I think of this one as the anti-rant, a happy report from Darlene Ryan, author of Rules for Life and A Mother's Adoption Journey.I didn’t start writing to end up on the Today Show or the New York Times best-seller list. But if either of those happens I’ll be dancing in my green yoga pants and calling everyone I’ve ever met. I’m not even writing to get rich. Not that I would be offended by a big advance, should Random House come calling. I write because I like it, because I’m pretty good at it, because I’m a lot nicer to be around when I’m writing than when I’m not.
Yes I want to be published. Yes I want to be paid. I didn’t make enough money last year from my writing to live on. But I did make enough to buy a new refrigerator and pay for my kid’s skating lessons. Pretty cool. I have three books and a dozen or so articles published. No I haven’t been published by a “big name” publisher or in any magazines like Redbook or Good Housekeeping, but I’ve worked with some talented editors at reputable companies. I haven’t given my writing away and I haven’t paid for it to be published.
I’ve been a fitness instructor, a commercial copywriter and a late night disk jockey and I like being a writer more than anything else I’ve done. (And I loved working in radio.) I like it on the days when everything I’ve written sounds stupid. I like it on the days when getting each word on paper is like pulling out my nose hairs with a set of pliers. I make stuff up and people pay me for it. I’m not a doctor saving people’s lives. I’m not a teacher, teaching twenty-five second-graders how to multiply. I’m not a plumber up to my elbows in, well, you know what. I make stuff up.
I had a snazzy book launch party for book number two and I got to sign lots of books. Also pretty cool. A friend found book number three in a bookstore in New York City. That was enough to get me dancing in the previously mentioned green yoga pants. I get a rush out of seeing one of my articles in print. When I hold a new book for the first time I’m a wild as a five year-old who’s had too much chocolate. Sure I’d like to have more readers and make more money. But whining about how unfair publishing is isn’t going to make either of those happen.
Publishing is a business. That means at the end of the year they need to have made a profit. That means they buy manuscripts that will make money for the company. So if the choice is between a relationship book with a catchy tag-line and a flip, funny young author, or a book that suggests relationships are (Gulp) a lot of work, penned by an academic, guess whose manuscript they’re going to buy? Guess which book I'm going to buy? I know relationships are work, but I like catchy lines and flippant people. I also know that a bowl of broccoli is a lot better for me than a Hershey bar with almonds. But guess which one I run for when life gets rocky?
I like my current editor a lot. But if he had to choose between a young adult novel penned by Jessica Simpson or one written by me, I think he’s smart enough to take the slam-dunk.
Publishing houses are not charities. They don’t have to be fair. They don’t have any obligation to nurture new writers. If an agent or an editor doesn’t like my work that may be a matter of personal preference. If sixty-seven agents and editors don’t like my work it’s a pretty safe bet that what I have isn’t saleable. Maybe the market is saturated. Maybe my manuscript doesn’t fit any established niche. Or maybe the writing just plain sucks. So I’ll write something else.
Sure, I want a book that’s a best-seller. Sure, I’d like to be on Oprah or the Today Show. Or both. And I’m trying to make that happen. But if it doesn’t, I’m still happy with my writing career.
"Writing is considered a profession, and I don't think it is a profession. I think that everyone who does not need to be a writer, who thinks he can do something else, ought to do something else. Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness. I don't think an artist can ever be happy."
PRACTICAL MARKETING [Courtesy Zornhau, 2005]
"They should put the 1st couple of pages up in subway adverts. Having read them several times, you'd feel compelled to try the book - if it was any good."
PLATE OF SHRIMP [Courtesy Alex Cox’s REPO MAN, circa 1984]
"A lot of people don't realize what's really going on. They view life as a bunch of unconnected incidences and things. They don't realize that there's this like lattice of coincidence that lays on top of everything. I'll give you an example, show you what I mean. Suppose you're thinking about a plate of shrimp. Suddenly somebody will say like "plate" or "shrimp" or "plate of shrimp" out of the blue, no explanation. No point in looking for one either. It's all part of a cosmic unconsciousness."
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- ▼ May (10)