Thanks, Mom, for not outing me
My writing journey began at the age of four. My brother and sister had already started their school careers but being the youngest, I was stuck at home, resentful that I wasn’t old enough to join their ranks.
My mother was the fastest typist I had ever seen in all my four years. One day, fully mesmerized by my mother’s rapid-fire key pushing, I asked if I could try it out because I had nothing to do but had something to say. I lacked the prose skills to attack such an endeavor but truth be told, I was more interested in pounding on the keys than I was in making any sense. Two pages and numerous typewriter ribbon and key jams later, I completed my first manuscript.
In those days, my entire family sat at the dinner table to consume the evening repast. This was an opportunity for each of us to share what transpired during our day. With much frustration and boredom, I waited for my siblings to finish relaying the drivel of their scholastic school days so that I could read the magnum opus that I managed to produce in one sitting at the typewriter. Mom sat next to me, and looking over my shoulder said, “Irene, it’s your turn. I see you have lots written on those pages so you better get started.”
So I did. I launched into a magnificent story – the gist of which I fail to remember decades later – but I delivered this story with great conviction and a feeling of growing self-importance. My mother silently read along with me, nodding her head as I read each paragraph, encouraging me with a smile now and then. A good ten minutes later I reached the end of my manuscript and with great flourish, I folded the pages in half and placed them on my lap. Mom and Dad were impressed; my big brother and sister dubious; I was in heaven.
Here’s a brief example of what my first manuscript looked like:
ashepigu a;lskhg iwyhasi8tq cmiuqtgpigub 1tpdp
For ten minutes and two pages I read typed gibberish with bravado and my mother never gave away my secret. She didn’t out me. I am certain that Mom’s encouragement and acceptance of my efforts contributed to my infatuation with all things reading and writing.
For the past four years I’ve been in the ranks of writers who submit, get rejected, and submit again. I’ve written two novels, the first of which I queried (seeking literary agency representation) for a year – thus far with no success – and the second of which I’ve just started querying.
I can’t foresee the future, but I do see my mother looking over an agent’s shoulder, nodding and accepting every word I’ve written.
All gibberish aside, I can’t lose with her ongoing support.
An Artist’s Paranoia
I’m one of countless artists in the world who work in solitude and hope for public acknowledgement some day down the line.
I happen to be a writer, fiction primarily, but there are many other artistic crafts: painting, drawing, sculpting, metal work, woodworking, stained glass, and on and on and on. Bottom line, artists create and hope beyond all hope that what they create is liked by the masses … or at least one person who is not related to them, or financially obligated to them, or otherwise committed to the person doing the artistry.
I belong to several writing groups on social media. A day doesn’t go by that one of us writer’s doesn’t post a rant or a tear-filled comment such as:
Okay everyone, an agent requested my manuscript last week and said she’d have a look-see over the weekend … it’s now Thursday and I haven’t heard from her … Did she hate my manuscript? Did she even read it? Should I give up as a writer? What in God’s name should I do?
Sound exaggerated? It’s not.
I can’t speak for what it’s like to be an engineer or an accountant or a lawyer, doctor, bus driver, mail person, or what have you, but I can say that paranoia is many an artist’s primary personality trait. Consequently, we crave affirmation in order to continue doing what it is we do.
Remember Sally Field when she won an Oscar in 1984 for her role in the film Places in the Heart? During her acceptance speech she emoted that winning the Oscar told her that “you like me … right now … you like me.”
When that same paranoid author (three paragraphs above) is finally published, she won’t sleep at night without having read every review of her book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, Publisher’s Weekly, etc. And for every bad review, she’ll forget the good reviews and the four or five stars awarded her masterpiece, which, quite frankly, is the manifestation of her heart, laid out in the open for everyone to spit and step on.
At that point she may as well give up sleeping entirely until she believes in herself, regardless of what the reviews say, regardless of her Amazon book ranking, regardless of whether someone returns her e-mail right away or not at all.
If artists believe in what they create, if their whole raison d’être is doing what they do come what may, it won’t matter what the critics say … well, it will matter what they say but she’ll still love herself in spite of it.
And if all of you wouldn’t mind reminding me of this fact now and again while I’m on this seemingly never-ending road to publication, I will be forever indebted to you … if it’s not too much trouble … if you have the time … if you think I’m worthy …
Click on these brief stories that describe my delight when a literary agent complimented my short, short stories, occurrences that made my day:
Complimentary words from a literary agent; Positive input from an agent: a welcome gift.