The first few weeks–maybe even months–after I got home from Viable Paradise 17, I was filled with a righteous fire for writing. Anything that got in the way of writing was crap. I k
new–KNEW–that it was only a matter of time before I would be signing copies of my book.
You really can’t sustain that level of hellfire. Well, I can’t, at any rate. That’s not to say VP left me with unrealistic goals–but I created for myself some unrealistic expectations.
As the instructors took pains to tell us, several times, Viable Paradise is not the Easy Button. It’d be damned nice if it were, and I’m fairly certain the instructors would be just as stoked for that as the students, but publishing simply doesn’t work that way. Even the best among us took some time to get a story published, and one of the best writers in my class (my opinion, of course) is still writing her book. Me? Nada. I am still a Nobody in the writing world. No short story I’ve sent out has been published.
As for novels, I finished mine; the third one I’ve ever written, but the first one that wasn’t pure shit. And as I’ve rather irritatingly chronicled here, it isn’t really going anywhere yet. Maybe it stinks, or maybe it just hasn’t found the right agent. But the bottom line is, it’s still sitting here, unread by all but one publisher, and they gave me a form rejection.
That doesn’t mean I’m awful–but it does mean that, VP grad or not, I have the same steep hill of probability to climb as any other writer. I have to do the same slog through Agent Search Hell that any other writer does, just as every VP student before me, and every one after me, will have to do.
Aside from that, there’s the whole “living your life” thing to do, as well. I know some writers like to go on about how, if you want to write, you will Do Whatever You Have To to write, but the truth is, very few writers can afford to do that. Most of us have Things We Must Do. Sooner or later, the student work you haven’t graded demands your attention. Your daughter* still wants to play Lego Marvel with you, and she won’t understand that your book needs to be written NOW. And of course, your spouse needs your attention, too, as do your friends. You can put them off sometimes, but not often. Unless, of course, you want a divorce, which… let’s just assume you don’t. Who needs that?
In my case, I found ways to cope with the demands of life but still manage to write. I go to the coffee shop some nights after dinner, and write. I try to get up early on the weekend and write a bit before my daughter wakes up and fills my house with the ungodly voices of YouTube. I take occasional–very occasional, in my case–weekend retreats on my own to write in a nice, clean, quiet hotel room (I want to do that one more often, but it gets set aside by Things We Must Do). And, of course, as a public school teacher, I do get some time in the summer to write (and take care of my daughter, who is of course also on vacation at that time).
Anyway, the trick to surviving life after Viable Paradise is twofold: First, you have to recognize the realities of the writing life, and manage your expectations of how quickly you’re going to hit the shelves (if ever). Second, you have to find a way to balance your life between work, family, and the needs of the muse. Is it easy? No. But what else are you going to do?
*Or son. Or cat, if yours is sufficiently evolved to have opposable thumbs. Not dogs, though. They don’t appreciate Marvel Comics. They’re more into Image**
**Yes yes, your dog appreciates Marvel and thinks Liefeld is a terrible artist. But most dogs think Liefeld is the shit. So, y’know. Ew.