I don’t write in a dark corner of my garage because I don’t need a reminder of how lonely I often am. I don’t write in a public place both because I don’t own a laptop and dislike trying to work in a crowded coffee shop. Amidst the noise of baristas calling out orders for wrappa frappa chappas, and kids screaming for attention from frazzled moms, and ice being crushed in a blender, I find it hard to concentrate. I write at the desk in my living/dining room on a messy desk with a big personal computer and a large monitor overlooking my ergonomically correct keyboard, music playing in the background. But it isn’t where I write or what kind of machine I use that’s really important.
It’s why I write. I want something important to emerge out of my efforts. I yearn for recognition as an author. I want a woman who’s waited at the bookstore where I’m promoting my book to ask for my autograph because something I wrote touched her heart. I want a man who thought he knew everything about the world to thank me for telling him something new. Among all the celebrity careers I can list – rock star, leading actor, superb athlete – nothing earns my respect more than “writer.”
But the road to publication is harder than ever to traverse, at least for traditional publication. I went to my writing critique meeting last week. One of the members had recently attended a local writer’s group where the publishing industry was a major topic. He reported bad news to us, that the current state of affairs has both editors and agents worried. No one can get a solid handle on what’s going on, at least not a reliable forecast of what can be expected in the industry. A book, once contracted, takes two years to final publication, making it a long shot for heavy sales under the best of circumstances, like a guaranteed best seller from a well known author might generate. Editors and agents are nervous about accepting the work of unknown writers because they can’t promise a devoted audience based on past huge sales. Big production expenses on the part of traditional publication venues and few purchases because of audience disinterest or inadequate promotion equal minimal sales and income loss. Company in the red. Bad investment.
Indie publications take far less time to get into the marketplace. In a matter of perhaps six months, while a topic is hot, with all the work undertaken by the author and whatever professionals s/he can afford to hire, getting a manuscript published and to the audience is far more likely. Traditional publishing can’t compete in a short order marketplace. The time spent trying to flag down and convince an agent to take on a project by an unknown writer and then sell that same unknown quantity to an editor might better be used to prep the same work for more immediate indie publication. A kind of get it to the marketplace quick as you can strategy.
My yearning for writing recognition generates a sweet and sour taste in my mouth. Imagine being able to show my kids something of value other than the handmade Halloween costumes that earned them awards at local competitions, or the Teacher of the Month tchotchkie from one of the schools where I’ve taught. I’m long past the illusion that I might win a literary award, but the honor of speaking at my local library about my newly published book would thrill me.
Despite the unfavorable news about traditional publishing, it’s still my first choice. I’m still trying (working on that query letter) and still hoping. But if it doesn’t happen, I’ll go the indie route as are so many writers.
Yearning for something of value is healthy. It suggests that I’m not done, not too old to try, to try harder, to try again. Fresh ideas and new opportunities await me as much as any millennial out of college. The future belongs to age and experience as much as to youth and energy. As long as I still yearn for my place at the author’s table, via one route or another, my chances for success remain possible. And that’s a great thing for an author who writes in her living room. I’ve kept this asset in my writer’s toolbox, next to my thesaurus and my books about plot and character development and a few critiques.
Yearn: the intense feeling of longing for something:
Sharon Bonin-Pratt, the writer
Public domain image courtesy: Friis Nybo, Girl Inspecting Her Hope Chest, courtesy: commons.wikimedia.org