I was thinking of both today, how each takes not only commitment, dedication, and prolonged effort to see it through, but also, a huge fucking leap of faith.
And zero guarantees.
The following story may be familiar to readers of this blog. Begging pardon if I told it before. Pretty sure I have.
In college, way back when, I took a lot of art classes, thinking I’d go into advertising one day. In one such class, we had to create a poster with the history of flight as our theme, choosing an artist and basing our poster on that artist’s work. Our posters were then going to be judged by our peers to decide which would go into the annual student show.
On the big day, posters were displayed around the room. The professor stopped at each and asked students to decide yes or no. Every poster in that room was a realistic depiction of flight, save mine. My poster, based on the work of Peter Max, was an insane thing: a crazy-ass bird in the clouds, wearing flight goggles and balancing on a fish balloon, with more balloons and flying pigs and grinning, flying clowns…
When my professor got to mine, he asked the class, “Who thinks this poster belongs in the show?” Nobody spoke, which pretty much spoke volumes. But I thought it good–crazy as shit, but good–so I took a chance, piped up, “I do.” And the professor said, “So do I.”
As writers, we take risks. All the fucking time. We pour our hearts and souls into our work; first, just trying to get the damn thing done, then, editing and revising, and editing and revising some more. That process alone can be fraught with crushing disappointment and doubt. In fact, it takes a real commitment to see the process through; to turn what is–hopefully–a good idea into a good story, well-written and well-wrought, possibly worthy of. . . you know.
If the writer ever gets to that point, a fresh hell known as querying comes into play. Again, commitment is paramount, especially when those rejections start piling up. Tentative hopes and confidence erode to the point where writers find themselves at a crossroads: Do I keep trying, or do I call it quits? Is all of this effort, all this goddamn work, worth it? Especially when one considers that nothing, nothing, is guaranteed.
And so, it comes down to faith. Faith in your work. In your novel. So you make a conscious decision: no, or yes. Only you know which decision is best for you, and that decision is yours alone to make.
If you say yes, then for you, the end–one possible, glorious end–really does justify the means, justify the work, the heartache and heartbreak, the nagging doubts that plague a writer who’s suffered rejection after rejection, who knows the chances of getting an agent, a publisher, an audience who loves and respects their work–are slim to none, at best.
I have found myself standing at those crossroads many times. But each time, I had just enough faith in my little novel–crazy, I know–to keep on trying, dammit. And finally, I found an wonderful agent who loved my manuscript and believed in it as I did. And I have to have faith that one day, a publisher will feel the same way. And maybe, one day, so will readers. Maybe, one day, the powers that be will smile on my little novel, and tell me it has merit; prove it to me with positive reviews, with dollars and cents.
Marriage and novels. Chances are, neither will succeed. For the woman or man looking at that other person, poised to make the ultimate commitment, chances are 50/50 it won’t work out. When a person says I do, they are taking a great leap of faith, taking a chance, a risk, travelling that road to its end, whatever that may be. For a writer, odds of success are way worse than 50/50. The risks may never outweigh the benefits, and the benefits are never guaranteed. The shear effort of trying to write a novel, of seeing it finished, seeing it agented, seeing it published, seeing it on flippin’ NYT Best-Sellar list, may be too much. When you sit down to write The Great American Novel, nothing is promised. Nothing.
Do you have faith in your novel, enough faith to keep trying? Faith enough to write one more chapter, revise one more time, send out one more query, write one more novel if that one doesn’t get picked up by a publisher, get read by a paying public?
Call me crazy but yeah, I do.