So the waiting has begun. Following the official announcements.
What to do while waiting?
Once my initial euphoria wore off — and once I’d made the InterToob rounds hooting with my fellow WOTF travelers — I settled back into that familiar position: what now??
The most obvious answer is: write more, stupid.
I had planned to write an entirely new story for Q2 of Writers of the Future 2009, but when it came right down to it I realized I had procrastinated too much to give such a story a decent effort prior to the deadline.
This turned out to not be a problem, however, because I did have an existing piece I could send. I had gotten a great deal of positive commentary — from people I trust to give such feedback — and had been through the revision process much like the existing story that is right now sitting in the Finalist hot seat. So instead of banging out a quick and dirty entry for Q2 I decided to take the existing, polished piece and pitch it to the contest. It’s a pretty different piece, compared to my existing Finalist, and shorter, but I still think it has a lot of heart. I hope this shines when KDW and Co. take a look at it over the coming three months.
Meanwhile I’ve got several new stories for several different markets that I need to get working on, including my Q3 entry for WOTF 2009, which I ought to get cracking on now so as to avoid the time crunch I experienced for Q2.
Overall, I still think the emotional relief provided by my Finalist selection is extremely important. It’s tough to keep producing new stories and sending them out and raking in the endless form rejections without getting some kind of sign that I’m at least close. As in, professional publication is not too far away. As in, I’m not just wasting my time and it is indeed worth it — to keep plugging away and not give up.
Because, as anyone who has been working towards pro publication knows — if they’ve done any time as a struggling aspirant — the urge to give up hits hard and often.
It’s tough looking at your spouse or your family or your work, and saying, yep, this week I’m still going to steal the hours. Because unless you’re single, unattached, childless, and doing quite well for yourself, the time you spend on your writing is inevitably stolen. It’s time you could spend playing with the kids, talking with your wife or husband, taking care of those house chores that never get taken care of, checking up on your aging parents, attending to church or auxiliary duties, or, if you’re like me, taking care of military stuff in addition to your full-time civilian job. There are only so many hours in every day of every week, and if you’re conscious and conscientious, you know damn well how many of those hours get stolen for writing, as opposed to being spent on ‘responsible’ matters.
In the last 17 years I’ve burned several thousand hours — at the very least — working on approximately 900,000+ words of fiction that has not earned me a single dime. That’s time I could have used to finish my college degree or go the extra mile at work or focus purely on my spouse — all of which would have been entirely justifiable and, in many ways, much more worthwhile than sitting in front of a keyboard making shit up in the hope that, maybe, somebody would read it and like it enough to buy it.
I’ve had a couple of unpaid credits, and yes those are wonderful fun if you’re struggling and need some validation. Just like making Finalist is wonderful fun. But because the writing is not generating any income for the household and continually sucks up time, as the rejections mount it becomes psychologically and emotionally harder and harder to justify ‘stealing the hours’ when that time might as well be put to ‘better’ use doing things that are far more pertinent and practical.
But now I am straying off into the whole writing-vs-life meme, and I didn’t really want to do that in this post. Suffice to say, I am grateful for my Finalist placement because I can look at it every day and say to myself, yes, I am closer now than I have ever been before. I just have to hang on, keep my fingers and toes dug into the cracks and crevices, and keep inching upward towards the top of The Wall.
Hopefully the events of Q3 go well for me. Hopefully by the end of Q3 I won’t have to care about Q3 because I’ll have Placed, and then it’s a moot issue and I can relish the victory and look forward to the vol. 26 workshop and gala.
But not yet, not yet! Gotta stay hungry. Gotta get the focus back. Gotta get so busy on new material that I almost — almost! — forget about the Finalist story, so that when news finally does come — of defeat or victory — I’ve already moved on in my mind and invested myself in a new set of possibilities, beyond this single possibility.