Sometimes Giving Up is the Right Thing To Do

Today I came across yet another not-yet-published writer who stated her personal manifesto that publishing is tough, but the people who succeed at it are the ones who stick to it. She ended by stating that not everyone has the will to make it in the publishing business. She is right. People who work persistently and consistently in pursuit of publication are likely to achieve their goals. I’ve seen many similar manifestos. I’ve even said the same thing myself a time or two. What has begun to bother me about these statements is the unintentional implication that a writer who stops pursuing publication is weak, a quitter.

There is a huge difference between the person who makes a reasoned decision to stop pursuit of a difficult goal and someone who gives up because they don’t want to work. Everything has an opportunity cost. Pursuing publication costs the writer in time and energy. Sometimes it impacts relationships or financial stability. Those costs need to be weighed. Also, life circumstances change. Altering dreams in response to a change in circumstance is a success, not a failure. In my life I’ve had times of poor health. I’ve had times when I had to put writing down in order to do other things. I wrote about that last April in an essay called Letting Go.

All the determination and sacrifice in the world can be completely undermined by things outside our control. Loss of employment, loss of health, needs of friends and family, these things happen to all of us at one time or another. They are all good reasons for giving up on writing either temporarily or permanently. Finding something else to do is also a valid reason for ending publication attempts. There is nothing wrong with choosing contentment over endless frustration and rejection. There is nothing wrong with deciding to chase a different dream.

At the moment I am pursuing publication. I am writing and compiling essays so that I can embark on the terrifying adventure of querying agents and editors. At this point in my life this is something I feel I must do. But my goal is not “getting published.” My goal is to get my stuff out there; to work as hard as I can; to learn as much as I can; to try. Whether or not publication is the reward of my effort, the effort itself is worthwhile. That said, I really want to hold my book in my hands. I want to be published.

But being published is not the only thing I want, and I am aware that somewhere down the road I may have to put the publication dream down for something else. I don’t want to, but I may have to. The ability to deliberately set aside a dream for something else is a measure of strength, not weakness.

Many thanks to my friend Janci. My thoughts on this subject were, and continue to be, refined by the fascinating conversations we have.

Working at Writing

My brain has been tied up with writing for the past two days. I have this essay which I intend to submit to a contest. The deadline is Dec 31st and the essay is not ready yet. I’ve known about the contest since last spring, but it was only in November that I found the right stories and concepts for the essay. I wrote a draft in early December, but yesterday I had one of those moments where I could see how the ideas were right but the presentation was all wrong. The insight was due to some good feedback from an alpha reader. Many thanks are due there.

My original draft told the story. My new draft is wrapping the concepts around scenes of the story. I am attempting to show rather than tell. This proves difficult because the scenes have to be from my own relevant experiences. There is only a limited amount of rearranging I am allowed to do for narrative convenience. The line between creative nonfiction and complete fabrication is narrow. I keep re-writing and re-adjusting as I go; trying to find the right arrangements of words to communicate the ideas. Even as I forge forward toward a complete draft, I am aware that there are errors I am missing. I’m going to have to go back through the whole thing to check for tense drift. I simply can’t focus properly on tense matching while I’m working on structure.

Writing this essay has been hard. I haven’t had a writing experience this intensive since I wrote the story to submit for a DAW anthology in 2007. Part of it is writing to a deadline and really wanting the work to be my best. Another part of the intensity is the subject matter. I really care about what I am trying to say. This effort is forcing me to push deeper and write longer than I usually do. I am learning a lot from the experience. Naturally I hope that the essay is accepted and published as the DAW story was. However, even if it is not I will still have succeeded.

Projects in my head

Christmas–still needs some organizing and shopping and wrapping and shipping.

The Kids– The level of drama around here is lower than it was, but there is still plenty for me to figure out and manage. I’ve figured out the family structures to meet the needs, but I have to keep it all in place.

One Cobble– My brain is almost constantly collecting stuff for blog entries, or composing experiences into stories. Sometimes I can write as soon as I think of it. Other times I have to scribble notes to try to save it for later.

House cleaning — always. This project I often try to ignore out of existence, but it never works.

Family Photo book– This was shoved to the back burner when I realized I couldn’t get it done in time for Christmas. Instead I planned to have it done by my Grandmother’s birthday. Which is at the end of January. And I’ve done nothing on the project for nigh three weeks now.

Resident Mad Scientist book layout– The deadline on this has been pushed back, but that does not mean I can ignore it. We need to know where margin art is necessary.

My essay book– I’ve collected and revised about a third of the essays I estimate I’ll need. I have notes for a bunch more. I really want to get to the point where I can be sending out queries.

Cooking– I’ve recently discovered an interest in occasionally cooking things where I don’t start with a box or a can.

Birthday story– By the end of January I either need to write or revise a short story for posting on my birthday. I like the tradition and I want to keep it.

Short stories– My back brain has decided that writing Christmas stories would be really cool. This comes despite the fact that it is notoriously difficult to write a Christmas story without doing a re-write of The Grinch, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Fill-in-the-blank saves Santa Claus, or It’s a Wonderful Life. I don’t even have characters or plots in mind. I’m waiting patiently on this one and hoping that the mood subsides, because I honestly don’t have time at the moment.

Loose thoughts about today

This afternoon was calm. Homework was accomplished without battles, in part because the two kids who have been fighting me both decided to get most of it done while still at school. It makes me hopeful that we’re nearing the end of the swirling emotional chaos that I’ve been swimming in since school started. On the other hand, I’m a bit afraid to get my hopes up for fear that this calm will merely prove to be the eye of the storm.

Because of the calm I got to spend an hour drafting an essay. This one is longer than is usual for me, but it is within the word limit for the contest where I intend to submit it. I just need to figure out the last paragraph and it will be ready for first readers.

Howard and I were discussing our experience with publishing. It has been far from typical. We aren’t even typical for webcomics which publish books. Once again I was reminded what an incredible gift the Schlock readers give to us. We are truly honored by their loyalty and support.

I’m sitting on my bed composing this entry. Next to me sits a stuffed Opus wearing reindeer horns. (From Bloom County by Berke Breathed) The horns used to have ball ornaments hanging from them, but those have gone missing in the decade since I acquired him. Mostly Opus has spent his lifetime being pulled out as part of the Christmas decor. But in the past three years he has a new lease on life. He is our Christmas elf, an emblem of good works. It begins with a good deed. This year Link made my bed. Then he placed Opus on top as a sign that a good deed had been done. It was then my job to do a good deed for someone else. Then that person has to do a good deed and so on. In theory Opus should be hopping around regularly all month long. In reality he’s spent almost a week waiting in my room. It is not that I don’t do things for the kids. I do all the time, but Opus is supposed to go with something extra, something beyond the call of duty. Unfortunately I haven’t had much time for anything extra, so Opus waits. I really need to get my act together though. Patch keeps noticing that Opus hasn’t moved. He really wants the Christmas Opus to show up for him. He wants a turn at good-deed-doing. So tomorrow I need to find something nice to do for Patch.

Also, I need to help Gleek make more paper crafts to give to Kiki. That project fell off the radar over the weekend, but it needs to go back. Gleek needs it.