Now… that doesn’t mean I WILL give up. But I want to.
I recently got my first full-time office job. For most people, moving into white-collar mediocrity is, at best, a pleasant stroke of luck and one that they largely hope for and expect after leaving school. For me? It’s nothing short of a miracle. By all rights, I should have been dead years ago. People with my kind of history have the odds pointing them to prison, drug addiction, suicide or reoccurring homelessness. But somehow, I managed to not become a drug-addicted suicidal homeless person, and I now have a pod and a business phone number and no less than three suits. I am now comfortable. And it feels bizarre.
Twenty years ago, I was living hand-to-mouth in a women’s shelter with my mother. I was homeless. It seemed that every other day, someone or something would try to kill us. We often went without substantial food. When we were at our worst off, we didn’t have gas or electricity. I used to horde corn, because my biggest comfort food as a kid was a can of corn (with the water) and some butter mixed up as a kind of soup. When canned corn is the highlight of your day, you know shit is FUBAR.
That was twenty years ago. Now, as an adult, I have the perpetual sense that a bomb is waiting to explode somewhere. Not a literal bomb (though sometimes – I am pretty high-strung), but a metaphorical one. Or, perhaps literal in the sense that I expect SOMETHING to come crashing in to destroy my life.
As you may or may not know, writing is essentially professional gambling. No matter how gifted, talented, persistent or productive you are, the best result of all of your particular circumstances and abilities is to lift the odds. Slightly. If your daddy or your uncle is in Penguin, you have a better chance – but not a guaranteed entry, even then. Because they, and everyone else in publishing, is also gambling – every book they invest into and publish is a gamble they make to bring in money. And so every writer, no matter how gifted or well-endowed with wordsmithery, can expect to be rejected over, and over, and over. They can expect their sales to go up and down, their books to fall in or out of fashion, or to lie dormant for 15 years before their buddy decides they want to make a TV show out of it and it mysteriously and suddenly becomes a multi-million dollar phenomenon (Game of Thrones, Game of Thrones *cough cough*). For every George R.R Martin, though, there are a thousand Nancy Nobodies who never get past the front desk of a literary agent.
People ask how Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey got published. After several years in the industry, I can tell you: luck. Pure dumb luck. The way that Harry Potter got published. The way that Dr. Seuss got published. The way that even hard-working and relentless Steven King got published, though he boosted his odds with huge output and by pushing on through rejection.
My corn-loving ragamuffin of an inner child looks at that scenario, and goes: “Fuck that noise: I just want to eat.”
And so, here I am: sitting on a 65K manuscript, a book coming out in October (unless I am also very lucky, and the agent who is reading Blood Hound at the moment decides to take it on), and one other non-fiction title that I hope will be coming out in December, and I wonder… should I bother? Or should I just focus on my time-consuming but stable full-time job?
But the fact remains that writing brings me the greatest joy. There’s no glow quite like the glow of holding a book in your hands, in the magic of creating something out of nothing. And it is magical: the root of Occult magic was the inscription of letters, sigils and other symbols with the goal of creating an effect. Writing does that. It is a form of magic, whether you are writing science fiction, fantasy, or romance.
That magic is why I doubt I will give up, despite the fatigue and the odds of getting published. But I want to.
Another reason I don’t want to give up is because I get photos from my fans holding my books, like this one. Look at that smile! God Has Heard goes to another good home.