Our Craig Lew recently threw out the question, “What do you know about writing now that you didn’t two years ago?”
Two years ago, I think I saw more of the DATING aspects of writing. I had “put myself out there” and lucked upon critique partners who could see past the morning breath of one another’s first drafts to the inner beauty, and I was elated (a laughable understatement) to have just signed with an agent whose heart went pitter-pat for the same things mine did. Ah, bliss. Days of “this is what I have waited my whole life for” ensued.
So, at a Nevada SCBWI conference in Virginia City when Cheryl Klein, Executive Editor with Arthur A. Levine Books and author of Second Sight: An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults, likened the process of submitting to editors to dating, I totally got it. She explained that the editor and the writer both want to make that “love match,” though the path to achieving that connection can be a painful one. I got that, too. I mean, sometimes I picture The Bachelor but with contracts instead of roses. Flash to the editor already clinking glasses with a bevy of other enticing manuscripts while some writer’s ego blubbers in the limousine home...
Now where was I? Oh, yes. At points on the road to being published writers, we yearn for Mr. or Mrs. Right moments—the elation of “Yes! You! This! Now!”
No wonder it’s imbued with the same trepidation, vulnerability, excitement, hopefulness, and emotion that dating has.
But now I see the another side of being a writer. The MARRIED part. How so? Well...
1) It’s not about the wedding. A ceremony does not a marriage make, just like a contract does not make a writer. Both are awfully nice, no doubt, but the real deal is in the every day. It’s unloading the dishwasher, paying the bills, and cleaning the toilets. It’s sitting down in the chair and working through plot holes, unfolding characters, and finding ways to say the hard stuff.
That’s not to say the everyday of marriage isn’t pretty cool. The everyday brings giggly dancing with toddlers in the kitchen, reassuring hugs, and the joy of surprise. Writers (and people in long-term relationships) know first-hand how characters they thought they knew can be pretty surprising.
|Hang on! This one's a doozy!|
2) It’s normal to have ups and downs. An advantage of being hitched for a fairly long time is the awareness that every hiccup doesn't mean "Run for the hills!" Dry spells and rejections that were “this close” can make a writer stare crazy-eyed at those hills, sure, but time and having some experience with how bliss and, well, not bliss cycle--it gives perspective. Most days. Sharing the ups and downs with people who get it and have been there (other writers) makes perspective that much more achievable.
|Writing Community + Food = Good|
3) It's important to lean on each other in the tough times. On one of the most difficult days I’ve known, I asked my husband to wake me from a nap at 6, so I could be back to the hospital by 7. It was the smell of food that woke me up. My husband stood next to the bed with a plate. It’s never been too big a deal that he’s a carnivore and I’m a vegetarian, but I tease him for how he feigns utter incompetence when it comes to whipping up anything vegetarian in the kitchen. So what a surprise to see a plate of crispy chickenless nuggets in a perfect orange sauce. Even more surprising--the nuggets were arranged in a heart around some potatoes. It probably sounds dorky, but that particular gesture on that particular night from that particular man--it kept me going. It's the same with favorite lines from the books that inspired me to write in the first place. And when it comes to the toughest times of being a writer, the support of a community of writing friends can mean the difference between giving up and going on. The give and take of encouraging one another past the challenges that naturally come with pursuing dreams that mean so much to us—it's food for the soul.
|Tracy Clark and Emma Dryden talk story|
For better or worse, this writing life is a love thing--whether it's the rush of finding "the one" or the day to day routines that make the stories happen.