I’m going to admit to something that I haven’t wanted to admit to myself for a long time: the reason for my creative funk, all my questioning and browbeating, is at heart a temper tantrum. Why? Because I didn’t get my way.
By now, I was “supposed to” have landed an agent. I really was convinced that my writing was good enough. Even though I knew it was certainly possible that it wouldn’t happen within six months, I didn’t really think it wouldn’t. I believed at least that I would get requests for fulls and that those would tide me over.
I did get those requests, but early on, and nothing since about Thanksgiving. While I’m aware there are other options in publishing (I’m looking at small presses), I’ve still found myself wondering: what’s really in store for my career? Is this really what’s meant for my life?
I hope not. Because the thought of not being a novelist really, really depresses me.
But here’s the other thing, the other part of this confession. What I was hoping for was to be a wunderkind. I’m turning 33 in a month, and I really just wanted to be “discovered” and published before I turned 40. I wanted this because no one has ever thought much of me (at least until I met my husband). I was “nothing special” for many years. Two teachers loved my writing, but my parents didn’t love it and my peers didn’t get it. I have always wanted to “prove” myself, even though none of those people will ever be satisfied.
An author gave me some advice a few years back that I’ve kept, and now that I’m in this position, her words mean a lot more to me than they did then: “There’s been a lot of discussions of youth/writing recently. But you know what? There’s absolutely no percentage to being a wunderkind because, eventually, they’re going to take the kind away and you’re going to have to be a wunder on your own. And, at the risk of sounding very, very vain, I’m fairly confident that there’s not a 30-something on the planet who can write a wiser book than I can. Better, more beautiful? Sure. But there are things we learn as life goes on that makes writing richer with each decade. So think about the life as part of the writing, and don’t beat yourself up.”
What elicited her advice? My fear, even then, that I wouldn’t get anything done because of my kids.
In many ways I’m in a better position now than I was then. I have a number of short story credits in good, reputable markets; I’m helping to edit a magazine. So I can’t say I’m still stuck in a rut, and that’s good. Meanwhile, like I wrote to Bethany, fiction is an intrinsic part of my sense of balance. For my own sake and that of my family, I need to continue to pursue it. Even if it’s only a few sentences a day. And that “wunderkind” thing? Well, maybe that’s my personal bar that needs to be lowered.