OK, authors – show of hands: how many of you have fantasized about your “I have arrived” moment?
Maybe it’s the day you finish your first manuscript. Maybe it’s the day you get an agent. Maybe it’s the day you land a book deal. Maybe it’s the day you hit the New York Times bestseller list and win a Pulitzer Prize in literature but miss the ceremony because you’re busy rescuing an endangered Markhor from a bear trap.
Over the years, I’ve had fantasies about all of those things. In my mind, these were events heralded in by a band of angels singing from on high while copious amounts of money and good wine flowed my way.
But even more important than the money or wine or even the angels would be this: I wouldn’t have to work so hard.
Because let’s face it, I’m lazy. This isn’t a trait I highlight in job interviews, but it’s true. Pythagoras laughs when I say this and insists I’m the least lazy person he knows – that I’m actually just disturbingly efficient. I refuse to wear shoes that don’t slip on because tying is too much work. Call that what you want, but it seems lazy to me.
So in my ideal fantasy world, my “I have arrived” writing moment would also be the day I could kick back and do nothing to further my writing career besides...well, write.
But after eight years of work and finally reaching many of those milestones I mentioned above (minus the Markhor, damn his endangered hide) I know my odds of achieving this fantasy are fairly similar to the odds of George Clooney appearing naked on my doorstep with a tub of butter and a set of jumper cables.
The unfortunate fact of publishing is that authors really don’t get to spend that much time writing. We devote countless hours to studying our genre, researching the subject of our books, querying agents, blogging and tweeting to establish an online presence, working on pitches for editors, seeking blurbs from other authors, and marketing the hell out of our upcoming releases.
Somewhere in the middle of all that, you have to find time to write. And as much as you might wish for it, most of those tasks I just listed don’t go away when you reach your “I have arrived” moment.
I thought of this yesterday when I was chatting with my agent, Michelle Wolfson, about how many books I might hope to sell when my first novel is released in August 2011. She reminded me that much of it depends on me, and how aggressively I market myself and my books. She encouraged me to write down ideas for contests and cross-promotions, book reviewers and virtual book tours. By the end of our email exchange, I was thinking, “holy crap, this is going to be a lot of work.”
And you notice how very little of it involves actual writing?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to be presented with this challenge. But if you’re one of those authors hoping your “I have arrived” moment will include a trusty assistant hand-feeding you bon-bons while you leisurely type up your next bestseller, you might want to consider a more realistic fantasy. Maybe one that involves George Clooney actually riding an endangered Markhor. Naked, of course.
This business isn’t for the faint of heart, nor is it for the lazy. There will never be a point in your writing career where you won’t have to work hard. Never. It may be exhilarating and rewarding and even fun, but it will never, ever be easy.
Now go grab your own bon-bons and get to work.