Writing in a World Gone Mad

I was emailing back and forth with a good friend of mine yesterday, and found out she had some bad publishing news. She’d been working on a project with two other authors who are among the higher echelons of the publishing world,  and those of us who knew about it were really, really looking forward to seeing it in print. Unfortunately, it won’t get there. It was rejected.

Big time bummer, to put it mildly.

But that’s life in the publishing industry. She asked, on a cheerier note, how goes the writing? My response? That’s a cheerier note?

My lack of production for the last several years has been a sore spot with me. When I first started writing seriously about 2001, I would knock out several pages a day. This was with three boys, one of whom was still in infancy. I was unstoppable. Or so I thought.

Every summer my productivity would lag. The summer slump, I called it. But come fall, I’d go all gangbusters again and make up for it. I wrote four books in three years, one of which was well over 700 pages. Oy! War and Peace anyone?
But now, not so much. For some reason, my summer slump in about 2004 has turned into a permanent one. Oh, I still write in my head all the time and even manage to get a bit onto paper every now and then.  But every day like I used to? It doesn’t happen, which makes me feel like a fraud.

Am I a writer? Yes. Have I been paid for my writing? Yes. Am I actively writing? Weeeellll…

I quit freelancing about two years ago because it was just too damned much work for too little return. And it was distracting me from my fiction work, I said. Justifying my perpetual summer slump. I still love writing, there’s no doubt about that, so why am I not productive?

I figured out that answer yesterday with my friend’s email.

I now know too much. I went in thinking I’d get published within a couple of years, and my advance would be in the six figure range. I know now that was a pipe dream. It’s nearly  impossible to get published to begin with, I’ve learned. And it’s a helluva lot of hard work and pounding of heads against brick walls. I’m up to that – rejections don’t bother me anymore. Much. But there’s a step beyond I was just able to articulate less than 24 hours ago.

Once you get published, it’s a bitch to stay that way.

Even best sellers are pounding their heads against that same freaking brick wall day in and day out. You can devote yourself to something for months on end, anticipating that pay day, just to have the whole thing pulled out from under you at a moment’s notice. Which sucks. I don’t know of any other industry that includes that kind of permanent tenuousness. (Is that a word? It is now!)

So I still love writing. I love sitting down at the laptop and putting my mind’s wanderings onto the virtual page. But the summer slump is permanent, now, and I’m afraid it will stay that way because I just can’t bring myself to sacrifice as much as I used to to pursue the career. I’ll get there in my own time, and I really feel I will be published. But when I do sell, I’m keeping the day job. There’s no way I’m counting on anything when it comes to the publishing business. I’ve seen it grind down too many people.

Even bestsellers.

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