The Upside of a Setback

This post was almost titled, “mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be writers” but I hate to be discouraging about something that deep down, I love. In this blog, I’ve been giving glimpses into the themes of the book I’m working on. Today, I want to give you a glimpse into the writing process. “Process” makes what I’m doing sound logical and planned. It’s not. Here’s why.

In October, I got sick. Very sick. With kidney stones, which, in case you are wondering, are NOT recommended. Sickness was an interesting experience, at least after the agonizing pain had been muted with narcotics and I stopped thrashing around and moaning and generally alarming everyone. Sickness stopped me dead in my tracks and landed me in bed. Rushing around to do errands, keep house, run the family schedule and working? Off the table.

I had been pushing myself very hard to get my book proposal completed. I had flown to New York to meet my agent, rainbows sprouting and birds chirping as I skipped along, thinking I had finished the bulk of the proposal, and all that remained was polishing the marketing section. Then, BOOM. I got run over by the Mack Truck of unexpected news, which was I need to write a third sample chapter, from the heart of the book. The second piece of unexpected news, although it wasn’t really news as much as stating the obvious: I don’t have a platform. I need to get one if an editor in New York is going to buy my book. By “platform,” I mean, readership in the thousands who are hanging on my every word, preferably in the national media. I need to be writing in the national media about the themes in The Houseover, before I can get a book published.

This is a chicken-and-egg situation. Your book can get you attention in the national media, but to get a book deal, you need to prove that your idea appeals by already being out in mainstream media writing about the subject. Today, I recognize this as true and necessary, but at that moment, I felt like a fighter who had taken a left hook to the jaw. I might have even seen stars.

Then, BOOM. The next day, I got hit with the Mack Truck of sickness. It was a knock-out.

Days of enforced rest showed me that I need to stop rushing. This book has already been a longer road than I expected, and if you ask me in my most impatient moments, it’s too long. Once I know what I want (which sometimes takes years to clarify), I want it NOW. Anyone who was around when I met and married Andy in 15 months knows that I have this quality. This is my third book proposal, and I know it’s good. I know what I have. I want everything to happen, and I want it to happen now.

In mythology, there are gatekeepers who stop you on your quest. They throw up an obstacle. Your job as the heroine is to overcome it, in order to prove that you a) are worthy of the quest and b) you really want what you are seeking. I am no Greek goddess, but I get my own storyline. We each have many of these stories in our lives.

So , I am working on a blog post to submit to the New York Times, and of course it’s a long shot, but I have to try. More importantly, I want to try. I know this is part of the process. And I will cheerfully write another sample chapter, in its own sweet time.




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