Friday, October 20, 2006


by Rebecca Drake

You, grasshopper, are a writer. You’re compelled to write. You don’t major in biology or computer science or business in college. While your friends go off to work at jobs that will allow them to take the European vacations you always dreamed of, you console yourself with the knowledge that you’re doing what you love. You repeat that many, many times a day. Sometimes you’re mumbling it to yourself when your long-suffering partner pries your hands from the keyboard at 2 a.m. and hauls you to bed.

You realize you need to work—you know nothing, you haven’t read enough, everyone else is better at it than you are. You work really, really hard, often nights and weekends, until every story your children tell includes the tag line, “Oh, that’s right, you weren’t there. You were working.”

Finally, finally you break through that door into the Emerald City: Published. You have done it. You have written a book and it will appear in a bookstore.

Strangely, you’ll be happier when you find out that your book will be sold in a discount chain next to toilet paper and three-for-a-dollar bags of cat food. Your secret fear has been that you’ll be spending your denture years greeting customers at this chain. Now you assume that they’ll be greeting you, lining up to buy your book.

Just when you thought that you could sit back and enjoy scribbling and never, ever again have to hear some gum-chewing friend say, “So, you published that book yet?” that’s when they send the suitcase.

It’s a pretty cheap little affair. Faux cowhide with single thread stitching. A plastic handle that’s seen a lot of wear. In faded gold letters on the side is printed, “Acme Authors, Inc.” Inside is a pamphlet. In Courier 12 point it says, “The sound of one book being stripped.”

You pick up the suitcase, join the legion of other authors heading upstream, and ponder the meaning of this amazing koan.* You will get used to hearing, “No, I don’t read mysteries. I like [almost anything but your book].” You will have to talk with them anyway so that they might consider giving/selling the book to old Aunt Sally who doesn’t share their discriminating taste. Occasionally, you will meet someone who says, “Wow, it’s so cool to meet a real author!” You will have to fight the urge to laugh.

After four weeks of nonstop hustling, you’ll pass by the mirror and seeing stooped shoulders and rictus grin have your moment of transcendence. You shriek, “I’m Willy Loman!”

Thus, grasshopper, does the writer achieve enlightenment.

*Satori - in Zen Buddhism a state of spiritual enlightenment that is a spiritual objective.
*Koan – A Zen Buddhist riddle used to focus the mind during meditation and to develop intuitive thinking.


Anonymous said...

oh, Becky. Don't let people get to you. People are clueless! Women have said terrible things about my handbags, right to my face or directly in front of me (usually with a vinyl job from K-mart slung over their shoulder). Unfortunately, I don't think there are any creative jobs that are actually glamorous.

Anonymous said...

Then you do it again. And again. And again and again and again and again. Eventually those hurtful remarks become hilarious. No, really.

Anonymous said...

Much food for thought in your post, Becky. Thanks for the early morning rumination. As you well know, I've been stuck for too long in the "aren't you finished with that book yet?" phase. I'm actually looking forward to the "I don't read mysteries but I really like (whatever)--why don't you write that?" phase.

Anonymous said...

This is great, Becky! Despite the aggravation, I'm sure you're loving every minute of it!

When I finally have a published book, I was thinking I might use some of my (somewhat rusty) taekwondo skills and scare people into buying my book. Shoulder locks can be very persuasive...

Anonymous said...

Oh, dear, I didn't mean to make anyone think I was ready to jump off a bridge. Just giving my new insight into the reality of the writing life.

I signed stock in Ohio for 14 hours straight on Wednesday and fell into bed at 3:30 Thursday morning. Yes, it's definitely better to have stock to sign, but it's hilarious that part of this job is becoming a Fuller Brush salesperson for your book(s).

Nancy, I am in awe of your stamina.

Cathy said...

Wait a second, you're working too hard, Becky. What about the glamor and the Nobel awards?

In spite of the realities, I'd like to move on to the next phase, too. I wonder if we all have masochistic tendencies?

Anonymous said...

I saw your book at B&N yesterday. It was a thrill seeing your thriller!

Anonymous said...

I think one of the biggest motivations for getting a book published is not having to hear "Did you get that book done yet?" from family and friends.

Hang in there, Becky. It's all part of the journey.

Annette said...

Gee, this is the glamorous life we're all struggling to achieve?

Yep, bring it on.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Sounds like the turkeys got you down, Becky.

'tis fast approaching the season for turkey... *wink*

Anonymous said...

It only gets me down occasionally, usually after working too many hours. Joe keeps me on the straight and narrow with this most of the time--he's learned the hard way that I'm much easier to live with if I keep to a pretty normal schedule--but lately I've been juggling both writing and marketing so it's harder to keep the hours in check.

Per the desire to be published, I think it's akin to the desire to be a parent. Once you've gotten there you realize how important it is to maintain a sense of humor.

JA Konrath said...

I just linked to you, Willy. :)