As a new writer, still in my original packaging and waiting to be put out on the shelves for people to buy (or not), I am at a weird and enviable stage in my career. Weird, because while I’ve sold a book (or three) my work has yet to be made public, so I’m still Nobody. Enviable, because I’ve successfully leapt the hurdles FINISH THE BOOK, GET AN AGENT and SELL THE BOOK, so I’m kinda Somebody, as well. Enough of a Somebody that I find myself fielding the “how-did-you” questions, enough of a Nobody that I’m easily approachable and still have a few minutes’ free time to spare for giving advice of dubious merit.
One question that is often asked but difficult to articulate, even for writers–perhaps especially for writers, and I imagine other artists as well–is: “How did you DO it?”
Q: “What is the meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything?”
A: (That one’s easy): 42.
Q: “How did you DO it?”
A: That one’s a bit more difficult…
“How did you DO it?” You ask. Do you mean ‘How did you get an agent’, or ‘How did you choose a point of view’, or ‘How did you get past editing Chapter One till you’d worn the letters off your keyboard and gave up to go play mini golf’?
All of those and more, of course.
“What writing tools do you use? What is your revision process? How did you decide on POV characters?” The aspiring author sees that first impossible hurdle–FINISH THE BOOK–and asks, “How did you DO it?” When she is really asking, “Can I do it?”
The answer she fears, echoing deep in the dank and slimy pit of her soul, is “No, you can’t.”
That was the answer I always got, anyway. And then my demon would laugh as I shut down Word and logged onto Facebook instead. Because that bitch wants nothing more than for you to give up, so that she may remain in the shadows and nibble at the edges of your soul without interruption.
So, what changed? How did I go from someone who desperately longed to be an author to someone who has written THE BOOK and shepherded it all the way to a sale? How did I elude the ubiquitous lack of self-confidence that hunts artists and eats them for breakfast?
How did I do it? Was it Scrivener? A workshop? A critique group?
Did I sacrifice a goat???
Nope. No goats were harmed in the creation of this book.
I found a superhero, someone who believed in me and my work, someone who cheered me on and freaked out in a good way with every new chapter and wheedled and cajoled and kicked my ass every step of the journey. Someone who believed in me even though I never did. I found my #1 fan.
If you are an artist of any color, the world is going to judge you and find you unworthy. It is likely you will judge yourself unworthy; I know I did. But if you have one person lighting a candle in the darkness for you, one person who hangs your painting on the wall or taps her foot in time to your singing or stays up till two in the morning reading your latest chapter and then threatens to break your arm if their favorite character stays dead…
That’s the good stuff, man. That’s the gold standard.
This one’s for you, Kristine. I couldn’t have done it without you.