Trying To Land

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I have a piece of wind art hanging from my front porch roof.  It’s got two sets of scimitar-shaped arms made of enamel-coated steel, painted red and black.  The arms spin opposite each other around an axis of a pirate skull when the wind blows. I can see it through the window when I sit at my desk.  Yesterday a bird decided it looked like the perfect place to sit down and sing for a while.  Every time he tried to land on one of the arms, it would spin and throw him off.  The bird was undeterred, though.  I watched him try at least seven or eight times before I had to leave the room to do something else.  As far as I know, he kept going a while longer after I was gone.  He didn’t have to work so hard for a place to sit.  The gardenia bushes on either side of my steps are more than big enough to hold a bird.  But he wanted to sit on my wind art, and he was determined to make it work.

Most of you reading this have been hanging here at Magical Words for a long time now, and you know this while writing gig is not easy.  First you have to write a book that’s worth reading, which involves weeks and months of sitting in a chair, listening to the voices in your head and typing as fast as you can.  Then you have to convince someone to buy what you wrote, and put up the time and money to get it into bookstores all over the country.  And you’re not even done then, because you have to help sell your book by going to signings and cons, being interviewed, writing blog posts and so on.  And while that’s all going on, you’d better be writing another book.  An incredible book that’ll blow everyone away, better than your last one.  Around you swirls the rest of the world, the part with 9-5 jobs and ordinary bedtimes and friends and family who wonder where the hell you are.  Your best bud calls and asks if you can come out for dinner and a movie, but you can’t because you’re on a deadline/Skyping to an online book club/in the middle of a truly difficult chapter that you need to finish before your head explodes.  Your family keeps suggesting careers that you should go back to school and study, since it’s so much safer being a teacher/banker/chemical engineer.  The world is spinning underneath you, and all you want to do is land for a minute.  But you don’t want to land just anywhere.  There’s plenty of room in the regular world, but you want to land in that perfect spot, the one that’s just under your grasp but you know is exactly where you want to be.  So you keep flapping, in the hope that this time you’ll hit it.

In Kalayna’s last post, she talked about the fear that comes with a writing career, even before you’re published.  In the beginning, there’s that fear of rejection, and later, the fear of success.  Fear is paralyzing.  The ideas are fewer and farther between, the words stop flowing and the book you’re trying to write starts fading into memory.  There’s nothing that can destroy a career more completely than fear.  So when you’re feeling that paralysis, remember my bird.  So far he hasn’t figured out how to land on the spinner, but he’s determined to defy even gravity to get what he wants.  And you can, too.

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16 comments to Trying To Land

  • (sigh…) Yeah. I think I *am* that bird, blindly, furiously, trying to land, refusing to see the difficulty of acheiving what I want, mindlessly keeping on. And I will land! I WILL!
    Thank you for the vision, Misty.

  • Unicorn

    Yep, that’s me, too. Thanks Misty.

  • Martin

    You mention people trying to suggest alternate careers and such. As someone just starting out, how would you go about dealing with family and friends that think this is just some silly hobby. Is there any way to convince them that it’s not just child’s play? This will be an issue for me if I decide to dedicate any significant amount of time to writing, as people in my family (excluding my wife) are very practical, and not the “reach for the stars” type.

    Any tips?

  • Martin> If your wife is onboard, then why do the rest of the people need to know? I mean, I share stuff about my writing with some folks, but not a whole lot. It not really anyone’s business but yours what you spend your free time doing. now, since you’re married, I’d amend that to “not anyone’s business but yours and your wife’s,” because rumor has it that marriage is supposed to be a partnership (I’m not married.)

    Let them think it is a “nice hobby,” and don’t talk about it much. When you make the NYT Bestseller list, they don’t get a free copy from you and they aren’t in the dedication. :) And you can say “oh, that? That’s just my hobby–I don’t really share it with anyone.” :)

    But, seriously, it’s your life and you don’t owe folks explanations. Just don’t talk about it. Find communities where they do think it is cool that you take it seriously, and ignore everyone else.

  • A bird trying to land on a windchime: great image and great analogy/metaphor. Love it.

  • Fireheart1974

    Wow…it’s as if you read my mind. I just posted about the fact I was stuck on my own blog. And that whole other rest of the world keeps getting in the way.

    I’ve had some small luck publishing short stories and now that I’m attempting my first novel, now I wonder if fear is what is getting to me rather than the rest of the world.

    Thanks for the image. I’m going to go land, now.

    ~Fireheart

  • Adding my voice to the chorus: Love the image and the sentiment. And to Martin, I would second Emily’s (Pea Faerie’s) advice. Much of my family continues to be fairly dismissive of my writing career, this after a dozen books published, an award, good reviews, and years of steady income. Some people will NEVER be convinced. My wife and children have always been behind me, and they are the ones who matter most. And a few friends and relatives do get it, and I’m grateful to them. As for the rest, success is the best revenge. :)

  • I love this image/analogy, Misty! (Though I find myself wondering about the bird’s intelligence–so what does that say about me? LOL.)

    Martin, not everyone is going to be supportive nor are they going to understand the realities of publishing. (I’ve heard horror stories on both sides–those who want the writer to stop wasting his time, and at the opposite end, those who are over enthusiastic thinking the writer will write a book in a couple weeks, get it published, and suddenly become a blockbuster millionaire.) If your wife is behind you, you’re already a step ahead. As for everyone else, if they can’t be supportive, don’t talk to them about it. There is enough danger of doubt and negativity creeping into a writer’s head without well-meaning but utterly unhelpful friends and family adding weight to it. If you don’t treat your writing as a hobby, it’s not a hobby. Guard your writing time fiercely and stay true to yourself! Also, anytime someone does try to drag you down, just shake your head and remember that “success is the best revenge.” Keep writing. You can succeed.

  • Ha! David, you beat me to it!

  • Martin, you can’t really convince anyone. There are people who don’t even have their spouse’s support, so as Pea-Faerie said, as long as your wife’s onboard with you, you’re a step ahead. Best thing you can do is try not to let the rest bother you. Even now I get questions from friends and acquaintances:

    They only paid you in copies? You should have held out for real money.
    Have you got this writing thing out of your system now?
    Why haven’t you finished writing {most recent project} already?
    When do you find time to take care of your family?
    When are you going back to school to get your teaching certificate?

    And so on. They seem well-meaning but they really drive home that idea of writing being a hobby. You just have to take a deep breath and try to let it go on by.

  • I am so that bird right now.

    Martin – I’m in the same boat with you. A lot of us are, actually. I made it all worse by going to grad school so I had two career choices my family didn’t understand/couldn’t hold conversations about. From experience, I’d say save your breath, accept that the people who love you aren’t always the people who understand you, and keep writing. Find something else you can talk about with them – it’s painful and makes you feel like you’re hiding something for a while, but you’ll get used to it. Try sports. Most American’s like some sort of sport. And don’t kill the next person to ask “are you still writing?” Just smile and say yes, always.

  • The air art sounds like a carnival ride for birds. Were I a bird, I’d sure have fun gettin’ spun around or tossed off.

    Writing sounds like a wild ride too.

  • To hell with landing! I wanna FLY!!!!

  • With the replies to Martin, I’m reminded of: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

    Equally good advice for writing, methinks.

    Don’t let those who mind get in your way. Even the greats had to start at the beginning.

    I’m also reminded of ants and rubber tree plants with the bird analogy. Or as I like to say, “if at first you don’t succeed, beat it into submission and stand atop its steaming remains triumphantly.” 😉

  • Misty, a wonderful post that is both timely and meaningful.

    I will be as the bird,
    Never-ceasing, undeterred.

    Thanks,
    NGD