By now everyone on the planet must have heard the cliché, “It’s the journey that’s most important, not the destination.”
A friend who writes a travel blog (see story here) and who traveled with her husband to Greece to buy a house only to have the deal they thought was firm fall through, buys into this idea wholeheartedly for this and other reasons. But I hadn’t thought about it much until recently.
I’ve had to slow down this summer, thanks to a spooked pony who caused a fender-bender of sorts involving my lower back and tailbone. I can’t write when I hurt. It hasn’t been all bad. I’ve enjoyed many lazy afternoons napping on the patio in the company of my always-sleepy cat. But slowing down wasn’t enough to force me to ask why I’ve put such pressure on myself to get published in a short time. That came after hearing the stories of writers who had gone before me.
I attended the annual Pacific Northwest Writers’ Conference, primarily to pitch my story to agents and editors. I’d been working on a novel for three years and never once did I ask myself why I kept setting the goal of publication ASAP. Age I guess. It engenders a sense of urgency.
While at the conference I talked to a writing instructor whose first book was published in 2013. I’m paraphrasing what he said: “I wrote for two years before an agent told me I needed to start over. I listened and began researching my story from a different angle. It took me twelve years, but I did it.”
Twelve years? I’m comforted by having a ninety-three-year-old friend who’s working hard to get her memoir in shape for publication. If she can hang on so can I.
One morning I sat next to a woman who handed out bookmarks with testimonials about her latest novel. She asked what stage of the process I was in.
“I’m on my third draft.”
“I wrote fourteen,” she said.
Fourteen? I should have started sooner, maybe in kindergarten.
Nearly all the speakers, including many of the agents and editors, repeated the same mantra. Having a first book published isn’t magical. It doesn’t change your life, except that now you have to spend time marketing it as you work on a second.
Darn. I was expecting magic.
Do it because you love it, the experts said. Write because you are passionate about writing. Good writing always sells.
The moral of the story is that I haven’t given up wanting to be published, but I have let go of the pressure I’ve been putting on myself to work fast. A huge weight has lifted. I am now focused on the writing itself. I guess it’s the journey after all.
While I wouldn’t wish an injury on you, I’m glad—and relieved— that the fall from the pony has resulted in this insight. Recommended reading: Failure is Our Muse, NYT 7/27.
Thanks. Checking the library for the book right now.
Have a good trip!
. . . and I’m glad you’re taking all of us with you on the journey. Now, can you give me a tip for relaxing the pressure over here in Issaquah? As you say in your post, age alone creates a kind of urgency to complete the work.
Try this therapy:>)
Oh and I see that my new WordPress account has now become my handle for your blog! In case you’re wondering this is Barb. My youth suicide prevention group is starting a blog called MissionMental, using the generic name of B.E.S.T. (Building Emotional Strength Together).