Meanwhile, I’ve decided to share some of the random thoughts that have been rolling around in my head. Specifically, an explanation about why trying to publish a novel is nothing like running a marathon.
If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know that I love to write and I love to run. If you post anything with these two words in the title, you can bet the farm I’m going to click the link. I’ve read, and loved, numerous posts comparing writing and running. They explain that both require goal setting and perseverance. Most claim that one often compliments the other, and I agree wholeheartedly.
Then it occurred to me that, for me, there is one significant difference (besides the obvious of course).
The finish line.
When I registered for my first marathon, I knew exactly what I needed to do to train for that race. I knew that, barring illness or injury, when I put my toe to the starting line it would take me somewhere in the neighborhood of four hours to run 26.2 miles. Race done. Medal earned. Goal accomplished.
I have learned over the course of the last two years that getting a novel published is a very different experience. I have been so close that I could have sworn I could smell the freshly printed pages of my first book, only to have the finish line whisked away and hidden at some as-yet-undisclosed location.
I have learned that trying to publish a novel (in the traditional sense) requires an incredible amount of patience. Generally, I am capable of patience. I can wait in line at the grocery store behind the person with five hundred coupons and a missing checkbook without experiencing the slightest change in my blood pressure. Yet, when it comes to something that is on my to-do list, I’m like an insect. At least that’s what my husband tells me. You know how you can push an insect on its back and the legs keep moving. That’s me.
I want to cross things off my list and keep moving. Agent acquired. Book published. Check and check. Unfortunately, it’s not just up to me. No amount of training or goal setting can make someone else say yes, and in order to get a book published someone has to like the story enough to take a chance. Someone has to like the story enough to agree to publish it. Then someone has to read it which means, at some point, I may have to learn some marketing skills <shudder>.
The finish line keeps moving.
Honestly, I think that’s what makes it so enticing.
It’s like gambling, or B.F. Skinner’s theory of random reinforcement.
I never know which letter is going to land an agent. I never know which story is going to land a contract. I never know when I’m going to cross the finish line that I’ve set for that stage of the game, and I have no idea what will happen next. As frustrating as this might be at times, it forces me out of my very structured day and my very regimented training schedule, and it lets me dream. I can always hope today will be the day. I can always be excited about what might be waiting around the corner.
You just never know.
What finish line are you working toward?