As my writing/publishing journey continues, I thought it might be interesting (you know, to all six people who at some point might deem this blog post worthy enough to read) to offer up a glimpse of where I’m at in the process.
Last week, my agent submitted my manuscript to ten editors. She culled a list based on her extensive expertise and crafted a pitch letter, and once I gave it the thumbs up, she went ahead and sent it all out into cyberspace.
And all of a sudden, this whole thing became a LOT more real.
Now I’m going to be waiting – living in that glorious purgatory between being someone who writes books for a living vs. being someone who writes books as a hobby. And here’s the thing: I suck at waiting.
Like, really badly.
I’ve never been a patient person. Kind? Sure. Friendly? Hell, yeah. But patient? Zen? Still? Calm? Shit, no. Let me paint you a picture of little K.J., approximately age nine. Once I became aware that there was no Santa Claus, I began routinely checking the bottom of my mother’s bedroom closet throughout Advent to discover what I’d be getting for Christmas. Often, these poorly hidden gifts were second-rate knockoffs of the brand name items I’d hoped for but knew my family could not afford, or worse, bad guesses of what I was “into” that year. Mild disappointment would set in, but it was still better than the hopefulness that would inevitably come from not knowing what to expect under the tree. Some might say this makes me a pessimist, but I disagree. I think it’s my eternal optimism that gets me in trouble.
I’ve been battling a really bad cold for about eight days now. All week long, I’ve been sucking down megadoses of children’s Zyrtec by day and children’s Benadryl by night. (Please don’t judge; these are the drugs we have in our house. Also, I’m fully vaxxed and I took a rapid test; it’s not COVID.) The upside to feeling like crap is that it forces me to sleep more. Well, that and the fact that the Benadryl I’m taking with dinner makes me so woozy I can’t stand up straight.
The good thing about sleeping is that it makes the time go by faster. I’m a big fan of playing possum – it’s my go-to defense mechanism when life gets rough. I learned this strategy when I was in my junior year of high school and my dad moved out. I can say it flippantly now, like it wasn’t one of the most earth-shattering things that ever happened in my then-young life. I was so inconsolable that I didn’t know how I would ever live through it. I took up smoking cigarettes and napping for long periods of time. Somehow, that helped, because what they say is true: time really does heal all wounds.
But time, when you’re stuck in a state of anticipation, can also be your worst enemy – especially idle time. It’s so easy to obsess over minutia: Is it okay that we submitted the manuscript on a Wednesday? Does it matter that Thanksgiving is in a month? What if the editor likes it but can’t convince the rest of her team to make an offer on it? What if, what if, what if? Taken at face value, all of these questions are like confetti on a big chocolate cake. They’re just sprinkles – you can take them or leave them. What really matters is if the editors think the cake tastes good. If someone likes it, I should be hearing soon enough.
And in the meantime, I can stay busy writing. Which is what I’m trying to do. Right now, I’m working on a sequel to the book that’s out “on sub” right now (I’m working on my author lingo, lol). What’s great about that is I already know my characters. Like, intimately. I’ve been living in their heads since January, when I started writing the first novel. And I love them. They’re quirky but smart, each trying to navigate their way around life’s obstacles without getting completely trampled in the process. I don’t know if it’s like this for other writers, but the time I spend writing is kind of other-worldly. I feel like I’m not sitting at my desk, pounding away at the keyboard, but rather I’m alive inside my head, embodying whichever character I’m taking on the voice of. It’s wild. I know they’re not real, but I think about them as if they are – and Lord knows, I spend more time with them than with some of the very real characters in my actual life.
What’s also really cool is that when I finish a bunch of pages, or a section of the story, I bring it home and give it to my husband to read. Now, I can’t speak for the rest of you married ladies out there, but if I’m being completely honest, I’ll just offer up the fact that marriage is seriously boring sometimes. I love my husband, don’t get me wrong, but we’ve already done most of the stuff that most folks spend their younger lives striving towards: we’ve bought the nice house, we’ve fixed it up, we’ve had the requisite two children and gone through their important early-childhood milestones. We even bought the summer house and fixed that up, too. We’ve got good jobs, cars that were new when we bought them (a decade ago), a handful of friends who we see when there’s time, and plenty of family obligations. Add to that the occasional work issue or (extended) family drama, juggling schedules, or getting our kids to where they need to be on time, and there’s just not a whole lot of hours left in the day for much else. But for about ten blissful minutes before we go to bed, I can slide a small stack of pages his way and ask for his feedback, and we can have a conversation about invented drama that’s a hundred percent non-toxic to our marriage! It’s an awesome gift, kind of like when you discuss a particularly interesting TV show, but the stakes are higher, since the story we’re discussing has the potential to generate income for our family.
Thinking like this, of course, brings me back to the reality of the moment – the waiting.
But here’s the thing. If nothing sells, if my agent gives up on me (highly doubtful, because she’s awesome), then at least my daughters will always have the pages and pages saved on my laptop or printed out in chunks on my husband’s nightstand. Someday when I’m dead, they’ll be able to read what I wrote and feel close to me. And that will have to be enough. Because really, at this point in my life, the only person I am trying to prove myself to is me. My kids don’t need me to be a published author. Sure, it would be fun to walk into Barnes and Noble and see my new release on a display table, or to take my family on a book tour and get to see lots of different cities across the United States. It would be intoxicating to have a book hit The New York Times bestseller list or get selected as a Reese’s Book Club pick. It would be amazing to have enough money to send my kids to private school without having to apply for financial aid every year, or to drive a car that’s not ten years old and doesn’t rattle on the highway, or to have enough money to upgrade to a house in Cape Cod with a private pool that overlooks the beach. That’s the ultimate dream, right?
And yet. The car might rattle, but it still runs. Our Cape house is tiny but there’s a beautiful hydrangea bush right outside our window where all species of birds love to frolic and visit. My girls experience the same private school education as the kids who pay full price. I have a great day job and a supportive, loving, wonderful husband. And we have a playful, crazy kitten to snuggle with (when she feels like it).
In and of itself, what I’ve got is enough.
It’s more than enough – it’s the richest, most decadent, delicious chocolate cake imaginable.
Anything else is just sprinkles.