You want to write a book. You’re bristling with creativity, wit, love of story and a fascination with words (or images) that borders on the pathological. Great. But let me save you some time. Go down to your local lab and have some blood drawn. Have it tested for doggedness. That’s what you’re really going to need.
Last week, Adi Rule wrote about how hard writing is. (To see that excellent and funny post, please click here.) One thing that makes it hard is the lack of guarantees. You spend years writing your debut novel only to discover that it’s not your debut novel. It’s the novel that taught you how to write a novel. Feel free to cry, rant and howl a bit. But then pick up your pen (or keyboard) and start the next novel.
If you write picture books, you may write and then lovingly, compulsively revise 15-20 picture books a year. Only one (maybe) will become a picture book. With actual pictures that exist somewhere other than inside your head. The rest become part of a dogged study of page turns, rhythm and endings. I think there are illustrator equivalents which involve obsessive use of sketchbooks and experiments with form, media and texture.
I hesitate to even bring up this next bit. We are, perhaps, neurotic enough without thinking about this and I don’t think we want to stay here long. Still. Let’s say you finally publish that first book. Maybe it’s starred in every review that exists. I hope it is. But what if it’s not? What if, in spite of the astonishing hours of work that went into creating, revising and promoting, it makes a distressingly small splash?
Let’s make a pact right now. We’re going to be ok. We’re already going to be on to the next thing. We’ll pick up our pencil, brush, stylus or laptop and keep going. We’re going to get better and better. We’re dogged.
Mylisa Larsen has been telling stories for a long time. This has caused her to get gimlet-eyed looks from her parents, her siblings and, later, her own children when they felt that certain stories had been embellished beyond acceptable limits. She now writes children’s books where her talents for hyperbole are actually rewarded. She is the author of the picture books, Instructions for Bedtime (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)
You can visit her online at her website.