Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Out with the Old

I'm not really sure I have anything relevant to say, but this is the last chance I will have to do this in 2014, so I thought I might just list a few goals and lay out a tentative plan for the coming year.

1.  Find a home for Antiartists.  I'm still not sure what this means.  Whether I find an agent to represent it, or if I find an indie publisher that accepts unrepresented manuscripts, or decide to pull the trigger and e-publish, I think it needs an audience, needs to get out there, so I can move on and let it go.

2. Finish the new novel (working title: Flagg).  I've got 25,000 words so far, and I would like to finish it sometime before the end of 2015.  If I can work with any semblance of discipline, this seems to be a pretty modest goal.

3. Develop some kind of network of readers and writers that I can feel comfortable sharing with.  This is important, I know.  Ugh.  Other people.  Gross.

4.  Stay positive, and keep moving forward.  Obviously. 

 2014 has sucked on a massive scale in both a global and personal sense.  Crashing planes and murdered children and riots and protests and wars and death.  The world, as I have known it, seems to be falling apart around me.  My family has experienced and endured profound and painful loss.  I personally cannot remember a time when we as a people have seemed more ready to destroy ourselves with greed and ignorance and willful malice.  I'm getting old, I guess, and things seemed better back when I wasn't so connected to this unwanted influx of information.

BUT:

I am humbled and eternally grateful for my family who have all been incredibly supportive and beautiful and brilliant.  I have a good shot I feel at making something of this writing thing.  I mean, holy shit, I finished a novel.  I WROTE A NOVEL!  This is literally one thing that I promised myself that I would do before I died, and it is done.  And it is good.

We started this thing last year at New Year's Eve, we got a jar, and we would write on a slip of paper all the good things that happened throughout the year and when New Years came around again we would dump them all out and get a chance to remember all the great things that had happened to us that year.
 
I can't wait.  Mostly I filled it with silly stuff; they released a new version of my all time favorite video game, my team won the Super Bowl (GO HAWKS!), and things like that.  But also in there are real life events.  My kid learned to ride a bike, he learned to tie his shoes, I finished writing a novel.  And I bet there are things in there that I just forgot, cool things that passed me by and fell out of my memory and blew away on the wind...

I think going forward here, in addition to writing about writing and trying to publish, I will also put up some things that I have written that have no home, that just need some eyes and minds and hearts to read them.

You are out there, readers, I know it.  You are mostly silent and watching, but I can tell you are there by your glowing eyes in the dark (and by my view counter).  Speak up, let me know what you think, just say hey, whatever.  Take a moment. 

Take care of one another, be safe, love each other through hard times and good times.  Let people know how you feel about them.  Smile more, love more.  If the world wants to crumble into dust, I will not go out crying in despair, or screaming in anger and hatred.  I will sing and laugh and love until I have no more breath.

I will not give in.

I will keep trying.

Have a happy New Year. 

Welcome 2015, you brand new beautiful bastard.

Still Writing, RP            
   

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Coming Out of Hiding

We can not grow alone.

I realized fairly recently that a major theme of Antiartists deals with the strange impulse we have to connect with one another, to have people around, even if they are clearly bad for us, even if they are poison, even if we hate the world around us, we can't stand feeling alone.

If we want to grow, we need others around to challenge our ideas, to tell us when we are being obtuse or unreasonable, to give us new information, to give us a different perspective.

Like it or not, we need each other.

 This is a problem of mine.  I don't trust people with anything I care about.  And I have found myself having to reach out to strangers, having to expose myself to criticism, leaving myself open to rejection and disappointment.  Even this, writing these strange little public journal entries makes me feel nervous and exposed, and I have to struggle with my honesty.

Because someone may read this, may judge me harshly, might reach a mistaken conclusion about who I am.

Or worse: they might reach an accurate conclusion about who I am.

I have a face, a plastic smiley-mask that I show to co-workers, to strangers and acquaintances at social gatherings, to people I interact with everyday.  I have a public persona that I can drape over my shoulders, a warm soft cloak to hide inside, and he is funny and likeable and doesn't ever, ever speak without a trace of sarcasm, without a wisp of disdain for everything.  I can hide behind a shield of snark and aloof irreverence, and feel safe.

Yet, I have this thing, this work of mine, this strange little book that I want, somehow need, to share with others and that means I have to come out from behind these things, my mask and cloak and shield, and I have to expose myself and it makes me scared and nervous.

Understand:  I'm a big boy, over six feet, a hefty side of beef, and I just wrote that I'm scared that people won't like what I have done, that their judgement of my work reflects somehow on my own worth.

I swear, I'm a fucking child.

So it goes.

Still writing,

RP 




Thursday, December 11, 2014

Worshiping the Data Gods

Can we just throw out the phrase "aspiring writer" please?

If you write stuff, congratulations.  You're a writer.  There's no paperwork to fill out, no license application.  If you write things down, you're a writer, end of story. 

If you want people to read your stuff, you need to make it available to them in some form.  Fantastic.  You now have a readership.  If it's good, your audience will grow.

While researching agents and publishing houses, I have read a lot of interviews and what to do and what to not do and what makes your query stand out and 'what are you looking for' articles, and all this talk of market and platform and online presence gives me the fucking creeps.  

I read the work marketable and I want to throw up in my lap.  I read the word platform and I seriously want to punch myself in the balls.  I wrote this book because I thought I had something to say about art and life and addiction and masculinity and the strange, frustrating impulse we have to latch on to one another even though its not always in our own interest.  I don't know how other people do it, but I wanted to show readers a little of myself, and maybe hold up a strange mirror so they can see themselves in my words too.

I am not against success.  When Antiartists gets published, if it sells a million copies and becomes a huge Hollywood hit, that's awesome, just tell me where to sign.  But it won't happen because I engage with people on social media, or harass my friends and neighbors to push it on to others.  It will happen because I wrote well, I touched readers, I moved people.  This digital world that people seem to believe we all live in is a dream.  The digital world is filled with too much noise to ever send a clear signal out.

Does anyone remember organic growth?  Are we all too busy worshiping the data gods that we forgot that relationships and hard work move people better than any marketing plan?      

Writers write for many reasons, and maybe for some it's to hit it big and sell a million books and to spend your life managing your business, but that's a fucking long shot. If becoming JK Rowling is your five year plan, I wish you all the best, I really do.   I just want to tell stories and share ideas. 

But remember this though, you know the name Harry Potter not because she sent out tweet spam and bugged the shit out of people on Facebook. You know Harry Potter because something about his world, the world that Rowling created, moved people, made them believe, made them want more.  She touched people with her words and ideas, not with her market share and trending. 

Still writing,

RP   

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Here we go again...

So the bad news is, I got rejected again. The good news is, it didn't seem too terrible this time.

I don't really know what to think about this, maybe I'm just getting used to it. 

When I was submitting poems to lit magazines, I got rejected all the time, a ton, two or three a day in the mail.  I'd get a little slip in an envelope that I had written myself, usually a nothing little sentence: "Thank you for your submission, but it does not meet our editorial needs at this time."  When I finally had a poem accepted, I was ecstatic, but also somehow disappointed, because they took the wrong one.  They took a poem that I wrote as a one-off idea, that I didn't care about too much.  It was great, excellent, perfect, but my first published work was a poem that I was only mildly proud of.  It was also liberating in a way because I could then stop writing and submitting poetry.  I had won.

The only short story I have ever submitted anywhere was accepted for publication in the Wayne Literary Review 2012.  They did take the right one in that case; I love that story.  (If you are interested it is called "Burn it Down" and you can read it here: http://issuu.com/wayneliteraryreview/docs/wlr2012/1?e=0)

I believe it is not a coincidence that the word for sending work to editors and agents is the same word for giving up.  I'm going to submit, one way or another.

So.  New plan.  I am going to throw out the somewhat dry and professional query letter that I have been submitting, and write something with a bit more color in it that I think better represents my style.  I am going to submit the new and improved query to a predetermined number of agents.  We will see what that brings. 

Here's the thing: somehow in all this researching and querying and madly writing on the new novel, and rejections and ups and downs and sidewayses, I have forgotten that this is about writing, something that I love to do just for the sake of the act, just for the unbelievable feeling of creation, of making something that wasn't there before.  I have written my entire life, long before I ever thought of this becoming a career.  This is about the words.  It is my firmly held belief that the audience will arrive, that whoever should read my stuff will.  Content first, then everything else will follow, whatever may come. 

I love writing.  Would I like to get paid for it?  Yeah.  Would I like to have my entire life in upheaval because of it?  No, I don't think so.  I'll be patient, and take it slowly.

On a side note, this blog has now had over five hundred views. 

Whoever you are, thanks for reading.

If you are interested in reaching out to me, and for some reason won't or can't comment here, try my email.

Or if you like uninformed and poorly thought out opinions about politics and punk rock, coupled with fart jokes, I'm also on Twitter @RDPullins.

Cheers, RP

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Honesty

So I've done enough whining.

I saw a low-level MMA fight once where the fight ended just because one of the guys got tired of getting hit.  It wasn't a ref stoppage, he wasn't being submitted, in fact, he was still on his feet.  He had taken a few shots to the face and decided that maybe fighting wasn't for him, and he quit.  I remember saying to the guys I was with that if you can't take getting punched in the face, maybe you should take up a different sport.  Maybe checkers, or golf, or tennis, where you rarely get attacked by opponents.

I know that I will be rejected.  I know that this will not be the last time that someone isn't scooping what I am pooping, so to speak.  After the thing gets picked up by an agent, I will still have to endure the hope and disappointment when they are trying to sell it to a publisher.  After that, people will (hopefully) read it.  They will for whatever reason, feel compelled to get on Twitter and call me a moron or a monster, they will review it and describe everything that is wrong with it.  Maybe I will do a signing and nobody will show up except for a couple of homeless guys that just want the free coffee.  Unless I'm ready to take up golf or tennis, I'd better be able to take a punch, right?  Right.

But that doesn't change the fact that it hurts.  It hurts to get punched in the face, it hurts to get rejected.  I see no reason to try and hide that.  If I set out to try and capture the journey of having a completed manuscript and attempting to get it published, then I have nothing to gain by not recording my disappointment and self-doubt as well as my hope and triumph.  I am proud of what I have done.  It was hard, and sometimes painful and I did it.  I finished a novel. Now I'm being told that it doesn't fit anywhere, they want YA dystopian vampire novels to sell to 13 year old girls to go with their One Direction albums.

That is unfair.  It's not that bad; nobody has asked for my soul.  Yet.

I love writing.  I do it well.  I can't run very fast, I have no idea how to change the oil in my car, and the last time I tried to dance in public somebody called an ambulance because they were sure I was having a grand mal, but dammit, I'm good at this.  I don't know why, or how it happened, but this is what I have.  People read my stuff and they generally like it.  The book is good.  The new book I am writing right now has a chance to be great.  I am blessed with talent and determination and am surrounded by supportive and patient and loving people. 

Forgive my indulgence in self pity and doubt, but if there were a writer working on their first novel and they somehow stumbled across this, I would want them to know to expect to get punched in the face, I would want them to know that it will hurt, and I would want them to know that they should keep on going, they should not listen to that bastard voice whispering poison and lies.  I would want them to know that I will be honest here, that I am genuinely exposing my wounds so nobody goes into this blind.  You get hit, you get cut and you bleed and you cry and you fall down.  And that's fine.

As long as you remember to get back up, shake it off, and keep moving forward.  

So I'm done whining.  For now.  Until the next rejection, at least.

Cheers.  RP



     


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Rejected! (again)

"My Mother did me the great disservice of telling me that I could do anything I wanted.  I believed her.  I believed every lie anyone has ever told me, including the big lies like 'everything will be all right'."
-Ralph Pullins, "Family Stories" (unpublished)

I have been rejected again.  Twice, actually, since the last time I have written about this.  Judging from my choice of quotes above (mine this time), I am ...displeased.

For those keeping score at home, I am now 0 for 3.

So what, right?  Now is where I go and read a bunch of stories about how Dr Seuss was fired from an advertising job because he was deemed not creative enough, or about how Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, about how some incredible writer was rejected again and again, and shit, yeah, OK, I know all that but really this stuff means the same to me as the poster over the chair at my dentist of the bulldog wearing boxing gloves that reads "hang tough."  Yes, no doubt, all these things are true to some degree, but for every story like that, there's got to be thousands, millions of stories that just went untold because the person that got rejected over and over and over got tired of getting beat up and just fucking quit.  The trouble with all these platitudes is that I'm not Dr Seuss, I'm not Jordan.  I'm just some guy that wrote some stuff, not a legend.

 Here's the thing I have been thinking of: terrible writers don't know that they suck. I have been to a few writers conferences, have attended a few Creative Writing classes, and I know for sure that there are people out there that just suck.  I don't want to be the one to say it, but it is true.  I am not talking about people that write things that I'm just not into, mysteries about plucky elderly ladies solving crimes with their cats, or bodice ripper period romances, or rich girl in the city just seeking Mr. right, no, those things all have merit and value and have their own place on shelves everywhere (just maybe not mine).  I'm talking about just straight up terrible writing happily and confidently submitted for peer review.  That writer doesn't know that they suck, and it seems to fall to agents and publishers and lit mag editors to tell them that their writing sucks.  What I have been thinking about is: What if that is me, and all this time nobody has had the heart to tell me?

It's not me.  I know it.  I know, when I'm not allowing myself the luxurious wallow in self pity and doubt, that the book is solid, that it just needs to get into the right hands, that I should be glad when I get rejected because I don't want it to be in the hands of an agent or publisher that doesn't believe in it the way I do.  I should be grateful. 

I may not be a legend, but I certainly don't suck.

I believe.  Honestly.

But there is still that voice, that poisonous bastard hiding somewhere in my psyche telling me that I'm not special, asking me who the hell do I think I am, what do I have to offer anyone, why am I wasting my time trying to be something I am not...

I hate it.

  

  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Messages in a bottle

I think there must be something wrong with me.

The other day I passed ten thousand words on my new novel.  It's a milestone for me; it means that the new book is a real thing, not just an idea for a book, but it is becoming a significant piece of writing (and a good one, I think).  I'm excited about it, and the words seem to come out of my head and onto the page pretty easily so far, and a few magical times I have had that experience where things just seem to flow out from some external source as if I'm just a conduit, and the direction and concepts that are happening on the page don't even seem to be coming from me at all, that writing sweetspot where things work better than I could have planned for...

And it is awesome.

However, I still have an unpublished, unrepresented, largely unread novel that is just hanging out on my computer, waiting.  And I think: Why are you sacrificing all of your evenings, all of your lunch hours writing when nobody cares?  I sometimes feel as if I'm on an island, writing messages, and putting them in a bottle, and throwing them into the ocean, hoping that someone somewhere will read one, will like it, will in some way give a shit that I do this.

I think of Poe dying penniless and forgotten, John Kennedy O'Toole, the suicide, if it weren't for his mother harassing literary people to read it, we would never have gotten Confederacy of Dunces, it would have remained in a drawer somewhere until someone threw it in the burn barrel doing spring cleaning.

I read somewhere that every writer lies, either about how hard it was or about how easy it was.  For me, the writing is easy, the idea generation is easy.  I've heard of writers block, but that has never been my problem. 

What's hard for me is forcing it into my life, finding the time to do it, finding a reason to do it.  What's hard  for me is finishing anything.  Whats hard for me is seeing it through to the end.  I just got an idea for a new novel, one that I'm certain that I will take a swing at someday.  It is an exciting concept, and one that I'm very excited to explore.  What's hard for me is not abandoning my ten thousand word manuscript to start something new.  What's hard for me is nobody caring.  When Antiartists sees print someday, and someone feels compelled to tell me everything that is wrong with it, that will be crushing to me, I'm sure.

What is really hard is being patient, and waiting for a bottle to come back to me on my island.

Meanwhile, I'm still here, and I've got a (hopefully) endless supply of messages and bottles.   

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Unexamined Life

I have spent most of my life completely unaware of myself.  I just did things one after another without stopping for a moment to question my own motivations without regard for my own safety and future well being.  There were times, events, that changed me, altered my future, my perceptions of the world, that changed the way I believed how life was supposed to work, and until embarrassingly recently these things went unexamined.

I have lived my life without any idea why I was doing anything.

The characters in Antiartists do this; they do things without any understanding of themselves, and even though the book is not about me at all, I realized that I do identify with a lot of the impulses that they feel, a lot of the same disconnection and isolation that they feel, a lot of the understanding that as much as we want to believe that we are masters of our own fates, we are who we are largely because we were made this way by events and relationships and by sick random chance. 

One of my readers told me that he couldn't identify with the impulse to self-harm; he had never even heard of such a thing, he was somewhat appalled by the whole idea.  For me, having grown up as a punk and an outsider, that impulse is a mostly open secret; kids do this all the time when the world is too heavy and confusing.

Sometime after the birth of my first son, I found myself in a car blasting down dark residential streets with my bare foot sticking out of the open door.  The driver of the car was extremely drunk, as was I, neither of us were wearing seatbelts and we were both shouting at each other to shut the fuck up, just shut up.  Somehow in the madness I clearly remember getting an image of my sleeping baby son, an image of the speeding car hitting a power pole or a parked car, me losing my foot, losing my life, losing everything for nothing more than moronic self-indulgent pride, a drunks skewed sense of justice.  I brought my foot in the car, shut the door and put on my seatbelt.  I couldn't slow the car; that was out of my hands now, I had already made the decision to get in with a drunken asshole much like myself, but I could try to mitigate the potential disaster.  I realized even in that absurd and dangerous scene that terrible things could happen, even to me, and I didn't have the luxury of accidental suicide anymore; I had someone at home that was counting on me.

There were times I could have died, and I had no idea why.

Even now I sometimes find myself surprised by my own emotions, when I am accidentally open with a stranger, or even in this very moment, as I write these words, feelings come up unexpectedly and I find myself with eyes wide open staring at the lights with ragged breath trying to guess why I am feeling what I am feeling, why I am who I am...

My book is not about me, but it is about broken people doing broken things, and that is something I understand through and through.

And even though I do not consider myself broken anymore and I am no longer doing broken things, I do remember that image I got in that speeding car of my sleeping baby boy.  I try to remember that we are not promised tomorrow, we are not promised another day of this strange and beautiful life.  I try to remember that every moment is a gift.  I try to remember to examine my life, my motivations, to make decisions, rather than react to impulse.  

I try to remember to be grateful.   

     

 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Doing the Important Things

"I don't really understand writing and I'm not sure I want to.  I just know that for some obscure internal reason, I need to do it."
 - Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting, Filth, The Acid House, Glue, etc, etc, etc

There are a lot of books out there about how to write a novel, how to get started and how to keep a schedule and how to apply discipline to your writing.  I'm sure that they sometimes inspire a new writer to apply these concepts to his or her own process and are an invaluable resource for these people.

Call me a cynic, but I would guess that most times, however, they fail.

I believe that we do the things that are important to us.

I have always thought it would be awesome to be able to speak Spanish.  I took Spanish in college, I used to ask native speakers to teach me things, we got a learn Spanish at home teaching module for the family to learn together, I even went and bought a Rosetta Stone knock off.  I had all the greatest intentions, paid for the equipment, and then...nothing.  It fizzled out.  Now, after all that, speak hardly any Spanish at all.  It's not for lack of desire, it's not for lack of means, its because when the time came and a choice had to be made between learning Spanish and doing other things, the other things won out every time.  Now my Spanish learning resources sit there with my treadmill/clothes hanger, if you can find them buried under all the weight loss books and the get your home organized in four easy steps manuals.

We do the things that are important to us.

I would guess that most people that buy the how-to manuals for writing do it good faith; they are not intentionally throwing their money away.  But I would also guess that when it comes time to sit down and write or do other stuff, mostly, the other stuff wins.

This is not intended to be critical of people who do this; the other stuff wins all the time for me, when it comes time to work out or to clean my basement up, or to fix the cupboard door, or to do laundry or to change the cat box or to...

You probably get the idea.

And yeah, some nights when it comes time to sit down and write, the other stuff wins for me too.  After a workday of sitting and staring at a computer screen and struggling with my focus, some nights for sure the other stuff wins.  Some nights, I just need to switch off.

I write this blog on my lunch hour.  Some days I just don't wanna, maybe I'm tired and I just watch videos of people falling down on the internet or fiddle around on Twitter.

But I keep coming back to it.  Because for whatever strange reason, writing stuff down is important to me.  And I swear, even if I never publish a word, if I just keep getting rejected, and shot down, and beat up, I'll keep on writing, not because I'm tough, because clearly I'm not, but because it is, and will remain, important to me.

Sometimes, I wish it wasn't. Writing takes a lot of time and effort and attention and care, more than I have to spare, more than I want to give away, and mostly nobody gives a shit whether I do it or not.

But still I write stuff down, try to capture something, try to make the world a tiny bit different by using my words.

Because for better and for worse, we do the things that are important to us.    


Monday, September 22, 2014

Fearlessly Honest

There is a pretty common myth out there about being creative and being messed up, in that it seems that we create better art if we are wrecked.  

In a way, the myth isn't a myth at all.  We do seem to create good stuff when we are messed up, when we are flayed open and ruined, when the world is a weight and there's nothing to do but crawl into a bottle, to hide behind chemical curtains until things don't hurt anymore. 

We do create good stuff when were messed up.  You can see it in the wreckage that Hollywood serves up, sacrificed for our entertainment, in the suicides and broken homes and arrests of creators.  Brilliant art made by complete and utter ruin, human beings tortured by talent and psychological disaster. 

But it's not about being smashed; it is about honesty.

The greatest, most heart-wrenching things we read and hear and watch come from someone who is just messed up enough to be honest, who is brave enough to just lay it out there for the whole world to see.  But it doesn't come from the thing, it doesn't come from the ruin.  It is good because the creators weren't afraid to be real, to expose themselves, to be hurt and to say honestly that they were hurt.  It's just that for some of us it seems harder to be honest when we're present in our bodies and our psyche, maybe we need a little chemical courage to be open.         

You don't need to be messed up to be honest, you have to simply be brave.  And with some guts, with a strong backbone and thick skin, with a little faith and an unshakable belief in your content, you don't need to be a wreck to make good stuff, you just have to have the balls to be honest.

It's easier when you get older, I think.  I'm married; I dont have to worry about some potential mate reading something I wrote and thinking I'm a tool.  My wife already knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that I'm a tool.  She married me knowing it, and God bless her heart, she has stuck around this long, I doubt that anything I write is going to change her mind. 

And to be honest, maybe adult truths are less exciting than young truths.  I don't consider myself a wreck, not anymore at least.  I live a reasonably peaceful life and my truth has changed.  My truth now is I mostly don't miss the firey passion that drove me when I was young, that led me to do such harmful and willfully stupid things.  I don't miss the fire, and I definately don't miss the ashes, the guilt and regret and the exhausting uncertainty. 

Sometimes though, I do miss the fearlessness, the easy honesty.

Because the best art comes from fearless artists.

           

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Planting Ideas...

So the characters in my book get up to some pretty harmful shit, self harm and vandalism and worse.  The other night, I had a chilling thought: what if I give someone ideas

What if there's a kid out there that just needs the seed, the impulse, the implicit permission and then takes the ideas from the page and applies them to the real world?

There's evidence for this idea already.  About ten years ago I was invited to a fight club.  A real one.  Literally a group of dudes that met up in a basement, put on some thrash metal and just straight up fought each other.  I didn't go, don't honestly know if the guy that invited me was serious. Truthfully the guy could have been just winding me up, or trying to lure me into something unspeakable in his basement.  He seemed sincere, though, like it wasn't something crazy he and his friends were getting up to, like it was simply a good way to pass a Saturday evening.  When he wrote Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk touched on an idea that had lain dormant in the hearts of a generation of young men, and they acted on that idea, they took his fiction and made it real. 

What a result.  I can't say for sure because I have never had the chance to ask, but I sincerely doubt that that was the plan, that it was Palahniuk's intention to spark this action, this blurring of the lines between reality and fiction.  Maybe it doesn't matter; there were fight clubs all over the place whether he wanted it or not.   

As a writer, you want to move people, to convey your ideas in a way that speaks to people, that impacts them somehow.  As a human being, I'd be horrified if some kid took the ideas in my book as a good way to pass a Saturday evening. 

Maybe Mr. Palahniuk is responsible for a few knocked out teeth, a few stitches and black eyes.  Maybe someday when my book is in print, some kid will read it and think its a great idea to destroy beautiful things, to intentionally hurt himself.

And maybe that will be my fault.    

Friday, September 12, 2014

Knock, Knock

I used to feel directionless.

For most of my life I have felt like this, that there was something out there, some bigger destiny, some way for me to prove my worth to the world.  I would take stock of my god-given talents and look at other, more successful people in the fields that I am interested in, and ask myself, why not me?

I genuinely had never understood why not me until recently.  Until I had the Realization.  I capitalize Realization on purpose, because it was a singular thought that arrived in my head and though it is terribly obvious to everyone, everywhere, it has been revolutionary for me, a transformative notion.

The answer to why not me is simple:

Not me because I had never finished anything for people to grab on to.  I was not a successful novelist because I had never written a novel.  I wasn't even a failure; I was an absence.  The reason those other people were more successful had nothing to do with talent or opportunity or networking or serendipity.  First and foremost, it was because they had done stuff.  They had worked for it, they had believed in themselves, they kept going even when people told them to quit. 

Not me because I had a half written novel, a handful of half-assed songs, an unfinished painting gathering dust in the basement. 

Not me because I lacked the courage to say that I cared about anything, that I would be dissappointed if it failed.  Not me because I was not brave enough to try.  It is part of the outsider's make up to stand outside looking in and to say we don't want in, that we prefer the cold, we prefer the dark.  For better and for worse, it seems part of my make up that I am an outsider.  I have spent my life shivering in the dark, afraid to knock on the door, to ask if I can come in.

I don't feel directionless anymore.  I know what I'm doing now.  I care about this.  I believe in this.  I want in.

Knock, knock.           


 
     

Monday, September 8, 2014

It ain't over yet.

I'm not done.

This is what I have been fighting:  the feeling that I'm done.  I mean, I wrote the damn thing, I edited it, I gave it to readers for feedback, I changed, re-wrote, and polished it, I let it sit for a couple of weeks and then re-read and re-edited it. 

I'm done right?  This is the part where I can relax and start something new, right?

Actually not really.  I've got to send query letters to agents.  If I want to get a fair shot at finding a agent that will represent me, I have to research a little, have to go to the website, find what they are looking for, make sure they are even accepting queries, make sure they don't specialize in anything my book isn't.  Hopefully I find someone that says in their bio something I like, or something that leads me to believe that they might take a chance on an unproven and unknown writer that has just sent an email query.    

And the worst is, I have to wait (unless I get rejected in record time).  I have to send out a couple more letters, wait some more.  I don't want to flood the entire industry with queries; I'm not looking for just anyone, I'm looking for the right someone.

And all this means that I am filling my very limited time with all this stuff, the researching and sending, and the tracking, and I'm still not writing anything new.  I work a full-time job.  I value time with my family.  I also, somewhere in there, need to sleep occasionally, need to play my guitar, and kiss my wife, and take out the garbage, and feed the dog, and remember, we're going over to the in-laws because someone is doing something that we need to witness, and the neighbor needs help moving a refrigerator, and really, sometimes I just need to unplug, walk away from the computer, check out, watch a movie or play a game.

I have outlines for three new novels.

I have two children's books that need illustrated and polished

I have a beautiful idea for a series of short novels for older children.

And I'm spending my time sending letters to agents and clicking around on agency websites.

Again, I know this is part of it, but it feels like busy work, administrative nonsense, like I'm spinning my wheels when there is real stuff that needs done.  Even without writing, I would consider myself a relatively busy man, even without trying to shoehorn this into my life, trying to find room where there really is none, I would have a pretty full dance card.  The work that I'm doing now isn't the work that I want to be doing, the good stuff where you can get lost in your world, and you hit that sweet spot where you forget that time is passing and the words pour out they way they were meant to.

Ideally, I would be doing this for a job, quit the 9-5, drop the hour of driving, put on my headphones in the morning and not come up for air again until lunch.  But I have bills to pay and mouths to feed, and as much as I want this, I am not willing to sacrifice everything, not willing to miss the life I have while I search for a way in to the life I daydream about.  This comes first, this phase, where writing is what I do when I'm not doing other things, instead of the other way around.

But it's hard sometimes.  Damn hard.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Rejected!

I got rejected in eight hours.

The first agency I sent a query to preferred electronic communication.  I sent off a query letter with a sample of the manuscript as per spec, and by the morning already knew that they did not want to represent the book. 

I have mixed feelings about this.

First, I know its not personal.  Getting a form letter from a robot first thing in the morning, however encouragingly it may have been written, is decidedly impersonal.  They didn't say that they didn't like me.  They didn't even say that they didn't like my book; they just said that it didn't match their needs and good luck finding representation.  It's not personal. 

But dammit, it feels personal.  If feels like they're saying that they don't like me, that my book isn't good enough for them, it feels like I should just walk away and never write another word.  And as much as I was expecting it, as much as I knew that I wasn't going to find an amazing and dynamic agent that not only will sell my book to a huge publisher for a fortune, he or she would also sell the movie rights and I could quit my job and get a corduroy jacket, start smoking a pipe, move to a secluded but charming cottage in the country  and just watch the checks start rolling in, as much as I knew that probably wouldn't happen, I also knew that it might.  I've seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  I mostly knew there wasn't a golden ticket in that response to my query, especially not one that came back that quickly, but I still held my breath as I opened it, still held hope for that little glimmer of gold in the corner.

Also, I suspect that a monkey that smashed his head against the keyboard for an hour and sent the result to that agency got the same exact letter that I did.  

On the plus side though, I'm not waiting around for a response.  I can move on and send it off somewhere else, and maybe find someone who is willing to take a chance on my strange little book, who loves it like I do, who wants to see it in print as much as I do.

As much as it stings my oh so delicate pride, I know this is a part of it.  I know its not personal.

But it sure feels personal.  

 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Antiartists: The Beginning

Like a lot of people I have always wanted to write a book.

Unlike most people I actually went and did it.

What I want this to be is a chronicle of what happens afterward, when you have a manuscript and you want to see the thing in print.  And that is what I want.  My goal is to be able to walk in to a bookstore and buy my book, which means traditional publishers.  Which means agents.  Which means rejections.  Which blows.

Because even though I work a professional 9-5 and am a suburban father and husband, even though I drive a ten year old Honda,  I remain a punk somewhere in my heart, and the whole 'hat in hand, please Mr Traditional, would you be kind enough to consider considering to consider my heart and soul for your soulless corporate greed' still stings quite a bit.  If I was going to make music, I would DIY like a punk; I'd press my own vinyl, I'd tour, I'd hit up other like-minded guys and work the grass roots, because even now I still believe that it's not about the money, it's about the expression, about the soul of the thing.  Agents will want a piece and the publisher will take most of whats left; I will in the end, be the creator of the thing and will get mostly nothing.

But still.  I have always, always wanted to be a writer, a real one, that people like to read and pass their paperbacks on to friends and say holy shit man you've got to read this.  I do it.  I pass on my copy of Breakfast of Champions to people.  I don't ever expect it back; I'll just buy a new one when I want to read it again.  That's what I want.  A real physical, book, made of paper and everything, that you can hold and smell and accidentally drop in the toilet when you are reading and trying to brush your teeth at the same time.

So that means traditional.  And that means agents and publishers.  And that means rejections.  Which blows.

So I hope to record here what it is like to try and do this, to get a book published.  It's good, in case you were wondering.  I really believe that, heart and soul.  It's called Antiartists, and it's good.