When Writers Run Aground
Written by
Valerie J. Brooks
September 2011
Written by
Valerie J. Brooks
September 2011

31 August 2011

It’s been a tough few weeks for my fellow writers, friends and family. Short version: a sister who has separated from the love of her life; a close creative friend having a daughter post a blog about all of mom’s perceived failures as a mother; a dear friend and author of three fine novels who has had her editor reject the latest novel while all along saying she loved it; and our oldest granddaughter, well, for lack of a better way to say it, going to the dark side.
            Ai, we all face a stream of these situations at times, and the combined heartache loads us down too much to be creative or funny, and we have to wait out the storm.

            But when the storm sends a giant wave that hits our writing broadside (like a lying editor) you fear you’ll sink. The publishing world is cruel, no bones about it. Writers pray to Neptune to manage the difficult waters. Our fear is we’ll be at sea and Neptune will have a hissy fit, strike the ground with his trident, and capsize our ship.
            But most of the time, the damage is to the psyche. Remember being picked last for a baseball team? Now picture millions standing there, waiting to be picked for their writing talent (or marketability, as the case may be). It’s not hyperbole when people tell you getting published by a New York publisher is like winning the lottery. I often think that submitting a new novel to an editor is like taking a lovely new puppy to the vet, and the vet says, “I’m sorry, your puppy is not as cute as the others I’ve seen,” then after examining your dear pup, adds, “and your puppy needs a major operation, and I’m not sure which organ needs to come out for your puppy to live.”
            This is how we often interpret editor’s feedback on "our baby." In order to stay afloat, writers rely heavily on the advice of our fellow shipmates as to what to do. Unfortunately, no matter our skills, our background, our connections, we can’t control outside forces, we can only manage how we deal with them. There's no map to the right route. And sometimes that results in wailing and crying and cursing, because who is going to tell us with any accuracy what is wrong with our puppy and what organ needs extracting? Or even if this is an accurate diagnosis? Add to that our new publishing world and all those personal and family storms and we're lucky we can launch at all.
            However! I believe it’s you, reader, who keeps us going and will ultimately determine what speaks to you and who saves someone’s puppy. As one dear friend said, "Picture your novel on someone's bedside table," and I do.
            My heart goes out to all creatives, for we live in times where GDP trumps GNH (Gross National Happiness in Bhutan). Ultimately we are alone in dealing with our shipwrecks, our storms, and the attacks. But in the world of writing and creating, our fellow crewmembers keep us from jumping overboard.
            And with that, I direct you, mates, to this blog entry, “Creativity,” by my brilliant friend Barbara Sullivan. I think it speaks best if read aloud because it connects the two body parts, heart and brain, that can never be extracted.
            Until next time, when rocky shores should be and hopefully are miles away, I am with you,
            Captain Val 
p.s. If you like this blog and want to follow me on "Gobsmacked: Confessions of a Working Writer" go here.

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