Thursday, March 3, 2011

Blog Chain: In spite of myself

Sarah started this blog chain by asking: What has been the most unexpected part of your writing journey up to this point? What has happened that you could never have predicted? Has it been a help or a hindrance?

I wrote my first novella-length story when I was about 12-years old.

I'd never share it with anyone now because it would be a lesson in embarrassment I don't think I need (especially after my last post about Richard Chamberlain). But at the time, I was pretty proud of it. I shared it with some of my classmates who one day blurted to our English teacher, "Kathy wrote a book."

Yeah, thanks guys.

Apparently, my English teacher, Mrs. Stewart, was intrigued. She asked if she could see it. Like I said, at the time I was proud of it and wanted to show it off. So I gave it to her.

When Mrs. Stewart returned it, she said something like, This is really good, Kathy. I think if you continue to work at it and polish your skills, you could be a published writer someday.

Wow! What ultra-nerdy junior high girl doesn't want to hear that? Mrs. Stewart's encouragement rocketed me into the upper atmosphere for days. I went around telling people that one day I'd be a great novelist.

My friends believed it. My family believed it. (Or at least it appeared as if they did.)

Then I went to my cousin, God bless her, to get a haircut and told her of my newfound goal in life: "I've written a story, and my teacher says she thinks I could be published someday."

My cousin, God bless her, quickly brought me back down to earth with a laugh and a, "Published? Yeah, right. Do you know how hard it is to get a book published? I don't think so."

I interpretted her response as a lack of faith in me. But I didn't let it discourage me.

In fact, it set me on this ambitious pursuit to write The Great American Novel . . . and get it published. The funny thing about it is I think, as time went on, I pursued that goal simply out of spite.

Then last year, my husband had to be hospitalized, which ended up with me getting treated for an anxiety disorder. (BTW: How is that fair?) My doctor prescribed medicine that stripped me of the desire to string words together much less the ability to dip myself into a world of fictional characters.

Oh it sucked. Big time.

But while I was on that medication, I had a lot of time to search my soul and fine tune the goals I truly wanted to achieve in life.

For the first time since I was 12, I found myself asking the question: Do I really want to be a published writer? Does my heart really desire publication or is it something I've pursued all of these years because someone -- who probably has no recollection of that seemingly trivial conversation -- doubted I could do it?

I never could have predicted the answer I found: I don't know.

I don't know because the road to publication is fraught with heartache and fright and unexpected twists and turns. It's not that I can't endure such a road. I have little doubt in myself; I know I write "good enough" stories.

But the knowledge of such a rough journey has taken away the peace I find while escaping into those fictional worlds. That knowledge has become a hindrance when I sit down to write.

Is it worth it? I'm sure the published writers out there are screaming, "Hell yeah, Kat, do it!"

But I still don't know. Thankfully, I'm holding onto that spite. It just might get me onto the bookshelf someday.

What about your journey?

Check out what Abby said yesterday. Sandra is up next.


Eric said...

Well Kat, I for one am glad you continue to trudge on, despite the fact that you're not sure. I really admire you being able to say that you don't know though, that you're not sure. That's a harsh truth maybe, but I've always felt if we can't be honest with ourselves, we can't be honest with others either. No matter what, I hope you continue to write and that you find the peace you seek in it. Publication is well and good, but if you're not enjoying yourself, what's the point? Great post Kat, awesome as always.

Jill said...

I have complete faith in your writing abilities. Someday you will be a published author. I just have this feeling things are looking up for you!

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

I hope that you and your hubs

Writing and getting published are very difficult, and it's natural that you may have doubts about whether or not it's worth it. Ultimately, you have to do it for you and not because of what someone told you long ago. Whatever you decide--to keep writing and querying, to self-publish, or to stop writing altogether--I hope it leads to peace of mind for you.

Rosslyn Elliott said...

OK, so here's the about-to-be published author weighing in. I think you are *absolutely right* to say "I don't know" on the subject of whether you want to be published. You will always be a very talented writer. I will always enjoy reading what you write. I hope you will always love writing, even though I know there are times when it's too hard.

But here's the thing--and I know some people will say this is easy to say when I have a contract, but I'm gonna keep it real--publication does look different from the other side of the contract. I think publication places a lot more stress on the process itself. It's hard to preserve the joy of writing. Will I be able to preserve it? That remains to be seen. I have definitely felt the strain. I'll know more after I'm further into this third novel. But I know this: if there's no joy, it's just another job, and a job that doesn't pay very well. :-)

What I will pray for you is that you recover the pure joy in writing that has nothing to do with publication. And I will pray that for me too.

There's something very appealing, now, about the idea of working on a novel for ten years in secret, to make it REALLY great, no deadlines, just a work dedicated to God and if it happens to be published, great. If not, God would know what I did.

I've missed you, Kat.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

I think we all sometimes desire publication for more than just the pure love of the written word and wanting to share it with an audience. I know that if I ever even get an agent one of the best parts will be getting to casually slip the phrase "my agent" into casual conversation.

Really though, all the work that goes into a novel on the road to publication - I just don't think spite alone is enough to fuel the tank for that long of a journey. Right now if spite is keeping you going then hold on to it, but I think eventually you'll find the love of story grabbing hold and propelling you forward once more.

Sarah Bromley said...

Sometimes all we have to keep us going is drive. I've been treated for an anxiety disorder as well and have had to fight through medication to get words. And it hit me at a really unexpected time--right after I signed with my agent, the time when you'd think I'd be most pumped up about diving into the writing pool. Sometimes we need a break to get our enjoyment back. Hang in there!

Cole Gibsen said...

Wow, Kat. What an amazing honest answer. One that I think every published author has to ask themselves. For me, I had to give myself permission to quit - which I did. It wasn't until my fingers began to itch for the keyboard that I knew I was supposed to be a writer. Bravo for the soul searching and I hope you find your answers!

Michelle H. said...

Being honest with your writing career has to be the biggest step anyone can take, especially when the answer might not be what they expected or wanted. Kudos for just asking the question!

Margie Gelbwasser said...

Whatever you decide, just keep writing for as long as you love it. That's what's important, just doing what you love. The rest will figure itself out.

Shaun Hutchinson said...

I appreciate your honesty in this post. Here's my bit of honesty: a small part of me envy's you. The thing is, before you get published, what you're writing doesn't matter to anyone but you. If you're happy with it, then it's a good day. But once published, you can't ever 100% write for you anymore. I mean, you can, but you run the risk of your agent or editor wondering if you've gone off the deep end.

The thing that bothers me about writing is that everyone expects that if you write, you have to publish. When I was trying to learn how to play the guitar, no one asked me if I was eventually going to record an album.

I think you're very brave. I also know that you can do whatever you set out to do.

Christine Fonseca said...

I love the honesty in this answer - and man, Iam where you are. It happens to many of us, I think, even if we are published. Hang in and remember I am here if you ever need me!

Anonymous said...

It's interesting how life experiences change our goals and perspective on what's important.

Bravo for forging ahead through it all!