The Writer's Long Road

Every now and then, I find myself despairing a tad over my lack of progress as a writer - well, as a read writer. Maybe despair is too strong a word, but as a writer, I'm going to exercise my right to use dramatic language.

It takes such a long time to simply get a project to where I want it to be. Even a short story can take months to write and edit before I give it my stamp of approval. And novels can take years. The Poison Box took me over 15 years to write and rewrite (and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite…).

It seems like once you have completed something that took all your creative energy, all your courage, and all your free time, there should be some kind of energetic exchange with the world, right? Like, at the very least, people want to read it (and hopefully buy it). Or at least follow you on social media.

Well, I haven't found the equation to be quite that simple. I struggle with attracting social media followers (and often question the presence of social media in my life, in general). I struggle with getting my pieces published in magazines or blogs. I struggle with the process of attracting an agent. And I struggle mightily just getting people to review my work. Even when I give it to them for free.

I've been trying to find an agent now for over a year. I've gotten a handful of rejections, which I celebrate (it means someone is actually reading my submission, rather than ignoring it!), but no interest so far. And I've spent months reaching out to bloggers, trying to get them to review The Fox at the Door, my fairy tale for mothers in grief and the childless-not-by-choice. I believe in that story and I believe sharing our loss as mothers or the pain of not becoming a mother is something we, as women, need to talk about. This world of social media curated motherhood needs to crack and shatter and make room for everyone. Despite my attempts to share with bloggers and podcasters…crickets. Nothing is happening.

I forget that writers have to walk a very long road. Sometimes, we have to carry our stories such a goddamn long way just to get a handful of people to acknowledge the life force, the energy that is our story. We have to bundle that story up against the cold winds, hold it tight to our chest, and feed it the last crumbs in our pocket never having the assurance of knowing if anything will come of it.

I have to remind myself that not getting any interest from 33 agents is nothing in the writer's world. A writer might have to submit to hundreds of agents before getting any interest (if it happens, at all). I have to remind myself that spending months trying to get reviews for The Fox at the Door is nothing in the writer's world. It could take months. It could take decades.

The writer's road is one of the longest that I know. There aren't a lot of rest stops out here. Even fewer restaurants and cozy beds. It's one long, grueling walk, in your bare feet. There's no point in turning around because the road back is just as never ending as the one ahead. And there aren't any other paths, so the writer just has to keep moving and hoping that someday, please Muses, someday, our people, our readers, will start to find us and cheer us along to the next story.

We cannot hide at Grandma's house

As I write this, I find myself terrified. Excited, yes, but incredibly terrified.

I am buying a house all by myself on a salary with which I can barely make ends meet (the danger of working for a non-profit). No backups. No safety nets. No second income. No roommates.

Just me.

There are times, as I run from one room to another, packing furiously, that I feel I will explode from the worry, from the fear. Can I do this? Can I even make the one step it will take to sign that last contract? Can I even make it as far as to just finish packing and truck everything over there?

Funnily enough, by the time you read this, I'll be well-settled into my house. I realize all of this will be over. I might even feel like laughing that I ever felt so afraid.

In fact, I'm counting on that.

In my youth, this kind of fear would signal to me that it was time to run - or at the very least, hide. I would've assumed the fear was a sign that things were wrong, that I was going down the wrong path.

Now, I see that I have never grown in significant ways without doing something that scared the you-know-what out of me. I have never changed without the rug being pulled out from under me, without doubting that I was ready to make a change, without jumping off the edge and into what scares me most.

I still hate that that's true. Will the next 40 years also be full of nausea-inducing choices to grow, versus the relative ease of complacency? Will I have to face this fear again and again and again?

I wish it weren't so, but I think I probably will. It's the Big Bad Wolf waiting for me in my dark forest. I just want to arrive at Grandma's house, safe and sound, but in truth, there's no end, there's no destination. There's only the twisting, winding pathways leading us through the woods, where all the scariest creatures await us.

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So, I press on. I know better now than to run. The fear, like a bear, will only run after me, and eventually overtake me. So I might as well face it, trembling, holding on to my lantern. Once I've looked it in the face, I know it's not going to be half as scary as I thought. And once I've danced with it for a little while, it's going to become easier and easier, pressing me to meet the next creature that awaits me.

I suppose that's the best gift we get out of all of these risks, all of these moments of facing our fears - we realize, simply, that we can survive it, which gives us the courage to try again, to reach even further.

Scared as I am, I cannot wait to see who I become after I settle into home ownership. That's a big manifestation in the physical realm. What's going to come to help me support that?

I am terrified…but jubilant with excitement, waiting to find out.