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D is for doubt

July 16, 2012

Twenty years is a long time. This guy used to be sexy.

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.

  1. July 16, 2012 10:46 am

    Hang in there Chris. After all, it’s just a job, right? (Of course I know it pays the mortage and tuition, and the vet bills and the car loans and the…)

    In another twenty years, you’ll reflect on how you almost ditched your heart and soul, (hopefully salable at that point), because some idiot(s) don’t know how to turn off the “Insanity.”

    Happy Monday!

  2. Chris Hamilton permalink
    July 16, 2012 12:20 pm

    I actually wrote this several weeks ago and it’s taken some time to get published. Mostly, it was a mood piece aimed at capturing a specific type of frustration. In general, I think the step from pretty good writer to really good enough for strangers to pay to read your work is an enormous step. Anything that pushes you to get better is going to have a lot of ups and downs.

    The crisis has, for the most part, passed.

  3. July 19, 2012 10:52 am

    Ever co-author a manuscript? I did just that with two manuscripts that are on the editor’s desk now. It’s amazing how fast the writing goes if you are on the same page with your co-author, and I am better for the experience.

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