September 28, 2012

The Ebb & Flow of Being a Writer


It's resurrection Friday. You know, where I mine my old posts and re-use one. Earlier this week I wrote a short story with a seaside setting, so I chuckled when I came upon this old writerly post. I must have a thing for the ocean. I admit, I miss it.  Plus, I'm a bit clairvoyant, predicting the lit agent harassment and all. Enjoy!

THE EBB & FLOW OF BEING A WRITER


Being a writer is a lot like playing in the ocean.

Some people just take a run at the surf and dive in head first, knowing full well they may end up paralyzed from a neck injury, but the rest of us enter writing timidly. We stand just at the edge of the tide line, toes first. When the cold water laps up over our feet, goose bumps rise on our legs and arms. We step forward cautiously and slowly, getting used to the temperature as we advance.

The journey onward is unstable. Dips and unexpected rises have us hitching forward as unsteadily as personalized rejections and unanswered emails. Once we’ve been writing long enough to be in waist deep, we feel the tide pushing and pulling us in different directions. We bury our feet into the sandy bottom and try to decipher which advice is valid and which should be left to wash ashore.

Chest deep into the water, we watch the approaching tide carefully. Like good researchers, we gauge the distance and the height of the swell like we balance the benefits of small vs large publishing houses. We apply the knowledge of our previous ocean swims as well as knowledge gained from blog posts of our friends to determine, “Is this a swell I jump over or is this so big I need to dive under?”

No amount of research can dispel the distraction disaster. Perhaps a surfing writer has a spectacular wipe-out and his wayward board comes inches from slamming you out of your Amazon ranking. Or perhaps a google alert that “children’s author (insert your name here) was charged with harassing a literary agent after receiving a nasty rejection letter” turned your attention away from the wave that slammed you into the ocean floor, giving you a mouthful of salt water and a bikini bottom full of sand. Disasters happen.

But eventually you make it past the breakwaters and into the smooth ocean. With a sigh of contentment you relax into the dead man’s float and stare up at the clouds, figuring out which one could play your main character in a movie and which one looks like writing freedom. Your body rises and falls smoothly over the swells as they get ready to crest toward the beach. You watch the newbie writers battling through the tumultuous tide and you call out as many suggestions as you can from your cushy sun baked spot on the other side.

Then you decide it’s time to head back in and you scan the beach for your red polka dot beach umbrella. Is that it way, way up the beach? That thing that looks like a tiny spot of blood? Riptide.

There is no rest for the weary in the publishing industry. And this analogy has only one happy ending. Another swim in the ocean. Or, perhaps like signing another book contract that might just be a frantic new beginning…?

Happy writing. Don’t forget your floaties.

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