Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I am halfway through a week’s staycation. (It tickles me that someone coined a term to compensate for the fact I don’t have the cash to fly to Hawaii. Or drive to Seattle. Or fill my tank of gas. Yep, I’m sticking close to home just because I love it. Disregard the fact that I’m desperately hoping to sell it.)

Instead of lounging by the ocean at a tropical resort, I decided to focus on writing. While I am proud of the fact that I continue to write at least an hour and a half a day five days a week, this week allows extended creative sessions and the chance to get one, perhaps two, projects shipshape for submission.

But three days before the start of my personalized writing retreat, my spark disappeared. I could blame it on the time change or the left-field dramatics at work or a preoccupation with the welfare of Bobbi Kristina Houston Brown, spurred on by top-notch reporting from “Entertainment Tonight”. Whatever the cause, I felt panic which gave way to despair.

I am a fraud.

Not even up to “hack” standards.

Consider the publication of my first novel a fluke.

“As good as it gets” passed four years ago.

The revised staycation itinerary involved wrestling invasive blackberry bushes, finding a remedy for my dog’s bad breath (“Parsley, poochie?”) and renting free DVDs from the town library (Why is “Dumb and Dumber” in the Classics section?!).

Just in time, my luck changed. Maybe it was the fortune cookie forecast that fell from my wallet while I fueled up on another venti at Starbucks: THERE IS NEW HOPE FOR PROJECTS YOU HAD ALMOST GIVEN UP ON. Funny, but I don’t recall receiving that prophecy. I don’t even remember the last time I ate Chinese food.

After my two and a half hour commute home from work including a soggy uphill walk from the ferry, I checked my emails and read a vaguely familiar subject header, preceded by “RE.” After a few seconds, I realized it was a response to an article I’d submitted to Writer’s Digest last summer [July 27, 2011, to be exact.].

I tried to temper excitement with caution while opening the message. Seems my emailed submission got “a bit lost”, only to be recently rediscovered. (Fitting, really. That quote could be my motto!) The more important remarks: “We love it, and would like to run it in our next issue”. The payment? A pittance, but enough to cover a month of lattés.

The 300-word back page article isn’t likely to have New York editors suddenly following me on Twitter, but the email came at the right time, an affirmation that my original staycation agenda is worth pursuing. It’s great when I can work through my own self-doubt, but I can put that pep talk on hold. And the blackberry bushes can continue to overtake my backyard. I’ve got a query letter to write.


Rick Modien said...

RG, all I can say is, congrats. I can't wait to read your piece in "WD." I'll be looking for it, believe me. You should be so proud of yourself.

In the meantime, know all writers go through periods of insecurity and self-doubt. Hell, it happens to me every single day, just as I'm about to sit down and resume work on my novel. That's when thoughts of, what the hell am I doing, and shouldn't I just stop the nonsense and get a real job, overcome me.

As a published writer (an inspiration to me), you have to reassure me novels eventually turn into what we want them to be, because I don't see it now. I'm lost in the mire at this point.

Why does this process take so damn long?

Rural Gay said...

Hi Rick,
I can't speak for you, but I know that some of the delay is my own doing. Often my tinkering may not be so much about getting it right, but about avoiding submitting and facing possible rejection. I add scenes when I know I need to be deleting or reworking big chunks of the manuscript. Sometimes I just don't want to let go of a project.

I think you like to focus on one project at a time, but I need a few things on the go. If I'm not "feeling it" with one manuscript on a particular day, I put it aside and work on another. A day, a week or a month later, I return to the first work with a better idea of what to fix or a new plot point.

By jumping about, it takes me longer to finish things, but the writing process is (almost) always fun. Since there is no guarantee of getting published, the process has to be rewarding in and of itself.

I am glad to see your reference to novel writing. Are you back to the novel you'd put aside? Do you have a completed first draft yet? Any ideas for another work that you can begin to outline when you're "in the mire"? When I move forward with one project, it gives me confidence for the one I'd set aside.

You can certainly write, but you may need another pursuit. Keep at it!

Rick Modien said...

Just to answer your questions, RG, yes, since I stopped writing my blog in early January, I've spent most of my time working on the novel I set aside previously.

Yes, I have a complete first draft, but it's really choppy. I didn't write it sequentially. I wrote all over the place, then assembled it in software called StoryMill (great for organizing a novel). Now, I'm working on a complete rewrite to smooth it out.

Yes, I have ideas on other things I could work on when my novel makes me crazy. Of course, I could always start writing my blog again (not sure I'm ready for that). And I could write shorter pieces, like articles (I've completed one and I have an idea for another one).

The only problem is, I already think the process of writing a novel takes too long. The last thing I want to do is lengthen it even more by constantly avoiding my novel because it's too hard and working on something else.

In general, I've found that if one part of my novel is too difficult for me to work on, I can always find another part that isn't. That seems to work.

Thanks for your interest and your encouragement.

Rural Gay said...

Sounds like you are making significant progress on your novel! I've learned from author talks and writing magazines that every writer has his own process. I have heard some talk as though their way is THE way while I know I would never adopt their method. It just wouldn't be the right fit for me.

Each of us needs to find what works best, taking into account our own environment, commitments and quirks. (Of course, we also need to give ourselves a little tough love now and then when our obstacles are nothing more than hogwash.)

Keep at it, Rick!