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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Rats Looking For an Island

If you're a member of Romance Writers of America, the October RWR had some interesting reading in it. My agent gives a great and informative interview and Jennifer Crusie has a PRO column that touches on an experiment that involves rats.

The experiment she talks about had two containers of opaque liquid. One had an island at the bottom of it, the other had nothing. One rat was put into each one. The rat that had an island was able to find it and stand on it to keep his head out of the water. The other rat had to be fished out before it drowned. The next day, neither container had an island in it, but that when the scientists put the two rats in the liquid again, the rat that had found the island the day before swam twice as long as the rat who had nothing. Crusie equated this with writing, that if we look at the stats on being published, we'd all be rats without an island.

This isn't quite how I'd explain it, but I do agree with the theory as it relates to writing. I've maintained over and over that most writers take themselves off the market. There are a lot of talented writers who:
  1. Don't write
  2. Don't finish what they did start writing
  3. Don't submit
  4. Quit too easily
I've been guilty of one and two before I was published. Oh, yeah. I have dozens of stories where I wrote a few chapters, or even just a few pages, and never finished. I was also really good at finding excuses not to write. The chief one being that I was tired. I also believed that I had to wait till I was in the "mood" to write.

What I've learned is you can put yourself in the mood if you actually sit down and start writing. And you know what else I learned? That as a writer, the middle and the end present different challenges than the beginning does. Writing the full book taught me a lot.

The thing that's funny is that while I never even told anyone I was writing, I had no trouble submitting my work to NYC. Much easier to share your dreams with a stranger, I guess, than friends or family. But there are a lot of writers who let fear stand in their way. I'm a big proponent of "feel the fear and do it anyway."

The last one, quitting too easily, is a real heartbreaker. I maintain that when a person is at the end of their life and looking back, they shouldn't have regrets. Not pursuing a dream or giving up on the dream, has to be the worst regret a person can have. Of course, if writing is only an interest and not a passion, quitting isn't a bad thing. It's lonely, it's tough, it's time consuming, and being published isn't some magic elixir that makes everything perfect. The phobias and neuroses you had before selling are still there after you sell. The only thing that changes is that you add new ones. Lots of new ones.

So to tie back into Crusie's column in RWR, keep swimming, looking for that island. Because some of the containers do have land. Some authors do get published. Some authors do make a living at it. Some authors make a very good living at it. Reality? Who needs reality? To quote from "Mythbusters," I reject your reality and substitute my own.

MN Weather Report: 53 degrees.