Posted by Lynne
A few days ago, my teenage son asked if he could go somewhere--do something with friends--that he knew I would say no to. To his credit, he accepted the disappointment respectfully, adding how hard it is for him when he can't have what he wants or do what everyone else gets to do.
My son and I have a light and easy relationship so I agreed, and with my arm around his shoulder said, "I know it's seems hard now, but someday you'll thank me for shaping your character."
He laughed, rolled his eyes and sighed, orchestrating his body language as only a teenager can do. He said, "Mom next time stop before you get to the shaping character part. It doesn't really help to know that."
Discipline--a word that means to learn--whether it feels forced on you by others or it's self-imposed, it isn't always easy to learn your lessons. Rejection, rewrites, rejection, revision. "It's not for me." "It's not there yet." Talk to any successful writer, and he or she will tell you getting your character shaped is a trial. And I'm not talking about the characters you write about.
In the readings of my faith, there is a metaphor for taking the path to a deeper spirituality; everyone has the opportunity to take the road, but you must pass through "the narrow gate." There's a narrow gate on the road to a literary life too.
Early in my own experience of acquiring an agent, and working with an editor, I took each rejection or critique personally. I stood firm on things I now realize are the inevitable compromises a writer is required to at least consider, and sometimes required to make. "Change your title." "Move this chapter." "Add a character." "Lose a scene."
In the beginning, I struggled to acquiesce. Sometimes I reluctantly made the changes, sometimes I stood my ground. Yet as each character-shaping lesson was learned--true compromise experienced-- I felt stronger, more capable of accepting the next demand or challenge.
Recently, it's become crystal clear to me that living a literary life means becoming comfortable with life in and around the narrow gate. Regardless of the fantasies of big advances, universal praise, and reader adulation, no writer escapes repeated passes through the restricted access door. Read Tess Gerritsen's blog if you don't believe me.
Does becoming a successful writer mean embracing the lessons agents, editors, reviewers and readers try to teach us? Even if we're bruised and battered, do we force our way through the tight space, willing ourselves to withstand the pressure until things ease up again?
I wish the path was wide open and all of us could pass. In reality, it is difficult to get through it and one pass won't be enough. I've chosen to shove, squeeze, even ram myself through it nonetheless. How about you?
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Posted by Lynne