Thursday, September 20, 2007

You Have to Care

Posted by Lynne

"Are you nervous?" the interviewer asked. "Of course, I'm nervous. Anyone who isn't should quit this business and go sell shoes. You have to care," she said.

I was just passing through the family room, clutching Water for Elephants and Falling Man to my chest, on my way to my bed, when I overheard Sally Field's chirpy voice, her words danced off the red carpet and lodged in my ears.

And in my heart.

Exactly right, I thought. If you care, it's a given you'd be nervous when you've finished revisions on your novel, or your book proposal, and submitted your work to your cherished agent. You want her to love your words as much as you do. And it makes complete sense that you'd have an instant panic attack when a dear friend, whose work you adore, tells you her work is out on submission.

You feel, because you care.

Whether you're new to writing or a veteran, there will be days when exquisite words appear on the page, with little effort your thoughts coalesce to create beautiful sentences and paragraphs. You'll love the feeling, no doubt. Other days, you'll be stuck. You'll chastise yourself for your bland setting, cliché characters and your lack of stakes and tension. You'll wonder how anyone will care about this story, if you can't manage to.

With that bum day behind you, you'll begin anew. Because you're a writer, and you write. The next day, or the next, you'll work out the kinks. You'll discover your character's wants and needs, and with every quirky personality trait visible, you'll like them, you'll really like them.

You've started to care.

The cycle will continue until you care so much it hurts. You'll worry like a mother sending her child off to college. Will other people like your baby? Will they cherish her, flaws and all--the way you do?

When your pages finally venture forth, you'll wonder how they're doing. Are they sitting high on that dreaded pile, catching the late summer rays? Or have they been placed haphazardly on a conference room table, vulnerable to coffee spills. Or worse, are they choking in their fed ex envelope?

Since you can't stop thinking about this extension of you, you'll force yourself to imagine a better day. The day when a smart, savvy editor dips into your prose, and is captured by your voice. And because you've cared so much, she cares. She clutches your book to her breast and she dashes out to share her find with other editors. She'll dismiss her plan to leave early to shop for shoes; she can buy those tomorrow.

Today she needs to buy a book.


Anonymous said...

OMG!!! Here's to breasts and buying.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Ah, Lynne, you've captured it exactly. No real surprise, though, since you're a writer.

"Today she needs to buy a book." Words to fall asleep by!

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Hello anonymous,

I laughed out loud at your comment! Wouldn't that scenario be marvelous?

Hi Judy,

I do indeed fall asleep--and wake-- to the dream. You and I both know that even with second books, you need to keep caring and dreaming.


Michelle Zink said...

What a great post, Lynne.

Before I sold my book, there were times when I COULD NOT GO INTO THE BOOK STORE because it made me want to see my book on the shelf so badly it hurt. I kid you not.

Would we do we what we do if we didn't feel that compulsion? That craving?

Hmmm... After reading this, I'm thinking maybe not.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...


" care so much it hurts"

Like you, I've had days when my desire to be published was painful. But as you so eloquently pointed out in your, "It's Official" post, it's impossible to have triumphs without trials. Congrats again and again to you!


Lisa said...

"She clutches your book to her breast and she dashes out to share her find with other editors. She'll dismiss her plan to leave early to shop for shoes; she can buy those tomorrow."

Ah -- a new vision to fall asleep to -- to sleep, perchance to dream :)

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...


It happens!!! Just peruse the blogs of some our blogger friends. (I won't name names because there are sooooo many fellow writers whose dream has already come true!) Just check out the links to the right of this post.


Larramie said...

Forevermore, when buying a book, I'll think of it as "adopting" the writer's gifted child s/he chose to share with those who care.

Such a lovely post, Lynne.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...


Thank you! THE main reason the writers' group blog is a positive place to hang out is because Lisa, Amy, Hannah and I know the caring that goes into each and every book published. While we have our favorites, we know each is a labor of love and should be respected as such.

I would bet you agree. Lynne

Anonymous said...

Great post. You can actually have this published. I loved it .

Therese Fowler said...

Oh, the agony of desire and suspense! It really doesn't end once "it happens" for a writer, because for those authors who do care so deeply, every manuscript is a passionate effort to get it right again.

I am as anxious and devoted to my WIP, being written under contract, as I was to my debut.

But honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Anonymous said...

I'm still in the "shitty first draft" stage of my first piece of fiction, but I'm so in love with my characters that I may never share them with the world because I may never feel as though I've done them justice. My moods fluctuate with theirs, they tell me what happens next (much to my surprise). They don't come to me in my dreams, they are my dreams. So I'm a long way from even dreaming that an editor might long to share my book enough to put off shopping. But I'm in love, so what do I care?