In which I briefly and longwindedly describe how fucked-upedly wonderful being a novelist is:
1. Adolescent belief in being Amadeus
2. Twentysomething belief in being Salieri
3. Age 30: I’m a parent now. I belief I will actually die. I have accomplished nothing aside from healthy sperm.
4. Leave 9-5 job, go to library, refuse to leave until I write 1,000 words. That was shortly before becoming a parent, when I had no after-work life anyway. Once I was a stay-at-home Dad, I would start writing in total desperate fatigue at around midnight.
5. Finally finished a novel good enough to submit to agents. A-list agent called me (on the phone! for 30 minutes!) to say no thanks, but to let me know I wasn’t kidding myself and ought to keep writing.
6. Finished another novel. Got an agent. Things went weird. Novel died. Crushing anxiety and self-doubt.
7. Finished yet another novel, like a year later. These things take forever. Got a new agent! Agent retired. Sent a Hail Mary email to an on-the-fence editor…
8. Editor bought the book! Book published! Pretty good NYTimes review! 15 years of self-doubt vanished. When I thought of about writing, it was no longer with a mixture of dread and hope. It was mostly hope.
9. Got a much better agent. Finished another novel. Sold that one, too! Got actual decent money for it! Felt real good and planned sequels… a whole series, in fact. Spent a whole year writing the sequel.
10. That novel didn’t find its audience. Sequel abandoned. I adore that book. I’m proud of it. I think it should have found a bigger audience. But you know, art’s strange and maybe people didn’t see a vaguely titled book that was kinda historical and kinda supernatural and think, “Hey, that’s for me!” They saw BELL WEATHER and said, “I don’t know what that is, I’ll read something else or watch TV.”
12. Chief lessons: Keep writing new stuff. Love what I write, because I can’t control audiences even a little, so might as well enjoy myself. And maybe next time go with a cheesily obvious title so people know what the book is and can say, “No, thanks!” or “Yeah, that’s totally for me!”
13. Finished new novel draft!
14. Rewrites humming along. Modest hopes.
15. Devise new longterm masterplan for happy and successful career. The plan is fraught with stupid idealism, but stupid idealism has gotten me awfully far, so why quit now?
16. Revise today and realize my current draft has a massive, near-fatal shortcoming.
17. Immediately recognize this shortcoming as a massive opportunity to make the novel so much better.
18. Feel extra hopeful from discovering this massive cadaverous death-weakness in a thing I’ve been passionately working on for over a year.
19. It’s a weird life. I write these long-term things and get zero validation along the way, and it’s a total delusional leap of faith every day. I wake up each morning as Salieri and convince myself I’m Amadeus. Because fuck it. Any other way is Loser Town, USA.
20. I’ll do this fail/succeed/doubt/faith dance until I’m dead, because it’s good for me, and I’ve had way fewer suicidal thoughts because of it, and I like it better than food and money and sex, and I *love* food and money and sex. Which is to say I really love writing a lot. When it’s going poorly, it’s painful. When it’s going well, it’s the best.