Lily: I'm in trouble with this damn play, and you don't care.
Dash: Lily, it's your first play. It's not like anybody's gonna miss ya.
If you've been hanging around here long enough, you've probably wondered why I haven't written a book, or a play, or Something Of Substance. If you've really been hanging around here long enough, you know that I've actually written three of them, thankewverymuch, and that's not counting one I self-published that sold about twenty copies and another one that I wrote, uh, basically for my mother. (Everybody writes stuff for their mother. Just ask Elvis. Oh, wait, you can't, Never mind.) Three of them even ganged up on each other and formed a trilogy. (Ah, trilogies. The word sounds like a lost Asian nation, doesn't it? "Hey stlanger, wercome to Trilogy! You be here long time, yes?" Oh God, somebody smack me for being a racist.)
Anyway, they're called Mindbender, Spellbinder and Soulmender, and they're still hanging around my house like lazy post-adolescent children, too fond of the free food and the clean laundry to move out and get their own place. Which is to say, they're not published yet. I had a literary agent once, but he quit the business to run for Congress and all I got was this lousy t-shirt. (He didn't win, either. Actually he didn't have a chance, and the only one who didn't seem to know that was him, but never mind.) So I've been kind of orphaned ever since. I'm looking for a new agent, which means I've been writing lots of goddamned earnest letters to total strangers asking them to take me on as a client for their eighty-hour-a-week mostly unpaid job convincing some publishing house that I'll sell like Suzanne Collins when in fact I might sell more like David Moody. And if you haven't heard of David Moody, well, that kind of makes my point, doesn't it? (To be honest, I'd love to sell like David Moody. Hi, David! How's it going?)
So anyway, I've written all these letters, and I haven't really gotten anywhere, although I have had some responses, so it's apparently not hopeless. I just need to keep on writing these darn letters until I get a yes. Considering that I have anxiety the size of a large nervous T-rex when I'm writing one of these things, that is no small feat. (For more information on all the fun I've had writing query letters, click on the label "angsty query letter crap", below. Yeah, and meet Scaley and Fang, my dinosaurs of anxiety and sudden panic.)
A reasonable person might very well ask why bother, anyway. Literary agents take on something like .001% of the people who write to them as clients. By the time I'm in the right place at the right time with the right letter on the right day, I could be a hundred years old (or maybe even dead; by the time I die I'm sure that querytracker.net will be able to send query letters for you in perpetuity, pursuing the dream of publication beyond the physical realm.) Well, it's like this (and here comes the Buddhism again): Being published, or not being published, isn't anywhere near as important as writing. Writing is everything. Publishing is business. It's a good business if you can get it, but it's still only business. Sooner or later you have to leave business and go home and eat some fresh butter-flavored tortillas from the Kroger Bakery. And then you can write something.
Another way of putting this is an old OA saying: "I'm chairman of the planning committee, not the results committee." I do the right things. I write a lot. I rewrite a lot. I read a lot. I hang around with other writers a lot. I go to seminars, I show up at open mic events (though I've never actually said much more than "Good evening, and this is so and so."), I've even been to the occasional conference. In short, I live like a writer's supposed to live, minus the alcohol binges and the frequent trips to rehab (that's the Buddhism again). The fact that nobody's paying me for it doesn't make it any less important. The fact that I have a "day job" doesn't make it any less important. The fact that I"m not where I wanted to be by now doesn't make it any less important. The only person hovering over me with a stopwatch is, uh, me.
That is to say, I had constructed this whole theoretical timeline, based on nothing more than conjecture, of What I'd Be Doing By The Time I'm Forty-Five. I got plenty annoyed with myself when I failed to meet just about every conjectural deadline. Which was ridiculous. Plenty of people don't produce stunning masterpieces that change the face of fiction for all time by the time they're forty-five, and no harm comes to them. (And plenty of people who do come to bad ends. Look what happened to Truman Capote. And he wasn't even writing fiction.) The point is, I'm responsible for the process, not the outcome. I'm not responsible for how long the process takes. I'm also not responsible for getting paid. Some of those things we just need to leave up to God.
Yes, I know I don't believe in God. But I do believe in something. So sue me. And if you know a literary agent, send him or her my way, willya? Thank you. And have a nice day.