Jon Katz over at Bedlam Farm usually has interesting things to say about the life of a farmer, and often the life of a writer. He’s carved quite a niche for himself and gathered a serious following after starting his website and publishing a few books. He reminds me of a modern day James Herriot, for those of you who may remember him. A humble, honest man who works hard and knows the value of simple living. I recommend you check out his blog if you haven’t seen it already. In any case, in a recent post he talked about the difficulties of being a writer, even a moderately successful writer with several books under his belt.
“I was sitting in Battenkill Books with Connie Brooks yesterday afternoon, signing boxes and boxes of “Dancing Dogs,” and Connie and I turned to one another at almost the same time and said the same thing: if we are signing and selling so many books, how come we don’t have any money? We sure felt successful, even if our bank accounts suggested otherwise. We both cracked up at the same time, and then said the same thing again: “but we are happy!” So we are. This is the writer’s life and the booksellers, I think, so lucky to be doing what we love and yet always chasing the realities of life, like everyone else.
Every writer I know – surely including me – thinks of every new book as the “big” book, the “breakthrough” book, the one that will end all of the struggle with money and position for good, will etch his or her place in literary history. The “big” book, I have come to see, is en ephemera, another rescue fantasy. I don’t think in those terms much any longer, and that is healthy. My wish for “Dancing Dogs” is that it touches people, makes them laugh, smile, cry, think. From the lovely reviews, off to a good start. And perhaps if I don’t expect it to be a “big” book, it just might be. Hope springs eternal.”
This is something that I struggle with as well, the fear that even when I get my book finished, even when it’s polished and has some beautiful cover art and is as excellent as I can possibly make it—even then, it still won’t get published. Or, if it does, it will languish quietly on some back shelf or in a dark corner of the internet, never to be discovered. That is my worst fear. That after six years of toiling and struggling to get this book finished, it will all be for nothing. I suppose you might say that it isn’t entirely wasted, that I’ve created something, brought something else into the world that wasn’t there before that is entirely my own. But when you pin all your hopes and aspirations on the success of your magnum-opus, it’s a little crushing to find out that you’ve been wasting your time.
Hopefully it won’t come to that. Hopefully this will be the break I’m looking for, and will propel me to success and fame and fortune. In either case, it hasn’t happened yet, so I have only the future to look forward to, and I choose to see it as something bright and wonderful.