Here’s the thing about writing, or being a fiction writer; with a very few well publicized exceptions, it’s a long, potholed, overcrowded road. Most of those overnight sensations don’t really make it to the bestseller lists overnight, it just seems that way to those standing in the bookstore deciding what to buy.
A lot of people think they want to be writers, but they don’t write. Or they don’t stick with it long enough to do the learning necessary to turn their work into something resembling a manuscript. Some give up after one or two manuscripts that don’t sell, or x number of rejections, or x amount of time. A lot of others do, and with work, perseverance, and luck they get published. And then there are the long haulers.
People like me, who haven’t “hit” for whatever reason, but have gotten just enough encouragement and positive feedback on their work to keep going. I don’t mean “my spouse likes it,” “my mom likes it,” “my third grade teacher told me I should be a writer,” or form rejections they’ve read and projected meaning into. But people who supposedly have knowledge and experience of writing and the publishing world have read their work and said “keep trying, you’ve got something.” And we do.
A long fucking haul. If you’re a long haul trucker, you know you’re going to be tired, might get caught in traffic jams that leave your bladder spasming, and screw up your schedule. But eventually, you’re going to reach your destination. And then you’ll load up and do it again.
Hemorrhoids will just be part of the job, and you’ll learn to sleep when you can in the cab of the truck, drink battery acid masquerading as coffee, and make sure you’re always stocked up on Preparation H.
But writing isn’t long haul trucking, the analogy leaves more than a little gap. There’s no certain paycheck, no benefits, and no one pats you on the back in respect for honest and honorable work. Plenty of hemorrhoids, though. Swollen, throbbing, painful pustules that make you wince when you open that Word document. They come in the guise of writer’s block, rejection letters, plot holes, awkward expressions on the face of your significant other, and plain old moments of why-the-fuck-am-I-doing-this. Is it dishonorable to keep writing after x amount of time, or x amount of rejections? Is it dishonest? I’m not talking about people who say they write for themselves (God love you, but I’d rather earn my piles having another baby–and trust me, the last thing I want is any more babies), but those who continue to pursue publication.
If you’re another long hauler, please chime in here in the comments section, and let me know what your thoughts are. What’s the donut pillow that gets your butt behind the wheel, again and again?