Some people write a book or two and are happy to simply have done that. They don’t really go full bore into the activities that come with the author’s life. Some of these tasks are great fun, others not so much.
The 100th time I review my completed manuscript looking for errors is a slog. Even less fun is when my editor says to take out a section because it really does not add anything to the story. What? That was the best thing I’ve ever written!
Twice I have gone to the keyboard with a day open for creative triumphs and found the power out in the neighborhood. No, I don’t have battery backup. Where’s my antique Remington typewriter?
Then there is marketing. So many “vital” online options. So many sign-ups and unique passwords, more than eight letters, at least one upper case…and so on. Phone calls or emails to bookstores and other places to try to wrangle a virtual or in person audience are, simply put, work. I do enjoy reaching out to other authors to ask for an endorsement for my book, but not when I need to call back multiple times as the deadline approaches. I feel like a beggar at the banquet.
It is fun to do “research,” meaning read other books that may inform my own, such as how ghosts are presented in other works. A piece of trivia, or a more substantial historical fact, may find its way into a character I am trying to develop. One simply must love reading.
Then from time to time, I find a day when everything works. A character or a plot line I am struggling with becomes obvious. I’m in the zone. I need a new character and, boom, there she is. I spend six straight hours writing, oblivious to everything else other than necessary bodily functions. Fatigue? Forget about it. Finally, I must go start dinner, but I have twelve to twenty pages.
That’s what I call fun!
From the time the bookmobile came up my rural dirt driveway, when I was ten years old, I knew I would study literature in college. I was accorded sufficient accolades in undergraduate school to gain admission to the doctoral program of a large state university.
Then I started to doubt. I lost confidence that I could earn a living with an English degree. There was also something unrewarding about the way college literature programs were structured. There was little joy or adventure. It seemed to have turned into a quest to remember enough facts to repeat them back on written tests.
One professor gave the same tests every year for each of his courses. My undergraduate school’s fraternities and sororities had an ongoing “project” to remember all the questions and pass them on to others. If you were “Greek” you had a good chance to ace every test whether you read the assignments or not. They also had a sizable library of essay papers that had scored well in the past.
So, I changed course, went to medical school, and practiced psychiatry for 40 years. But I always knew I would “come home.” Now retired from medicine, I am immersing myself in a loosely structured self-study program.
I find it very exciting to go where my interests take me. Authors who bored me fifty years ago are now thrilling. Like Henry James. What? Henry James thrilling? Maybe it’s those 40 years in psychiatry that makes fascinating how an author’s life experiences molded his writing.
After a few years of my self-selected curriculum, I just may give myself an honorary degree. How does “Major of English Literature” sound?
I read. I write. I learn. I’m in a writing group and I have four published books. I’m still pretty sure I’m not Steinbeck, but my heart and soul have found their way back to where they should be.