Thursday, March 1, 2012

THE LUCKY SPOT

 
‘Get Published’.  That is what we writers say when asked what is the single hope for our words our stories, our books.  Why else would you do it?  Why would you sit there day in, day out, coming back to something that taunts you as much as it uplifts?
But the chance of publication is remote.  Just attend any publishing workshop.  The speakers love to quote the figures of failed would-be writers.  We need to face the reality of the publishing industry they tell us.  After, we return to our blank pages, a little more hunched, and brushing off the echo of those figures like dust on a lapel.  We hope they don’t apply to us.

WORDS OF WISDOM
 
Stephen King wrote a few paragraphs in his 1981 book “Danse Macabre”—an examination of the horror genre in writing and film—and they stuck with me for thirty-one years.  They are my shield against the fear that I, too, will be one of those crumpled writers lying rejected at the feet of the publishing houses.  I paraphrase his words—because the book is in a box in the garage under a mountain of other boxes.
He said, ‘Writing is like going to the gym.  If you go to the gym every day and workout, you are going to build big muscles.  If you write every day, then eventually you are going to build big writing muscles.'  He went on to say, ‘Then there is that thing called luck that plays a role.  But there is nothing to say you can’t write yourself, with your big writing muscles, into a place and wait for that luck.’ 
That is a comment to frame.  We chase this dream daily of publishing but I think we must remind ourselves first why we write.  Publishing and being paid is a smart goal because there are not a lot of free things in life.  And, of course, we want to be read.  We want payment to entertain, educate, enlighten people whilst sharing our opinion and telling our stories.
King also famously said that he must write every day because he loves it and it avoids him getting a headache.  It was also his salvation after the accident that nearly killed him.
What if we write to not only build our muscles and hopefully to be published, but we turn to our craft, also, for our salvation?  If you think about it like that, then the writing landscape looks very different as you write your way to the Lucky Spot of Publishing.

REJECTION
Many big name writers suffered rejection by the big publishing houses.  We have heard the legends and it heartens us.  Best sellers like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, A Wrinkle in Time, and authors J.K. Rowlings, Colleen McCulloch, Beatrice Potter—all required perseverance to arrive at their Lucky Spot. 
Those authors and their stories arrived on some Editor’s desk at the right time—most likely not at the time the Author thought was right—at the Lucky Spot time that is a combination of talent, work, perseverance and luck.
Does it matter if your Lucky Spot isn’t after the first novel, or the second, or the fifty-first rejection of your third novel, and comes at the tenth submission of the fifth novel?  It does if you are writing for the income, the recognition and all the things we imagine we want from our writing.  
But what if the Lucky Spot is where you are now?  If just writing is the luckiest thing in the world you could do.  And all you need from your writing is to turn up to it, to make you as happy and rewarded as if you were a best-seller novelist.  Who said there is a time-line on publishing work and building a career?
Only you—maybe. 
And if nobody wants your first book or first story, well that is okay.  Write the second one and fill your trash, rubbish bags or in-boxes with the rejections.  Heck, stick them on the wall.  Success is the best revenge.  If the second book doesn’t do the trick, well eventually will come the book that makes a mockery of those rejection slips.  At some point, if you have a modicum of natural writing ability, you must find the Lucky Spot, where your writing matches your ambition.

HEAD OVER HEELS WORDS IN LOVE
Do not get me wrong.  When I started out two years ago, the publication of my work was the be all and end all.  I would go to sleep imagining the acceptance letter as, simultaneously, the spectre of being an unpublished writer loomed large.  But something happened along the road.  Call it, perhaps, the wisdom of the accumulated words I have banked. 
I wrote a bunch of short stories because the ideas alighted upon me and I needed to get them down.  Then several larger stories invaded my brain that I knew would become books.  And I was off and racing towards that publishing deal.  But as I wrote towards that Lucky Spot, head down and ambition weighing on my shoulders, I paused and looked around.  Suddenly, I realised I wasn’t writing to be published but writing because I loved it.  Writing and I were partners and we enjoyed each other’s company.
Now, I begrudge the paperwork and emails that have become part of my day, thanks to my small publishing commitments.  The closer you get to the Lucky Spot, the more paperwork you will find.  And it takes you from your love, from the magic words and the world of storytelling.  The business of writing is the least fun part.  And I fear that publishing deals will bestow even more paperwork and non-writing committments upon an author.
Writing is not work.  When I flex my muscles, I am grateful for the calling of my stories and characters.  They chose me and I am honoured by that.  Fellow writer, you and I will never know at what point in our writing career we will hit the Lucky Spot.  So whether a publisher thinks one of our books is good enough for publishing has become irrelevant.  The destination is not the goal. 
I believe publishing is ahead for anyone with the patience and the love of what they do.  It will wait for you.  You just need the patience and the courage to wait for it.  The Lucky Spot has a whispering magic that makes the world feel good.  I think you will know when you’re there.  Give me a blank page and a keyboard and I feel like the happiest, luckiest girl in the world—published or not.

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19 comments:

  1. I love this post. Sometimes we focus so much on the destination we forget to enjoy the ride.

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    1. Thank you so much for reading my post and visiting the blog Marsha.
      I think too many focus on the destination. I believe, if you just write because you love it, in the end it will show in your work. All the best with your journey. :)

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  2. I love the moment you describe when the characters choose you. When publishers say, that character is not sympathetic, I have no idea what they mean. For me it's always love at first contact; even when they are beyond redemption I consider them to be wondrous, or at least wonderfully true. I guess these are close encounters of the fourth kind.

    I can't believe you maintain all these blogs. They are all so richly observed and well written. -- Sarah

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    1. Yes, it is an inexplicable thing, the way the characters become real and take over you and the story.

      My husband thinks I am a little mad, when I tell him I don't write the stories. But it does feel like they choose me to tell their stories.

      Sadly, because I am a speculative fiction writer and mostly in the horror genre, it rarely ends well for the poort things. I sometimes wonder why they don't choose a romance writer. Surely they would have more fun.

      And it could be aliens. That is an interesting perspective.

      By the way, all who visit here, also visit Sarah's site. She is one of the most fascinating and talented authors you are ever likely to read with a fabulous reincarnation book to boot. http://www.sarahkernochan.com/ Read her blog, if you love a good Ghost Story.

      Thanks for visiting me again Sarah. I truly am honoured and value your marvellous insight.

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  3. Make that the fifth kind: direct conversations with alien beings...

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  4. It's funny how your blog post of today mirrors my own. I keep saying this to other writers: Write the story first, commit to it, and worry about the publishing part later. There's NO sense in thinking about agents and publishers if you don't have something to show! Wonderful post, Susan!

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    1. Thank you Mariam for your kind words. Write the first, the second, the third and the hundreth story and write for yourself. Thats my audience. Being able to write is a gift and as I sit at my computer to write I am forever grateful.

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  5. I think there's a lot to be said about writing as a part of working out our salvation or our meaning as a human being. If one has integrity, the only choice is devote oneself to one's art and work each day at it, almost as a devotion. The business side is separate and different. That also must be worked at each day, not because it can or will save us, but because it is required from the present system we are living in.

    Thanks for the thoughtful blog!

    Robert
    www.robertszeles.com
    www.robertszeles.blogspot.com

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    1. Robert, thank you for commenting on my post. You have succinctily written what took me a whole blog post to say.
      Yesterday, I received a short listing notice for one of my short stories in a UK competition. Then a few hours later discovered three of my short stories did not make the cut in another competition.

      I thought, this is the life of a writer...Success...Rejection...Success...Rejection...Keep writing. They are all part of the cycle. And if you want the best chance to succeed, add building your knowledge of the industry. Its a good life if you can control your emotions and remember, you started it because you love it. Thank you again for your wonderful insights.

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  6. I love how you always manage to write something that resonates with me! I'm still early on in my journey but reading your blog has been really useful! Thanks x

    By the way, I nominated you for the Liebster Award on my blog. ; )

    Morgan x

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    1. Thanks Morgan for dropping by again. I'm so glad you get something out of it. I figure other writers must be just as bewildered as I am, so I can leave breadcrumbs to help people find their way. I'm always following others breadcrumbs. Keep writing and reading that is all you have to do.

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  7. "Writing is not work. The destination is not the goal." These two sentences describe in full how I feel about my writing. To be a writer, an author, whatever you want to call it, is to feel the joy of creating, no matter where the final draft ends up - traditionally published, self-published or just on the bottom of my desk drawer.

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    1. Thanks Angela for leaving a comment here as well as my film blog. I'm glad you agree. I meet a lot of people who focus on the publishing and I think thats a great goal but shouldn't be your focus. Producing good work should be the focus and everything else will follow.

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  8. You have summed it up nicely Susan - I love writing and even if someone told me I would never, ever make 1 cent out of writing, I would still do it. The compulsion can't be silenced :)

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  9. Thankyou Dionne for your lovely compliment. Yes, we are writerholics. My latest blog post comments on that, "Who's Afraid of a Little Blank Page?" http://j.mp/It2UEy

    Its a privilege to put your thoughts and imagination on paper and I am grateful to be able to do it. Thanks for visiting. I really appreciate it.

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  10. Great post, Susan. This subject needs to be repeated. In the hurry to publish, and therefore prove to others we are real writers, sometimes we lost sight of the real goal, Writing. Thank you.

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    1. Stephanie thank you. You are so kind. I love what you said too.

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  11. A very insightful post. Yes Susan, there is a lucky spot, although it has taken 60 years for it to find me, or me to find it!

    After publishing hundreds of articles over the years I turned to writing books recently when the freelance market dried up. 2012 has been the most bizarre in my entire life. In February I was diagnosed with the rare and incurable Churg Strauss Syndrome, dubbed Pandora's Box for good reason. However, I also signed contracts for two books to be published in the UK next year, one in February and one in July. It has also opened up the whole wonderful/terrible world of social media for me. To the horror of my friends I now have a FB page, a website and a twitter account. Oh my hat! I truly believe that if you really want something and you work towards it, it will happen. Good luck, and a very happy Christmas to you.

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    1. Thank you Pauline for reading and commenting ont his post. I am so sorry to hear about your illness and I hope things will improve. I looked it up and its not very nice. Social Media is a time eater. However, I have found it also wonderful and a fabulous way to stay in touch with everything. Good luck with your book publishing. You've found many Lucky Spots by the sound of it. Writing is a fabulous journey and I am grateful to be on it. Thank you againh Pauline. I hope we are connected on Twitter.

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