The beauty of “giving up”
It’s been quite a few years since small, dimpled hands brought me sweet crayon and marker creations, lovingly signed “MOLLY,” with two backward Ls.
I miss the drawings, but I can’t say I mind having a tidy refrigerator door.
These days, the only adornment is a small, square black magnet with an admonishment from Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never give up.”
I bought it on a whim, when I decided it was time to take a leap of faith and try to “find an agent.”
Finding an agent is the necessary step taken by the majority of those authors of the books you see at Barnes & Noble. There are so many of those books, that wannabe authors think it must be a pretty easy task.
What we don’t know, initially, is that for each of those books on the B&N shelf, probably a hundred other authors have tried to get one there.
For years, as I slogged through my wonderfully rewarding, yet terribly paid, career as a journalist and corporate writer, people urged me to write a book.
But, raising a child, doing what I could to help my aging parents, and trying to maintain my happy marriage seemed like plenty on the plate.
Then, I took a seminar taught by a wonderful man and incredible writer. We worked at the same magazine and I loved his writing ability and sense of humor. He was successful in publishing some wonderful memoirs and was so down-to-earth and delighted with the experience, I let his enthusiasm wash over me.
So I wrote a book. That’s really the buried lead of this blog: I wrote a book and I’m really happy about that.
My mother told me a story once about my lovely Aunt Liz. My father’s sister, she married young, became a nurse and in fairly rapid succession the mother to six children. Money was tight, but one year she allowed herself the luxury of a new holiday dress. She loved it and I imagine that before emerging from her room at the annual family Christmas party she may have looked in the mirror, smiled and felt beautiful.
But, at the gathering, another relative looked at her and said: “Oh, Liz, don’t you know you should never wear horizontal stripes?”
My book and I have begun to feel a bit like Aunt Liz and her dress. When we’re together we’re happy. It’s when others become involved that things get murky.
I told a lot of people about my project, which turned out to be a mistake. Because, as little as wannabe authors know about the world of book publishing, the general public knows even less.
“When will your book be published?” people began to ask.
If I replied that it was not a when but an if, I got quite a few pitying: “Gee, your book must not be very good. Have you seen how many are on the shelves at Barnes and Noble?” looks.
I hired a former editor of mine as a proofreader last year. My hand was shaking as I turned my manuscript over because this guy -- nice as he is-- is tough. A couple weeks later he called me: “I’ve got your book done,” he said. That was all.
“He hated it,” I told my husband, Jim, as I headed off to meet the editor.
But, he didn’t hate it. He liked it. He thought, in fact, he might be interested in proofing work for other potential authors. “Except, I’m worried I might not like their stuff as much as I liked yours,” he said.
I pretty much floated out of the brew-pub where we met.
That’s the last time I was excited about the possibility of my book being published.
I have not -- as I told everyone I would -- approached “every agent on the face of the earth” with my memoir.
I approached four agents. Two of them didn’t respond. The two who got back to me were amazingly kind. These are agents for big time, bestselling authors. Without a doubt, you have heard of the authors they represent.
They were sweet and encouraging and hoped I wouldn’t quit looking for representation. What they were really saying is . . . “there isn’t a chance in hell this particular book is going to get published -- at least, right now.” Memoir is overdone. I have no platform (i.e. I’m not famous). The economy sucks. That’s what they were really saying and I believe them.
So I have two choices. I can keep trying, and perhaps ultimately lose faith in my own ability and the book that I am so happy I wrote. Or I can bide my time. Perhaps someday memoir will be a sought-after genre again. Perhaps I’ll create more of a platform through my blog.
The beauty part is, my story will always be my story. It will undoubtedly just get richer as I age.
So I’ve decided I’m going to go against Churchill’s advice. I’m going to be calm, listen to the only voice in this that ultimately matters and, just for now, “give up” -- which to me simply means liberating myself for awhile to pursue another dream I have. One I will share when it actually does happen.
Our family has experienced a lot of loss and sadness the last few years and I certainly have been thinking of my own mortality and the things that are of real importance to me. If something were to happen to me tomorrow, I hope you will say this:
“She was a good mother, a wife who always adored her husband and a devoted daughter. She loved to dance and throw parties. She wrote a lot of interesting stories about other people’s lives and, oh yeah, one time she wrote a pretty darn good one about her own.”
That’s more than enough. And it's plenty for me.
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