The family and I went to a local dairy farm to enjoy the fall festivities yesterday.
As I wandered through the labyrinth of corn and packed clay, I felt the correlation to my real life dilemma.
“How did I get from where I began this crazy writing journey, to where I am now? And how do I get to where I want to be?”
I glanced at the map clutched in my hands, as though I couldn’t take a step without it, and in big bold letters the words START and FINISH taunted me. And then, dotted along the sides of the illustration, another word caught my attention, EXIT.
START, FINISH, and EXIT.
Those three words however, had one very obvious difference. START and FINISH were only written once but EXIT… well, there were so many of them! In this maze – this child’s playground – anyone could give up and get out if they panicked. Everyone in the maze could simply EXIT if they wanted to.
That meant everyone I could see and hear in the corn tunnels around me were in there by choice. These adventurers had come to play the game too. They hadn’t been tempted by the EXITs.
They’d looked those winding paths in the cob and soldiered on, just like me.
They had the desire to make it to the FINISH.
The craving to write a book (or twenty) seemed to be an innocent quest, at first. It seemed exciting and totally doable. We writers – the ones whose minds are poisoned by ideas and words which rob us of sleep – we must write, the way all other living creatures must breathe.
We write and write until our fingers bleed and our families forget what we look like. We write with passion and a desire that someday our words might be read by people who share our love of stories. But then, reality sets in. We learn there is more to getting published than writing. We learn there are a million other obstacles waiting for us that look like…
…revisions, major edits, minor edits, and line edits oh my! To query an agent? To query an editor? To self-publish? To traditionally publish?
We read blogs with good advice (not this one!) so we revise again, edit again, query again, go back to school, learn more about our chosen craft, go to conferences, meet agents, meet editors, query again, revise again, query again only to find…
…dead end after dead end, corner after corner and we ask ourselves, “Should I EXIT now? Should I give up and never look back? Or should I see what’s around the next corner? Am I close to the FINISH or am I still miles from where I want to be?”
I don’t know. I’m lost. All I really want to do is write the next story I’ve been dreaming of.
But then we get a sign.
We win pitch contests [Shout out to Brenda Drake for hosting AMAZING contests like Pitch Madness. Thank you very much!]or maybe we’ve written a really amazing query letter and agents request to read our full manuscripts! And then it’s all, “Hooray! I must be on the right path!”
We must be getting close! And while the agents are reading our babies, we dream of the day when one of them will say, “I love your book. I’d like to represent you.” And the sign we conjure in our imaginations looks more like this…
But in this maze, as I meandered through, there are signs with a phone number to call if I get lost.
You know who I really call when I’m feeling lost? My CRITUQUE PARTERS!
Man, let me tell you, you cannot survive this maze without ‘em. Don’t have ‘em? Get ‘em! Nobody knows your pain and struggle more than a good critique partner (mine are the flippen bomb-diggety, but you can’t have ‘em, they’re mine). Not only will a good CP read and
chop up edit your manuscript for
you, they’ll be there to pick you up when you want to EXIT. They won’t let you
give up no matter how much you beg, whine and grovel.
And you’ll love them for it. I love my SFWG more than I love coffee or shoes (if you know me, you know that’s A LOT!).
Unlike this quaint little maze, which was build to provide a fun adventure, the path from writer to published author doesn’t come with a handy phone number or a map and a clearly marked FINISH line. Becoming an author is a journey we take blindfolded.
|(That’s my husband, aint he puuuurdy?)|
We follow the voices of the authors who’ve taken this path before us. All the while thinking, how did you do this? And as we watch our friends moving further and further ahead in their careers (and we’re so happy for them!! xoxoxo) we still want to shout, “Hey, wait for me!”
But alas, they cannot hold our hands and drag us out of our maze. Each of our paths is different and no two look exactly alike. And while all of the advices on how-to-get-published can point us in the right direction like a map, it cannot lead us to immortal glory… err, to the FINISH.
That part is up to us, the would-be authors, the perpetual dreamers, creators, imaginers, and wishful thinkers. The rest of the maze is for us…the purpose is to find our way, even if we have to call for help once in awhile.
We must be vigilant in our quest and stay focused on the FINISH no matter how many EXITs might temp us to quit. I know this because this little corn maze taught me there are more EXITs near the FINISH than there are near the START.
Write on future authors. If you see that EXIT sign, it only means you’re getting closer to the FINISH.
And then you’ll be all…
…and the world will hear your Bell of Success ring!