How can I say this without sounding melodramatic? Hmmm.... well let me start out blandly, and build up to melodrama.
These last few months, I've stepped up my efforts to break into print.
The proccess happened something like this: reputable agents were requesting partial manuscripts on almost a regular basis, I'd send them out, and the rejection letter would always find its way to my mailbox. I had suspected it for a long time, but I finally had to admit it - my writing was weak. I'm sure that what was happening was that the storys' concepts from my query letters were interesting them, but once they received my actual writing they were turned off. One of the industry's top agents even said as much; "While you have a fertile imagination and a knack for creating rich worlds, ultimately, the narrative wasn't engaging enough". You'd think that after eight novels and a slew of short stories, the skill would just naturally develop, but it doesn't always work that way. Like with baseball or piano playing or anything else, you can only progress so far without expert guidance - unless of course you're a virtuoso, which I'm not. I could turn out to be a creative genius, but it ain't worth squat if I don't have the skills to get it on paper.
So I decided to learn. Within the last six weeks or so, I bought books on writing, read them over more than once, highlighting the things I'd been unwittingly doing wrong. I started getting into online forums where writers critique each other's works, and learning from the things they were doing wrong. I even posted some of my own work - which felt like showing the kids on the playground my underwear - but I learned even more. I sort of
joined local writer's group, I signed up for a writing class in the fall, and I'm continuing to read, and critique, and read other's critiques, and actively, ACTIVELY, learn. I do almost nothing anymore that isn't writing related. And when I am doing other things (like going to my real job) writing is always on my mind.
Most recently, I took a drastic step that is both risky and sad.
I volutarily gave up my prime day-shift position in surgery for the afternoon shift. In essence, this means that I wont see much of my family, but in a way, I've done it to 'get away' from them. This sounds bad, but those of you who know me know that I'm all about family. I've got a fun-loving wife who's fiercely loyal and good and fiercely easy to be married to (and beyond hot), and my four kids are well-behaved, with silly, sometimes zany, sometimes-totally-surreal, character-injected personalities. I like being around them and they seem to like being around me. The purpose behind doing this was to give myself absolute freedom during the day to focus on my writing-related endeavors to the exclusion of just about everything else. It's been a week, and I've gotta say, this just may be the magic we needed
. I've been working with 'laser-like intensity' because, in a way, I'm holding my own family for ransom. The only way I'll get to see them again is to force this dream to come true.
And here it is: Cindy and I will be able to quit our jobs and stay home, together, everyday, just me and my best friend in the world. Now I don't need J.K. Rawling-success, or even one percent of her money. What we earn now will be just fine - a little more would be nice. I'll work on my stories and she can be the stay-at-home-mom she's always wanted to be, keeping on top of all the domestic things that right now fill her with so much guilt when neglected. We're gonna exercise together in the mornings, drink coffee together, maybe drive into town for lunch a couple days a week. When the kids come home from school we'll finally be able to focus on them,
instead of the afore-mentioned 'domestic-things' we've been trying to cram into every evening of our lives so far. And when they're off school - the whole family's on vacation. Sound good?Quick aside: I've heard it said many times that desiring a writer's lifestyle is not a sufficient reason to become a writer. Well, duh. Just take it as a given that I LOVE to write. I love the way it feels to flex that creative muscle and weave plots and paint characters and plan surprises and breathe life into things that were merely a white blank a moment before and to become something more exciting than what I am for a little while and then to give it all a brutal twist in the end..... ahhhhhhh.
So, as it stands now, the alternative to success is working all week long without seeing one another, and without having our evening meals as a family, which has always been precious to me. But we firmly believe that dreams require sacrifice. There's also the kind of dream where amazing good fortune unexpectedly drops out of the clear blue sky, but smart people plan, they invest
in their dreams. And that's what we're doing. I'm calling it in fact, a 'sacrificial investment in our dreams'.
Perhaps my books are not interesting enough, or written well enough to make that dream come true right now. That's fine. I'll do whatever it takes to make them better - whatever it takes.
I refuse to give up. I'll keep writing, and learning, and rewriting, and learning, and stepping up my commitment wherever I see an opportunity. My heart is set in stone and my eyes are firmly on the prize (I told you I'd get melodramatic). I'll lay siege to the publishing industry and camp within its borders, battering at its walls while strengthinging my towers and training my troops at the same time. If my catapult doesn't clear the wall, I'll build a bigger catapult. If the load crumbles harmlessly against the wall, I'll find a bigger and harder rock. If physical weapons continue to have no effect, I'll level the battlefield with my tenacity, my determination, my will. Time is on my side. It can't resist me forever.
My hundreds of rejection letters don't dissuede me. I've never had writer's block, and I've still got notebooks full of cool ideas. I've already proven that I can write a book - I've written eight. I've already proven that I can come up with interesting ideas for those books - agents keep asking for manuscripts. Now all I need to do is balance the last two numbers of the equation: write better... and persevere.