Writing is Like Dating October 1, 2011Posted by Onely in Food for Thought, Great Onely Activities.
Tags: single writers, singles discrimination, writing and dating, writing and publishing
One of the most famous myths of singlehood is: Your work won’t love you back. Meaning: Any passions not of a committed romantic nature are inherently less desirable. Although we at Onely (and most smart people) realize the many logical fallacies in this statement, in the past we sometimes balked when a heteronormahole challenged us to name one of our interests that truly paralleled a romantic relationship. How to answer? Well, I love learning languages and Lisa loves dog training. But if we gave those as examples, even though we think they’re as good or better than having boyfriends, the heteronormahole would have laughed in our faces.
But no more! Because I’ve realized that we do have a hobby that is more relationshipy than all our previous relationships put together. You see, Lisa and I are both writers. And for writers, a significant other is redundant–because we’re already dating our craft:
There’s a honeymoon period after you first discover Writing. You effortlessly churn out brilliant character names and gripping sex scenes (Kitty Chuckup’s heart heaved as Cecil Flickmeister slowly unsnapped his bowtie) and Pulitzer-caliber plot twists (Little did Kitty know the bowtie was the only thing holding Cecil’s head onto his neck). Writing flows from your fingers like an extension of your soul. You never tire of those words streaking across the screen. Your Writing is all you can think about. At your day job you stare out the window and daydream about the exciting things you’re going to do to that short story once you get home (What if Cecil isn’t the blind stablemaster’s illegitimate son after all?! And what if–OMG–the stablemaster isn’t blind either?!) You’ve never felt so complete.
After spending so much time with your Writing, you begin to wonder if maybe you should get serious. You know, think about Publication. Get Published, put out some little pieces that can carry on your name and maybe even grow into big books that make a lot of money to support you in your old age.
After all, everyone wants to get Published, right? Plus the alternative is so humiliating. If you tell people about your Writing, they’ll ask you, “Are you Published? No? Are you talking to any publishers? Editors? Do you you at least have a blog?” and then give a pitying head-shake. “Well, don’t worry, one day the right agent will come along just when you least expect it.”
They just want to help. They know being Published is the only way you’ll be taken seriously. Think of all the privileges you receive automatically upon Publication, even if you really only found the right Publisher by sheer luck (and it’s always luck), and even if the quality of your Writing isn’t all that great (well, not *your* Writing, because *your* Writing is amazing and special–we mean the other 50 percent of Writings which end in dangling participles).
Whereas if you stay Unpublished you will die unread (platonic friends and extended family who may have loved your novel(s) or memoir(s) don’t count).
To avoid this terrible fate, you pick some Writing you guess is good enough (maybe the chapter where Kitty and Cecil find the time portal) and start preparing to get Published. You’re planning your Submission–researching the best literary magazines, shopping for that perfect agent, figuring who you should put on your acknowledgments list–when you get cold feet. You look at your Writing and realize that while you love it–you really do–you can’t help but notice that its clauses are so dependent, its verbs so passive, its modifiers so often misplaced, and — to be honest — its narrative can’t follow an arc to save its life. In fact, if Kitty laughs liltingly one more time you swear you’ll just scream.
Suddenly you’re not sure you’re ready for Publication just yet. Would it be so bad to just enjoy Writing without planning to Publish? Of course it would. You’d be writing in sin. And you’d also be selfish, hoarding your Writing all for yourself. Plus you’d just be in denial anyway–no one’s ever *really* happy only writing for themselves. They can’t find anyone to Publish them so they just pretend to be happy being Unpublished.
Sometimes that’s easiest. After all, Writing for Publication is hard. It’s a numbers game. You need to put yourself out there, over and over again. A top-tier journal won’t just call you up and say “Hey, you have any nice stories sitting around on your computer? Maybe something about a zombie and a stableboy?” You have to dress up your drafts–a tight intro, a sleek font–then send them out and sit by the phone waiting to find out if anyone liked them.
It’s risky. You may never match your Writing with a perfect publication venue and may end up Unread anyway, after exposing yourself to all that judgment and rejection.
You also risk the fifty-page itch. A third of the way through your novel, the plot seems predictable, the diction stale, the characters too familiar (ho-hum, Cecil’s sitting in the hay writing more haiku while snacking on brains again). You’re still typing, but sluggishly. You keep sneaking looks at a new document, where you’re thinking of starting a fresh, sexier project (hm, maybe a blog post about the similarities between writing and dating).
Copious Readers, which of your interests have the same dramas, benefits, and challenges as romantic relationships do?