The shrill sound of the alarm clock going off finally penetrates my fog-filled brain. I slap the button none too gently and drag myself out of bed. The vanity mirror tells me quite rudely that I have nothing to be vain about this morning: I could almost trip over the dark bags hanging underneath my bloodshot eyes.
My husband walks by and gives me a sympathetic glance. "Why do you do this to yourself every night, hon? "
Why indeed? I want to tell people it's because I won't be having children. Therefore, the stories I leave behind will be my only legacy -- a reason to be remembered. But that wouldn't be entirely true.
There's no guarantee that the mystery novel I'm working on will ever see the light of day. I could be wasting a year's worth of time, energy and sleep on a book that will never be published. But I don't have a choice. If I don't allow myself to pursue this crazy profession -- despite having a day job -- I'll go crazy myself. The characters, plots and dilemmas that live in my imagination will keep me awake every night if I refuse to write about them.
So I do -- while dealing with rejection and friends and relations who don't understand why I'm "wasting my time" instead of socializing with them. I've learned how to repair my fragile ego every time someone asks, "Are you published yet? Made any money off your stories yet? " I've learned how to handle irate drivers who are annoyed by my constant daydreaming, and the cashier at the grocery store who always looks worried when I show up in her check-out line. (This was due to an unexpected epiphany I had one day while unloading my grocery cart. Grinning like an idiot, I unthinkingly blurted out, "Of course! He's not going to kill her at the mansion -- he's going to kill her at the lake house!" Suddenly, everyone around me needed a lot more personal space.)
Persistence, patience and perseverance: The three Ps of survival for every writer who plans to succeed.
What are the rewards for an unknown author? Most of the time, it's not money. Instead, it could be typing the last sentence of a book you're proud of -- the feeling of accomplishment it brings, despite the manuscript's unknown future. As for me, I want to turn cartwheels (albeit ungraceful ones) every time my old high school friend -- who is also my proofreader/motivator -- tells me to hurry up and send her the next chapter: She just has to know what happens next. Or when the editor of a webzine -- a total stranger -- lets me know that the story I sent her made her laugh and cry. The feeling is priceless.
Writers need to write, but they also need to be read. The Internet provides us with a wonderful opportunity to receive feedback on our work, which can encourage us and help us improve our writing.
This crazy profession is a difficult one to perfect -- and most of us
never will. But that won't stop us from trying. We'll keep trudging
forward through piles of rejection letters and ignoring the people who
don't understand us for one simple reason: Real writers have no choice.
© 2003 Debbie Kuhn, all rights reserved
appears here by permission