If you’re a writer, you know what I’m talking about. That time when you are finished your novel, and you polished it as much as you can. And your agent has read it and given you feedback. And you clean up any suggested changes and send it back to your agent. And your agent declares it ready to meet the world.
And then, freeze. Strike a pose. AND….W-A-I-T.
And when you’re finished waiting, wait some more.
It’s like sending your baby to a private school with a registration screening committee. A committee that gets to decide if your baby is pretty enough to attend.
It’s difficult being creative. It really is. But it’s also a thrill like nothing else. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But I know the motivation behind Sally Fields’s 1985 Oscar acceptance speech. ALL creative types understand her motivation. When she said, “I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!” she was calming the insecurity beast that a great lion’s share of the creative community deals with.
We need some kind of confirmation that we’re doing something right. Not everyone needs an Oscar, or its literary equivalent. All I need to keep me going is a few kind words. I’d trade the Pulitzer Prize to hear one reader say I made them cry. That there is pure gold. I just want my words to touch someone…to make an infinitesimal difference…to cause someone to have an aha moment…or to sigh. That’s all.
When Sally made that now famous acceptance speech, she wasn’t being the least bit boisterous or proud or cocky or vain. Though the lines in that speech are often misremembered and quite a few people have her saying, “You like me. You really like me!” what she actually said makes all the difference in the world.
Sally kind of said, “THANK GOD! I DID SOMETHING RIGHT. YOU LIKE WHAT I DID!!” BUT!! Big but here. Just…keep in mind that in her ACTUAL speech, she also included the ever important angsty artist inclusion of…wait for it…
What kind of artist would she be to take the LIKE to mean forever…to mean You’re done. That’s it, take a bow. Take a seat. You can stop now. That RIGHT NOW part of her acceptance speech is the most important part. It means she can be momentarily satisfied with the results of her labours, boys and girls. But it also means she cannot rest on her laurels. FURTHER EFFORT MUST BE MADE! She got off that stage and she redoubled her efforts. When one is rewarded for their artistic endeavors, one must soldier on…move on to the next project…and the next project…and the next.
Don’t ever sit idle while you’re waiting for the world to catch up with your latest offering, my pretties. Waiting is time. Time is a commodity used to further explore creativity. If you do your waiting in creative quiet, you will surely fail.
As it turns out, the waiting is nowhere near the hardest part. The hardest part is having the courage and the drive and the passion not to wait. The writer-artist-actor-musician-performer is not meant to be idle. Keep going. The world waits for no person.
Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…
I was never one to write the fantastical. I never felt as though I had it in me. The past few years, however, I’ve been unusually adventurous in this department. It started with a brief and fleeting encounter with badness in my short story >> Rabacheeko.
I wrote Rabacheeko based on a friend’s nightmare. Then I entered it in a short story contest and was thrown for a loop when it received honorable mention. I mean, I did NOT like that story. It was too weird. I thought the made-up language and brushes with the bizarre were far too unfantastically dealt with. So much so…when the contest organizers invited me to read my piece at their anthology launch, I kind of said, “Yeah, sure.” I even considered going…but I was too humiliated by the piece. I could not read that in public.
Even after the sheer humiliation of having people read that short story, I still hadn’t had enough of world building. I wrote a Middle Grade novel called Dubious Pickles and the Space Between the Walls. Here’s the synopsis for that novel:
Everyone in Dobber Corner is afraid of Dubious Pickles. Everyone that is, except ten-year-old Arbour Lévesque. After an encounter with Dubious at the local thrift shop, Arbour knows there is nothing to fear. But when he follows Dubious home and peeks inside his windows, he discovers the world of impossibilities in which Dubious lives. Arbour witnesses a walking talking plastic man, a flying cat and a staircase that does everything twice.
Arbour decides to befriend the shy Dubious, but he knows it won’t be an easy task. He badgers his friends to help him infiltrate Dubious’ magical house. Inside, they discover that Dubious lives in a maze of secret passageways that honeycomb his mansion’s ancient walls. Afraid of their attention, Dubious attempts to scare the boys away. When drowning them in a room of pearls doesn’t do the trick, he tosses them into a cavernous abyss that takes them all to Nowhere Fast. Arbour’s brother Newton, a card-carrying genius-inventor-extraordinaire, lends a hand and the boys are able to overcome every obstacle Dubious throws their way.
The boys eventually convince Dubious they mean him no harm, but coaxing him out from behind his walls is but a short-lived victory. Bad things begin to happen in their town and the adults are quickly vanishing. Arbour knows that only the childlike Dubious can help him save the town from a threat more menacing than Dubious Pickles ever was.
Writing that novel took everything I had. I can dream up otherworldliness…sure, no problem. But to actually write it?! The task is as tiring as it is perplexing.
You would think I would have had enough. NOPE.
I am now knee deep in trying to complete the world I created for my 2014 Muskoka Novel Marathon novel, now renamed MY BOOK OF DREAMS. In it, the main character spends time in a bookstore that is NOT actually there. He has contact with a book that nobody else can see. Worlds keep shifting, time bends in odd ways. I don’t live in this world…so it’s not merely a stretch to imagine it…it’s hellish trying to get the vision from the fluidity of the brain’s landscape to the rigidity of words.
Don’t ever take world building for granted. If you watch a movie or read a book where it steps out of the everyday mundane reality of contemporary modern life…just know that whoever created that piece HAS DONE A LOT OF WORK CREATING THEIR WORLD FOR YOU.
I’m crawling through this piece, where I run through everything else. Difficulty level is at 11.
And who knows how convincing the realities of my story will even be for the future reader?! I’m asking for their suspension of disbelief, obviously…I hope I’m up to the challenge of giving them a new world to peek into.
Just what makes that little old ant think he’ll move that rubber tree plant? Anyone knows an ant can’t move a rubber tree plant.
If you were alive in the ’70s you will remember Laverne & Shirley singing that song…possibly even more than you would remember Frank Sinatra singing it. You see…it was their TRUE theme song. Not the show’s theme song, but Laverne & Shirley’s theme song. Whenever anything seemed hopeless, one of the two would remind the other that anything is possible. Laverne would start the first few lines to spur on the defeated Shirley…and within a couple lines Shirley would catch the bug and come to believe it…soon they’d be singing in unison…
HE’S GOT HIGH HOPES!
And high hopes? Well, they were enough. High hopes would see the girls through all their trials and tribulations. And as a kid watching my favourite show, I’d buy into it. I’d feel their hope…and the ant’s hope. I always knew an ant could move a rubber tree plant. IF he tried hard enough.
My high hopes as a writer have ALWAYS been— SAVE ONE PERSON.
That’s it. Make one single solitary reader walk away from my novel lifted. Saved. Understood. I truly believe that we can spark change in fiction.
This past weekend I submitted my newest novel, PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE, to my agent. I’m hopeful that the message in this new novel is heard by someone who needs to hear it. #YASaves and #BooksSaveLives We have to believe this. Why else do we write?