My self-imposed deadline has come and gone. And no, I didn’t meet it. Oh, so you weren’t going to ask about that? Well fine then. No, I don’t want to hear an “I told you so”, either.
Surprisingly, my world didn’t come crashing down about my ears because I didn’t finish my manuscript. (Seriously, this year is just hurtling by. Stop the world, I wanna get off!) Normally, this sort of setback or “falling short” would be followed by an overwhelming sense of failure, and a “the hell am I doing with my life?!” However, note that I made the distinction “overwhelming”. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a healthy sense of doubt, niggling in the back of my mind, trying to keep my pen from reaching the page, but right now, it’s not overwhelming.
(Of course, that is subject to change without notice.)
I’ve come to the conclusion that my only saving grace, the bulwark that holds back those crippling doubts, is the fact that I’m getting my writing out there. I’m doing something. I’ve participated in/submitted my work to six different publications (online and in-print) thus far in 2017. While that only equates to one a month, it’s more than I’ve sent out in the last two years, possibly combined.
That’s not a great average. The hell was I doing before that? Was I selfish, keeping all my work to myself, or just scared? Who knows. (I do have to remind myself that I was in grad school, and was concerned with weekly deadlines. So that counts for something.) Maybe I was wishing my work would spontaneously publish itself, that suddenly I’d wake up to an inbox full of rave reviews and contract offers, and a banking account balance with a few extra zeroes. The sad truth is writing is – has – become a business, just like everything else. (This in and of itself is nothing new.) And establishing a business/making it profitable takes time, dedication. And funds.
I’m obviously not saying my only motive to write is to become financially stable…but would it be so wrong, if it was? Is that such a bad goal to have? It doesn’t necessarily have to go against the “art for art’s sake” belief. I simply cannot go a day without writing, so arguing about motives is a moot point anyhow. But loving writing as much as I do makes it psychologically painful for me to do anything else. Akin to torture. So why not try and make it lucrative for myself? My entry fees for this year are already adding up, so if I don’t win the cash prizes or the equivalent by way of exposure, I must find a way to earn that money back. (I do believe there are legitimate pros and cons for reading/entry fees on behalf of lit mags and competitions, but that is enough of a topic on its own to save for another post.)
Business must have a solid foundation, and organization is key to laying that groundwork. Now, I’m a fairly messy person in all other aspects of my life (let’s not talk about my desk, my closet, or the space under my bathroom sink…) but now that I’ve begun making a concerted effort to organize my writing, it is a habit I will not break. I’ve started a spreadsheet of possible contests to enter, along with their deadlines, word counts and fees. Then, once I enter/submit a story, said title is added to a separate spreadsheet, arranged by date. Yet another keeps all my works catalogued by genre, word count and status of completion. Such a practice might be old news for you veterans out there, but for someone like me, who has previously shied away from digital organization (Excel what?), seeing my work “by the numbers” has been pretty eye-opening. And it’s converted me from a starry-eyed dreamer to a business-minded, results-driven doer.
…ok so that last bit isn’t quite true. I’m still a starry-eyed dreamer (though the stars are hard to see sometimes) but now I know when to shift from wishing to doing. (I so wanted there to be an appropriate word that rhymes with “wishing” to end with there. Drat.)
This has been a really long-winded way of saying I’m giving myself an extension for my novel. (January 1st, 2018?) Sans tears and begging for the mercy and pity of a professor, no less! (Hard to believe I’m not a student anymore. Wonder how long that will last…PhD?) For now, I’m giving myself the freedom to love my littler works, those bite-sized nuggets, both the unborn and the all grown up, in the hopes I can find them homes where others might enjoy them too. Writing is solitary, but reading certainly doesn’t have to be.