“Either you deal with what is the reality, or you can be sure that the reality is going to deal with you” – Alex Haley
Alex Haley’s Rootsbecame a defining moment in American culture when it won the Pulitzer Prize and aired as an Emmy Award winning TV miniseries in 1977. Though it dealt with many social issues, at its core, this was a story about family and the power that comes from being tethered to one’s beginnings. Everyone needs those times in their life when they remember from whence they came and thus consider where they are headed.
Today, I took one such mental journey to reflect on my writing roots. That led me back to something my wife dug up a few weeks ago – my first published words. It was a six line poem in our High School literary journal. Trust me; I’m doing you a favor by not printing it here. I’ll spare you the pain and boredom of what transpired over the next 35 years before I grew brave enough to give the writing itch a scratch again.
When that day came I did what everyone does when they are ready to write the next great American novel. I got an idea and started writing, and writing, and writing. I poured myself into the characters (lots of them by the way) of that story and before long typed “The End”.
The next logical step was to Google up a willing publisher and send those words off. Six weeks later that lucky “reputable” publisher sent me an impressive looking gold foiled trimmed 10 page contract via Express courier. “Your manuscript shows great promise,” said the impressively titled acquisitions editor. “We are sure that by working together, The Tokenwill be a great success.”
As I read on, my persistently multi-tasking mind scanned the pages that followed as I thought, “This writing gig isn’t hard at all.” This was great. I was going to be able to skip all those tedious books on writing, jump right into my next story idea, and call my aging mother and let her know her baby boy’s name was going to be seen on bookshelves all over the country. So much for my sister, 12 years older than me, being the mental superstar of the family.
But just as I imagined myself calling up Ted Dekker and Dean Koontz to tell them to watch their backs because a new player was in the house, the last page of the contract brought me crashing back to reality. “Please sign in all the appropriate places and include a check in the amount of $3,895.00 so we can begin the work of putting your fine novel to press as soon as possible.”
This reality check was all too indicative of that period in my life. It had been a disruptive few years, with more than one career change and what amounted to a complete emotional and spiritual meltdown. There is always a price to pay for those real stories of life.
In spite of this let down and ensuing diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, I told my ego and feelings to take a hike and hunkered down for another assault on this thing called writing. This time I read the books, sought some advice, and came up with a battle plan. It looked something like this:
- Learn the Craft
- Polish My Novel
- Find an Agent
- Launch my Brand
- Query and Send out Proposals
- Get Published
- Survive in the Real World
Next time, I’ll let you know how that plan is working out these days. For now, let just say “Survive the Real World” should have been at the top of the list.
How about you? Anyone care to share how their plans for life are going? It’s not that hard and this is a whole lot cheaper than paying for therapy. Why do you think I wrote this article?