D is for doubt
I’ve been working on different variations of the same novel for more than twenty years now. I’ve swapped out enough parts that nothing’s original. The characters and location are completely different. The circumstances are different. Even the genre has changed. And yet, I still don’t have a salable novel.
Think about that. I started writing this work in progress during the first Bush administration, back when AOL hadn’t come yet, let alone become huge and faded into oblivion. My work in progress is older than my college-aged daughter. There have been five presidential elections since I started, four new Major League Baseball teams, a marriage and two kids. The end of history came and history started again, and we plunged headlong through the decade of terrorism, bank failures, and clergy scandals–and made it to the other side.
And still, I don’t have a salable draft of a novel I started almost half my life ago.
It’s better than it used to be. But still not salable. At some point, haven’t you shoveled enough dirt into the bottomless pit?
It’s a joke. A stupid, selfish joke on myself and the people who would like to spend time with me, but can’t because I’m trying to squeeze in another round of revisions.
Raise your hand if you’ve felt something like that in your writing.
Today (as I write this) I’m feeling it because work left the station called Insane and is chugging full-tilt toward Chernobyl-like meltdown. An IM I missed last night at quarter to seven because I was working out and nine e-mail messages and two meeting invitations after nine o’clock by people who were working while I was playing at fitness.
So I can do my job–and sell out other things that are important to me. Or I can keep up playing at being a writer and watch the people I work with pile on the sixteen-hour days handling the crisis of the day.
It’s a really hard decision. I won’t get fired if I’m not around at 9:30 to answer e-mails. But if my team is working and I’m not…
So today I doubt.
Tonight, I might quit. If not tonight, then tomorrow. Or the next day. Or even next week.
But probably I won’t. Probably things will ebb a little–they always have, so far. And sanity will make an appearance professionally–if only a fleeting one.
And I will write a blog post sometime in the future announcing that two decades of hard work have paid off.
But today, that seems as realistic as a day in which I’m not straining to manage three different crises while appearing to pay attention in a small meeting I have booked for this morning.
Tug McGraw once said “You gotta believe.” Sometimes it’s really hard.