Published on Terry's Place, July 27, 2010
“Try starting on the second paragraph Ö” ~Lucien Carr
Forward motion makes the world go round in a very real, astronomical way. All that gravity and stuff Ö spinning planets, etc. It’s not something we really think of as we sit down to our computer to open our Facebook, check Twitters, open the day planner and then, finally, open that file we either love or hate, depending on the day of the week.
Forward motion creates and maintains a writer’s career, it writes the books in that file. It moves us in the right direction every time we start to type.
If you are a writer, just starting out, that new cursor blinking at you, waiting for you to type the first words can be scary. You have that whole novel in front of you and do not know what to expect.
If you are close to finishing your first story, then you have entered it in a few contests. You are awaiting the results, hoping for the agent or editor to say you did this right.
If you have finished that first book, won that contest, the book is now polished, ready to be submitted for representation.
Once you get representation, you wait for that first contract.
You get that first contract and then you wait for the second.
Then the five book deal Ö
Ö it does not matter how many steps you take in your writing; there are more to go. If you attend a conference and you go to the luncheon, there will be someone sitting to your right at the table who is four steps behind you, looking to you for support and encouragement. They will think wherever you are is where they wish they could be. To your left is a person four steps ahead. You will want to ask them questions about their journey.
Because all of us have a journey. All of us have a place to go as well as a place we have been. The secret to surviving and thriving is learning to juggle the two with equality. I learned from some of the best: Dean Kootnz, Suzanne Brockmann Nora Roberts. There is a talent to “arriving” in our job, to selling that book, that article, that -- whatever. You will be excited, but you have to, as they did, keep a level of humility that makes it possible to turn to that person four steps behind and ask “what can I do for you?”
You have paid your dues, now is time to teach some of what you know to the next generation coming up behind.
I got an e-mail just this week telling me I was famous.
I, of course, had to print this out and save it just so I could jokingly show my kids and prove to them that yes, I really do things at the computer besides update my blog and look at YouTube clips, that there is more in the package than “Mere Mom.”
But the e-mail made me pause. Made me wonder. Why? Why would someone say that? It was flattering, of course, and I donít report it just so everyone realizes it happened. I say it because Ö donít all of us that deserve that e-mail? Haven’t all of us done something to deserve that message?
Fame has never been a big deal with me. Either obtaining it or sitting across from it or sending it a letter. Whether a person is just starting out or already, arrived my tone of voice, my familiarity with the person I am speaking to, it will always be the same. I can think of at least two people high up on the fame food chain who would probably wish I was more reserved and less friendly and I can promise them, I am working on it – it’s just – well – besides the fact they are fun to talk to? I can blame it on Clive Cussler in one of the lessons he taught me when I sat with him in a bookstore, just the two of us: you have to keep looking back, remembering that you were once at the beginning, too. Remembering that is the only way you will ever move forward with class. His candor, his friendliness, that he may have given to me? I hope I have what he has and I can pass it on, too.
Sitting down to write a book it has got to be one of the most dedicated, mind numbing professions on the planet. We are creating real worlds with real people who otherwise would never be heard and that is an amazing feat.
But every step we take in our career, from that first blinking cursor to the day we hit send on the copy we are submitting, to a book on a shelf, it is all about forward motion. Every day we type – forward motion. Everything we do in this job, in our lives, each and every day – forward motion.
The trick, the balancing act, is to continue that forward motion on a daily basis, while looking over our shoulders at our past and remembering that even the people behind us, they are on the forward motion journey, too, and we can reach back and lend them a hand, making our forward even more amazing. Enjoy the trip because the experience is as good as the reward.
Dedicated to Lucien Carr (1925 – 2005), my hero this week. :)
(Image credit for “forward motion” is here.)