Here’s something I’ve learned about writing: I don’t know anything about writing. When I first started writing, I always assumed there’d be some endpoint where everything was different and I was different and writing was different and I was famous and wrote because I was famous and wanted to keep churning out important books. Now, after having struggled with writing and publishing, after coming to understand nothing about writing but a whole helluva lot about rejection and how it effects me and how I write, I’m come to care less about publication than ever before. I’m not saying I don’t want to see a book of mine published, but for the sake of being an artist, I can’t spend too much time thinking about it. Of course, I will, and it will disturb the creative process, but I’m doing my best to move onward ever further into my work and worry less and less about who sees it. Every single second I attempt to interest someone in my manuscripts or my stories is another moment I can’t get back, another moment I can’t be creative. For instance, I’ve finished the draft of Apocalypse Nation, and I’m trying to interest some agents in the work, but it’s way in the back of my mind, all the way behind the really important things–family, work, community, yoga. Although i’ve been putting in the footwork, researching agents, sending out queries, etc, it isn’t ruling me the way similar quests have in the past. In fact, I’ve already started a new novel. I’m hoping to put in a thousand words a day, five days a week, give or take, and have a draft finished by the end of spring. Then, continuing on my quest to live the creative, literary life, I’m going to revise that sucker all summer. Right now, the new novel has no title, but it seems to be about Napoleon Bonaparte and the after life. My narrator is M. Bonaparte’s attendant. I have no idea what will come of all this. I hope that the next few rejections don’t send me into a tailspin they way they have in the past, divert me from the work, but I do know that for better or worse, I don’t seem to be able to stop writing, so I have to find a way to live with all of it, good and bad, and allow myself the pleasure of wrestling with my doubt as I work toward each new page.
I spend a lot of time writing about doubt in my creative life. Last week I wrote that I quit writing at least once a week. Faulkner once said he didn’t know anything about inspiration because he’d never felt it. He said he’d heard of it, but never seen it. This from the man who wrote four of the greatest novels in history in a three year period (As I Lay Dying, Light in August, The Sound and the Fury and Absalom Absalom). If not inspiration, then what?
The answer: footwork.
And now that I’m done quitting writing this week, I’ve started my own footwork once again. One slow freaking word at a time.
I quit writing at least once a week.
Last week, I went to the humongoloid AWP writer’s conference in Boston. I pretty much go every year. I never know what I’m going for. I always come back ready to write, feeling good about writing, charged up.
The good feeling about writing last four days this year. Today, I sent a query letter to an agent who represents some zombie book authors. I have a zombie book to sell. In about an hour, she wrote back saying “it wasn’t her sort of book.” Right. I must have been confused when I saw that she agented several zombie/supernatural type authors. My bad. The blind search for agents is awful and deadening. I quit. Again.
Tomorrow, I’ll quit all over again. And probably the day after that, too.