Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Something your publisher won't tell you

I took Robert McKee’s Screenwriting Course a few years ago. One of his mantras to the wee writers in the room like me was, “Flex your courage.” And if any of you have ever heard or seen McKee speak, you know he said this not as a suggestion, but as a command.

I had an idea of what that meant back then. Today, it takes on a new meaning. As a writer whose work has yet to be seen by the world, well, I am learning to flex my courage.

I didn’t count on this, but I’m glad to learn it.

Right now, I am living in a rarified period like no other I will ever experience again. I am about to debut a novel. People are excited. People are expectant. But, you can only fall in love for the first time once. And, you can only be a yet to be discovered, yet to be criticized debut author once. And that period only lasts a few short months. It’s a heady experience.

Along with the excitement, there is trepidation. I am reluctant to admit this, but it’s true. What will critics say? How many books will actually sell? Will it change my life in any measurable way? And if so, how?

So for all the writers who have gone to the bookshelves before me, I salute you. It took a lot of courage to do what you did. More than I would have guessed. For your first novel, you had to take flight on the sheer belief in yourself and the support of a handful of people who agreed to publish your work. That’s a small margin of opinion. Still, you went for it. And perhaps, when the reviews came in, good and bad, you kept going. Maybe you had the temerity to write another book and another. I now see it took more than your talent to do so. You flexed your courage. Thank you. You inspire us all.

And that, my friends, is whole new view of the publishing world I am now beginning to see. It’s not all wine and thesauruses. It’s work. It’s confidence. It’s faith.

Ultimately, it’s true what they say: You’d better be writing because you love it, and not for anything else.

(Oh, that great group of wise minds called They. Do They have a blog, I wonder?)


Karen Harrington, author JANEOLOGY (Spring 2008: Kunati)

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