The thing I find the scariest when I look back over the last decade of my writing career (such as it is) is the fact that I have so many good reasons I didn’t get more fiction submitted. And I don’t mean these are lame reasons disguised as good reasons–oh no! They’re LEGIT good reasons. Life-altering reasons. Wholly emotionally draining reasons. Reasons that honestly, when a comforting friend says, “Yes, but you have good reasons you didn’t–” they’re NOT WRONG.
But after ten years, I’m starting to understand a couple very important things about having a career in fiction or art in general:
- You are the one who controls your ability to do art.
- Other people will have demands on you–often legit demands that need attention–and you have to find a way to do the art (and submit the art) around those demands.
- This is what life is.
I’m starting to realize that my entire life could be filled with good reasons. A second baby. Or not being able to have a second baby. Moving, again. And again. Health stressors. Financial stressors. Political stressors. Family stressors. All kinds of unforeseen complications that I can’t even conceive of yet. Life is chaos.
In some ways, this is akin to the “when I have time” argument, except I’m way, way beyond that point. I do make time. I just don’t make time for every part. I make time for drafts. I make time for new words, new ideas. I’m good at that. But the other things: editing, submitting–they don’t get the same focused attention. They somehow, up until now, didn’t feel as important as getting new stuff down. Now I realize the new words don’t really matter in the long run if they never, ever, turn into submitted words. That’s the conversion I’ve been missing. My desk drawer has been catching all the work I’ve been doing (I have a pile three inches tall on my desk of decent, editable work that I have never tried to do anything with). It’s vaporware. I don’t even know how I fell into that trap, because I’m the loudest proponent for submitting your work when I’m with other writers and writerly friends: Get it out there! I shout. You can do it! Better out than forgotten in a drawer!
But I fell into that trap, just like a lot of others do, too. I didn’t even realize it was happening.
Right at this moment, I am simultaneously writing this post and consoling my son, who is in rage-tears because his lego truck isn’t working the way he thinks it ought to (physics be damned). I’m taking a break from the dishes that have piled up over the last few days because we’ve had some health stressors that are as yet still not wholly resolved and weighing on our minds. I need to do laundry, because Bug is completely out of clean clothes. The detritus of life piles up so quickly when outside forces interfere and throw tried-and-true routines out of whack.
But earlier today, I sat down and got back to work on the current WIP. I solved some problems, and created some new ones. I brainstormed some new possible short story ideas. It’s all good progress, but in the end, it’s ephemeral until it resolves into something tangible and edited, that can be sent out into the world. I believe no words are wasted, even bad writing is better than not writing at all. Sometimes you need to clean the pipes, and most of the stuff that comes out is awful tangles of hair and non-flushable wipes and leaves and mud and congealed grease. But once that garbage is flushed out, maybe there’s something cool and clean and awesome in there that simply couldn’t get out before.
And once the shiny stuff comes out, it needs to be finished.