Monday, July 20, 2015

"Why are you wasting your time on that stupid book?"

After a yesterday of strenuous yardwork, my limbs ached with soreness this morning and simply refused to be willed into motion.  So, I indulged myself with a few extra minutes of motionlessness. 

But my mind--my frequent worst enemy--was racing along furiously at warp 9.8 (Trekkers will know what that means; for the non-sci-fi-inclined, you can safely assume that it means pretty damned fast ... even faster than a politician's sidestepping of a pointed question).

For some odd reason, my thoughts meandered back through time and space to the years in which I was writing "Child of Privilege."  I was involved in a romantic relationship with a woman who--shall I say--was not exactly "author-tolerant."  Bluntly stated, the book--and my preoccupation with it--annoyed the hell out of her.  For the record, I do readily plead guilty to cancelling a number of dates with her because of a chapter I simply had to finish or an inspiration I simply had to pursue.

Things came to a head one evening while we were hanging around her apartment.  She wanted us to spend the evening visiting her family.  I wanted to fire up my trusty laptop and finish off a particularly difficult chapter.  Neither of us was in a mood that night to compromise.

The raw sewage hit the fan.


Her fiery words etched themselves into my book of memories that evening;  she and I went our separate ways shortly thereafter.

But this morning, with sore muscles and traces of soil still trapped under my fingernails, I found myself reiterating--and struggling to answer--my former girlfriend's question.  Even though the writing of "Child" is long over, I still spend many hours in promotional efforts to get the novel out there.  In addition, I've already devoted countless hours to the first draft of my 2nd novel; and many more hours of tedious work await me.

Why do I keep writing when the odds are stacked so convincingly against me?

On the negative side of the ledger, perhaps I am wasting my time.  I recall reading somewhere that getting trad-published has never been as difficult as it is right now.  Unless you're a "household name," a celebrity, or an established author with a kick-butt sales record, the agents and publishing houses don't even want to hear from you.  As a result, there are so many indie books--both good and not-so-good--out there vying for book-buyers' attention that getting noticed in that massive crowd seems virtually impossible. A slot on the best-seller list will likely remain an elusive dream for the vast majority of us.  If you're lucky, you may make enough in royalties to hike over to McDonald's and enjoy a burger.

All things considered, your odds of winning the lottery may indeed be better.

Okay, so why do I keep writing?

Because I have stories inside me that I'm dying to share with the world: stories about life, stories about people, and stories about this world of ours.  There's an inner drive that must express itself through my stories--even if only a handful of people ever ultimately read them.  They're stories with a reason, a purpose, a message, a nugget of wisdom I offer to folks with whom I feel a kind of kinship even though we'll probably never meet face-to-face.  I write about ordinary people overcoming extraordinary challenges with extraordinary strength and courage.  My quest is to write stories that will incite readers to feel, think, cringe, engage, laugh, cry, look around them, and ask questions ... both of themselves and of their world.  I will never write a light, fluffy read; any book that carries my name will impart an undeniable message to any reader with the heart to receive it.

Do I want to be a world-famous author?  HELL YES!  I would happily accept that responsibility.  I think a sizable percentage of us (myself very much included) long for that 15 minutes of fame we keep hearing about.  Some people even resort to committing heinous crimes and harming innocent strangers for the twisted thrill of becoming the lead story on the evening news.

Rest assured that I have no desire to commit any sort of crime, heinous or otherwise.  Nor do I have any desire to harm anyone.  If I never receive so much as a parking ticket for the rest of my life, that will suit me just fine. 

I'm ready to earn my 15 minutes by offering every book-buyer in this ol' world something positive and beneficial: a compelling read.  I'm ready to earn my stripes by writing stories that showcase the best and worst of human nature; that chronicle people overcoming insurmountable odds through bravery and determination; that depict the vital triumph of good over evil; and that offer (at least in a literary context) a little reassurance that happy endings can still happen in this day and age.  I'll pull no punches in my writing; I'll tell the stories as I see them in my mind's eye.  But I promise this to you, dear reader: you'll never get less than my best.  That's my responsibility as an author ... and I take it very seriously.

If--after all of my books have been written--I've given just one reader an unexpected glimpse into him- or herself through my words, or I've granted just one reader a few hours of escape from life's trials and tribulations, or I've provided just one reader with a literary companion during a lonely or troubled time, then I'll go to Saint Peter when my time comes and tell him that I've lived well, that I've touched somebody's life in a positive way.  I'll stand tall before him and loudly proclaim that I was an author ... maybe not a rich and famous author, but an author nonetheless.

And I'll be damn proud of it; I hope the folks who read my novels will share my pride.

By the way, since I've never been one to resist a long shot (I'm a self-pubbed author, right?), I WILL buy some lottery tickets tonight.

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