Sunday, August 4, 2013

There's Good News...and Bad News.

The good news is, something you've written will be published.

The bad news is, something you've written will be published.

When you are in the pre-publication stage, working on the thing you intend to find a home for publication, you are closer to being in that state known as being a writer.  There are aspects of frequent residence in that landscape you have furnished, graded, stabilized, fenced or somehow shrubbed in.  

Your companions are aspects of self you've come to cultivate as working allies, perhaps even as friends.  Among these are fear, doubt, anger, desires for revenge, empathy, curiosity, all of whom have recognizable landscapes of their own which they have, in their turn, furnished, graded, stabilized, and somehow set boundaries upon.

In this stage, a good working day consists of picking up a project from yesterday, then seeing it through the Reality of today until that Reality merges with your internal landscape.  You have no realistic hope of finishing the project today.  There may be some hint of a tangible end being in sight, but the closest you can come is something glib such as, "Maybe another month or so."

There is inherent happiness in such days, but you have the inchoate sense of being about to reach the place of the first tingle of alarm.  You may be a step or two beyond the midway point.  The project still speaks to you, speaks volumes, in fact, volumes you already know will have to be pruned.  

You might even have reached that first shrill of boredom, which is a sign to you that you have remained too much within the boundaries, have not come close enough to the edge for that serious squirt of fear to take hold.

A few more good days, and then the boredom is tangible, hovering like the long lost chum from high school you've reconnected with, who wants to hear all about what you've been doing with yourself all these years.  Time to step over the line, into the unknown, where the step is a necessity but the outcome is not by any means a sure thing.  You may, indeed, have to start fresh, throw out significant parts, rethink the material, looking for the unrecognized you within the material, the you just beyond your reach and sight because you were staying too close to the shoreline.

Much of the creative takes place while you're in this stage, this stage of being a writer who may stand a chance of being published rather than a writer who sees his entire image of self as a writer depending on the act of being published.  At one point when you were less familiar and clear about this dichotomy and about dichotomies in general, it seemed to you you were continually being asked by persons you'd just met if there were something of yours they'd be familiar with, which was a diplomatic way of asking you if you'd been published or produced.  

The creativity comes from the ability to begin your workday with something to say, some line of inquiry to follow, some understanding from your characters or your essay of what the characters want or what step the theme wishes to take.  If the creativity does not come, you work around it, pretend it does not matter until the pretense becomes tangible and you are able to step out on your own, looking for and often finding keepable pages.

The stage shifts after you've reached the point where the work seems done.  You begin showing it, tentatively, to readers you trust to tell you things you need to hear, such as the work in actuality being done or being a puzzlement or lacking or carrying too much weight.  Until this time, your only companions have been those pesky aspects of yourself and of things you've been reading and especially things you've been reading or remember reading from the men and women whose works are the stars and planets in your subjective sky.

Soon the inner landscape shifts.  You are about to be published again.  You are no longer a writer, you are an author.  Your agent has had a whack at the work, strengthening it, perhaps causing it to appear to you as one of those remarkable pop-out books, where a three-dimensional scene erupts from the opened facing pages, and you not only feel ownership, you feel a part of it.  Now the content and copy editors come after you.  Dross you could not see at composition time, at being a writer time, appears before you in memos and the Track Changes application on the digital manuscript.

You are humbled by the inconsistencies.  If you are of an age and your copyeditor another age, you might even feel a squirt of irritation at her query of some individual out of your culture.  You've been queried in reference Frank Sinatra, Shirley Jackson, Susan Sontag, Stan Musial, and Budd Schulberg.  "Who he?"  "She still alive?"

Someone relatively unknown to you or completely unknown approaches you to tell you how much the work meant to them, attaching to it an implication or intent at best one hundred eighty degrees from your own intent.

You nod thanks, you even venture a few spoken words of thanks.  The good news is that you were published again.

For any of a number of reasons, you come across something you've published and experience the relief that it still holds the integrity of your intentions.

In equal measure, the bad news might be that you were published again.

You've gone from being a writer to being an author.

Time to get your sorry ass back to being a writer again.

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