Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Protecting the dream, part 2: When You're Ready

Publishing is a very mysterious world to people. I know, because when I was a teenager interested in publication for the very first time, it was a mystery I couldn't seem to solve. No one had a clue how it worked. All anyone could tell me was: Writers are people with books in bookstores who get paid money to keep writing.

The problem with this is, it doesn't account for all the people who aren't yet published. Still, this is how people tend to think. So if you introduce yourself as a writer, but your books aren't published, and you're not making money, well--what are they supposed to think? You're the girl who wishes she were a writer?

This makes me feel just a teensy bit insecure.

Writing is one big dream. You have to fight for the dream, of course. But you also have to repress it, stuff it back into that drawer; you have to plug away and keep working before letting that dream out into the world. I love the way Erma Bombeck put it:

“There are people who put their dreams in a little box and say, ‘Yes, I’ve got dreams, of course I’ve got dreams.’ Then they put the box away and bring it out once in awhile to look in it, and yep, they’re still there.”

You need to keep this dream safe. And sometimes the people you have to protect it from are the very people telling you to pursue it--because you're not ready to pursue it. Not yet. It's not ready.

So I have my caveats. My little layer of perspective. I will happily give anyone my work to read, so long as I get to explain myself first.

Of course, there are situations where you can't do this, such as when sending it out to betas. Or when your book reading gets played before the whole class, like mine did.

Or when your book gets published.

You know Tahereh Mafi, the debut author of Shatter Me? It's new and it's making big waves, and Tahereh's humorous blog was making waves before she was ever even published. Which is why I love it when she says things like this:

"i meet people and they say things like "omg i just googled you!"
i say goodbye to people and they say things like "omg i'm going to google you!"

i'm not exactly sure what people hope to impart when they say these things to me; no doubt they think they're complimenting me in some way, and so i try to be cool about it and manage to nod and smile and before pulling a paper bag over my head. because in truth, these exclamations make me want to go home and hide all my google-bits and build a blanket-fort under my desk and live there for the next 10 years.

but then (!)

just as i've put the finishing touches on my hermit-nest (!)

i'll get a really wonderful email from a reader that makes me so happy that for a moment, i don't even mind that my google is showing. i'll put pants on that day and actually leave my house...and haul myself to a bookstore...there, i will inevitably find myself in front of the Young Adult section, standing there in my unbearably self-conscious skin, wild-eyed and crazed, suddenly acutely aware of just how much my google is showing." -- (full post here.)

In my audio class, I felt exactly like my Google was showing. I felt like I hadn't dressed modestly enough or that I had a physical deformity, or possibly, that I reeked of BO and they could all smell it. I didn't feel ready. Listening to them listen to my production was torture--measuring every awkward line of dialogue, every over-dramatic word choice, every time I didn't get to the point--I died a thousand little deaths.

Faintly, I thought to myself, why is this so hard?

When will it be ready?

Then it smacked me in the face. Never. It will never feel perfect or ready or covered up enough, or safe. I will never be able to write in such a way that I don't need caveats, because everyone is different and you can't make them all happy, and even published writers like Tahereh Mafi with all her big waves are still afraid of their google-bits showing.

And what I realized is this. You have to recognize that some people won’t get it, this dream of yours. Some will never understand. That doesn’t make your dream any less valid. And, on the other hand, some people will get it. Even before you’re published; even if they don’t know about the publishing world. For no reason other than your raw potential, they will appreciate what you’re trying to do.

I will be forever grateful to my classmates for the way they reacted. Like they were professionals. Like they could judge quality, and I had wowed them, and they were interested in knowing more--because somehow, they had been hooked by whatever good bits were shining through the bad bits of my production. They asked me intelligent questions about the publishing industry, and my plans; they wished me luck. They said, "hey, what was your bloggy thing called again? I want to check it out."

I never got to thank them.

So if you guys are reading this?

Thanks a million.

Truly and always,
-Creative A


April Plummer said...

What a great post! I really don't have anything to add. But I really enjoyed the post. Here's to dreams and protecting them...and most of all making them come true!

Creative A said...

April, I could hug you! It's such a personal post that, well, it helps to know someone else out there got it.

To making dreams come true, and everything that implies!


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