“Put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.” - Stephen King, On Writing
If you haven’t read King’s On Writing, you really should. It’s quite brilliant. I’ve never even been a huge Stephen King fan—I’ve enjoyed some of his books but I haven’t read very many—but I’ve read On Writing a few times. Even though I haven’t read many of his books and even though several of his works fall into a genre that I typically have little interest in, I think it is an undisputable fact that Stephen King has achieved what every single writer secretly (or not so secretly) dreams about. He’s wildly successful, a household name and I read somewhere that his books have sold over 350 million copies. Elements of his stories have become interwoven into the fabric of our cultural consciousness. Sure, I never read any of his work in my college English courses but still, it’s astounding to think of all he’s accomplished. So even if you’ve never read his work and you have no interest in his work, read On Writing. If you’re a writer, read it.
That said, the quote at the top of this post is one of the things that stuck with me after having read the book several times. I wrote about rejection in my last post. Rejection with a capital R. That got me to thinking about things that soften the sting of rejection and one of those things is having a life.
It’s like that old saying, “Don’t put all of your eggs into one basket.” Writing is hard and if you’re going to try to get published it’s even harder. You can’t depend on it for your happiness. You’ll never survive. From all the blogs and articles I’ve read even successful, published authors still have a set of problems unique to writing and their writing careers. For those of us I like to think of as pre-published, having something else in your life is essential to surviving the process of trying to get published—to surviving all the rejection.
Before I had my daughter I studied martial arts and it was an excellent distraction. My experience with that was also filled with ups and downs as is anything but having something else to do, something else to focus on, something else to throw myself into really helped on those days when I felt demoralized by yet another rejection.
Now of course I have a three year old who takes my breath away every single day. Whenever I see her I know that it doesn’t matter what I’ve written or if it ever gets published (although as I said in my last post, for her sake I keep trying), she is my crowning achievement. I can remember getting a rejection from an agent and feeling crushed and then I turned around to see her doing a silly little dance and she saw me watching her so she came over and flung her arms around my neck and said, “I wuv you, Mommy.” I instantly felt better. Because nothing any agent has to say—good or bad—is going to top that. Ever.
I’m not saying to go out and have a kid to make yourself feel better after your agent rejection list has hit the 100 mark. Parenting is not for everyone. I’m just saying it helps if you have someone special in your life or something special in your life to focus on, to help keep your perspective in a happy, hopeful place.
My mother always said, “Everything is about perspective.” She was talking about the glass half-full/half-empty thing. It was her way of saying you have to find a way to look at things that will help you stay upbeat. For example, I got my first publisher rejection last month. When I found out about it, for about 6 hours I was pretty crushed. Even though I knew I could not get through this next phase of the process without getting rejected. Then I laughed at myself and realized that for the last four years I would have given an awful lot to be in this position at all. If I could go back in time one year or two years or three or four and tell myself that in 2010 you’re going to be rejected by a publisher, my pre-agent self would have been jumping for joy—just happy I got to this point. Perspective.
And when all else fails, when you are trying to stay upbeat and it just ain’t working, you should go back to the writing. The actual writing. Not the crappy, demoralizing trying-to-get-published part but the fun part. The part where you’re immersed in your story and your characters. The part where you can’t stand to be away from your story for even a moment because writing it is just so damn fun.
Writing is important to me and my dream of being published is important but not as important as my family or keeping a roof over my head. On the other hand, I can’t not write. If I go a few days and haven’t stolen enough writing time from my busy schedule, I start to feel like I’m not getting enough air. I am irritable and cranky. I need to write. If you can find a balance between writing not being the center of your universe and finding enough time to write for the love of it, the big R will be a lot easier to take.