.
I’m not sure why being published is such a brass ring. It’s the thought of being heard, I suppose. That’s what Rachelle Gardner suggested. She’s a solid literary agent that has never responded to my written query. I don’t blame her. I don’t blame any of them. I don’t fault Jenny Bent or Joe Veltre or Rebecca Oliver for saying no, even thought I wanted so very badly for them to like me. There are dozens of agents I still highly respect that rejected my novel. There are just so many writers, and books, and voices. It’s the Tower of Babble out there with all the yelling and begging. A person can get lost out there. They can get overrun.
That’s what I tell myself, at least. How does a girl have time to write, or be heard? But then I look down and see evidence of Katie Holmes in my hand, like a bloody knife from a crime scene. I stuff the magazine back in between the metal bars before I’m discovered.
But life is life. There’s no use piling a heaping scoop of guilt on the top of it. Amidst lessons on how two-year-olds should not hit or scream and between multiple requests for more Thomas the Train, this type of undisciplined writing is all I have. My second novel will eventually explode from my brain, and I’ll have no control over its movement onto the page. Then, once again, I’ll find the stolen moments, or times without children, or late nights, so it can find it’s way into the world.
But for now, this is practice, or something close to it. It is all I can muster. And it will just have to do.