I am so very happy to welcome Sally Hepworth to Happy Writers Society today! Since I am incredibly sick, I'm even more grateful that she has offered up this lovely post for us today. It's back to bed for me now. Make sure to keep the clubhouse clean, okay?
The Write Race
For most writers, the highs - finishing a manuscript, getting an agent, signing with a publisher, being told that someone loves your book – is the reason that we do it. So how ‘bout this for a crazy suggestion? I think the lows (rejection, writer’s block, crappy feedback – sound familiar?) are even better.
*needle scratches off old-fashioned record and men pause mid-puff on their pipes*
All right, calm down people! If you’ll just re-take your seats I’ll be happy to explain.
Picture yourself crouching at the starting line of a race track. To your right and left are eager writing enthusiasts all of whom have ‘a book in them’ (Don’t you hate that expression? Who doesn’t have a book in them? It’s getting it out that’s the hard part! But I digress.)
The gun fires and about half the people start running (writing). The other half wander off and do something else. Bonus! You’ve halved your competition and you’ve only just started.
Of those of you who did start, about half have their heads down and are running as fast as they can toward the first hurdle. The other half amble along, stopping for a cold drink or a chat with their mates. You’re among the runners.
After what seems like an eternity, you make it to the first hurdle. You’re probably not the first one there, (there’s always some smart -arse who is faster.) But you’ve got a polished manuscript, so who cares? It’s time to jump the query hurdle.
This one’s a toughie. You’re pretty intimidated, but you’re determined to get over this hurdle. If you’re smart you’ll watch your opponents tackle it and try and learn from them. You may need to go back to the beginning and start the race over, but you stick with it. You glean everything you can from your opponents and listen to advice from the sidelines.
It takes longer than you expect, but (eventually) you get over the hurdle (land an agent). And when you get to the other side, you see that three quarters of your opponents have dropped out. Woot! Woot!
The crowd is really cheering now, and you might throw them a bashful smile before turning back to the race. Then you continue on, feeling tired, but elated. You’ve past a tricky hurdle, you’ve obviously got what it takes! But as the next hurdle looms before you, you realize it’s even bigger and more precarious than the last one. The dreaded publication hurdle.
This hurdle usually takes several attempts to master. Like with the query hurdle, you may need to start the race again before you can successfully take the leap. But don’t dismay - look around! There’s only a handful of you left. All of those who simply ‘had a book in them’ are at the pub, swilling their pints and talking about how they ‘have a film in them.’ You’re still in the race.
It may take a long time to get over that publication hurdle (I’m still trying). When you do, I’m told there are more hurdles on the other side. In fact, there is no finish line to this particular race (it is a circular track). But if you’re keen to continue, you’ll face more cheers (highs) and more hurdles (lows).
The thing we writers tend to forget is that we are not the only ones facing lows. The other thing we forget is that, if there were no lows, everyone would be doing it (instead of just talking about it), and we’d be lost in the stampede. So, every time I come up against a new hurdle in my writing life, I celebrate it.
It reminds me that I’m one of the few still in the race.