Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Less-Than Golden Road: Guest Blogger Annette Lyon

I get to guest-blog today for Rob Wells while he's out in the land of Orville Redenbacher. I was half-tempted to do a Wells-ian "interview" with him, but decided that since I'm nowhere near as funny as he is, I'd better leave such shenanigans to him and instead blog about something writing-related.

(No worries, Jeff—I'll spare the Frog's gentle readers my grammar fascista diatribes on comma splices and the correct usage of "lie" and "lay.")

Years and years ago, I heard a successful LDS novelist speak at a workshop. She admitted that she got published very easily. She didn't start out with a rejection folder like the one I was already collecting letters in. For that matter, she didn't get a single rejection in her early career.

After explaining this (and as I picked up my first rotten tomato) she shook her head at the audience—comprised of 99.9% unpublished, hopeful writers—and said something to the effect that the publishing road had been so hard that she'd more than paid for breaking in easily.

Is she serious? I thought. She's actually complaining about being published? I'd give my right arm, my left foot, and my right pinkie toe (and I have cute toes) to get a book contract. I had been trying for several years to get one. The woman had no appreciation for what she'd been given on a silver platter. I was outraged.

Somewhere around a decade later, I'm starting to understand her point, just a little bit. Oh, I still think she didn't appreciate what she had. Not once had she experienced what the rest of us do: sending off her baby, stars in her eyes, only to be slammed to the ground with a rejection months later. She had no idea how that felt. I've made a point of cherishing my publishing experiences—really appreciating them.

But . . . she did know that the road of publishing isn't always paved with gold.

I've walked down part of that road now. Personally, I'm tired of the promotion treadmill—especially when all those efforts don't seem to make a hill of bean's difference when my statement arrives twice a year. I'm tired of deadlines. I'm tired of the waiting game that is publishing. I'm tired of trying to guess what the LDS readership wants. I'm sick of trying to increase the numbers of that readership—which is about as effective as trying to dam up a river with a cork. And I'm worn out from competing with other writers who seem to have a Midas touch, pulling in huge numbers without breaking their necks (as far as I can tell) trying to get them.

It's like running on a hamster wheel. Or trying to swim upstream (without being a salmon). Or . . . I don't know what to compare it to, but it's disheartening, whatever metaphor you choose.

One day last week, I wrote a brand new scene. I wasn't revising something old. I wasn't editing. I wasn't on deadline. The scene was new. Fresh.

When I left the computer some 1500 words later, I felt more alive than I had in—literally—months. And I wondered why in the world I hadn't been drafting more recently—it felt so good. I really should do it more often, I thought. The rest of the day, I was in a great mood.

A happy mom is a gift to my family.

Suddenly I remembered the simple reason I decided so many years ago to not put off writing until the kids were older: Writing makes me happy.

Publishing, on the other hand, is another animal. It's not writing. And while I absolutely love being published (and have no plans to stop publishing!), it's not the entire end-all and be-all of the process.

In some respects, I'd forgotten that.

I hadn't forgotten the concept, but it had been some time since I'd really, truly felt it: that writing is about so much more than research and edits and arguing over em dashes and proofing galleys. It's about enjoying the process, feeling the creative rush, being filled up and happy and more ME than anything else is capable of making me.

I had to stop looking at writing as work (a concept that was horrifying to me years ago—something I was sure could NEVER happen to ME) and see writing again as something that makes me a better me.

This summer I have a writing goal. I've made similar goals in the past, but this time it's different: Even though I want to reach a certain word count each week, I've decided to look forward to each writing session as play time—a chance to just have fun. My own summer vacation.

Just me, my story, and my characters. They're awesome people to hang out with.

I'll be hanging with them a lot more often this summer, because I've learned that afterwards, I'm a more awesome person to hang out with too.

Annette Lyon is an award-winning historical novelist, freelance writer, and editor. Her most recent book is Spires of Stone. Visit Annette's blog here and her website here.


At 6/03/2008 1:58 PM, Blogger Stephanie Humphreys said...

That's what I'm learning quickly. Being a writer is more than just putting words on paper. Thanks for sharing your perspective. And enjoy hanging out with your characters.

At 6/03/2008 2:00 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

I LOVE the blog, Annette, and hope this is a simply glorious "summer vacation" for you!

Selfishly, I will be glad when you trudge back to the hamster wheel with the results. :) I am one of the nameless thousands who must devour your books the very day they come out!

At 6/03/2008 2:16 PM, Blogger Tamra Norton said...

I've been doing a lot of drafting these past few days, and I must agree--it feels wonderful! I'd been on a marketing frenzy for quite some time, and I think I'd lost that lovin' feeling.

So here's to a great--AND FUN--summer vacation! :)

At 6/03/2008 3:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...



At 6/03/2008 5:48 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

I can't wait to start "writing" again! I've been editing since January on one thing or another, not writing anything fresh.

At 6/04/2008 2:13 AM, Blogger Brillig said...

I loved reading this! It's good for newbie writers like me to hear this stuff-- the hamster/treadmill part, but also how happy and alive you feel when writing. Very cool!

At 6/04/2008 12:42 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

Oh, so very true . . .

At 6/04/2008 4:38 PM, Blogger Danyelle Ferguson said...

Annette - I love your post. I read it through several times, hoping that when I get discouraged, your post will magically pop into my head and remind me to enjoy the process, rather than stressing and picking it apart.

Thanks for the bit of wisdom!


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