Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A not particularly good analogy

Writing, to me, is a lot like my walk home from school. I don't know exactly how long it is, but in my guess, if I were to travel only along the roads (which I do not do, mostly for safety reasons, but also because there are some shortcuts, and there are some places I much prefer to take the long way), it would be some two or three miles. Not a great distance, but a decent one. I don't mind the walk. I don't mind it because I get out early, I enjoy the (much needed) exercise, and although I have walked it every day this year since school started in September and I have walked it on quite a few occasions in the past, it is still a delightful route to take home. But some days, I just want to give up. I still love the walk oh so very much, but I just do not want to make it.

Days like today. We had a light snowfall last night and earlier today, a blizzard last Wednesday, and a blizzard the Saturday before that. At deepest, the natural snow is some 32 inches, give or take an inch. (The plowed snow is absurd. There were points on my walk home that were significantly taller myself -- just shy of 5'11")

My high school is very large -- the size of a decent college, but rather than being spread out across a decent campus, it has all been lumped into one network of buildings connected by breezeways. Because of the part of the building I leave from, it would be far too time consuming to go across the parking lot, down the drive, and out onto the road, so I cut across the field behind the radio station. It's not a particularly large field, and on a day when conditions are good and I am making good pace, I can get from the parking lot to the road in very little time. But today I had to go up that steep hill and across that field in 32 inches of snow. I am not in the best of shape, and even if I were, that is not exactly an easy feat. I had to stop numerous times to catch my breath, and very nearly collapsed into the snow several times while crossing the field. I very nearly turned around eight times -- at one point I even did turn around and had begun to mark my footsteps before I set myself right. And at several points along the way home, I was forced to divert myself through the snow, usually because I simply could not take the road (I avoided my usual route due to the snow).

On days when it's rained recently, that field behind the radio station is a bog. I have had an easier time getting around the Lowlands with friends than I have getting through that field (can't speak for the Highlands -- only ever been to Inverness and we always take the train). Crossing the creek is something of an expedition unto itself, given that it is usually very gently flowing and only knee-deep at worst, but after a good rain, it's been as deep as being just shy of my chest and with good force. Warm weather doesn't suit the walk either. There are a lot of trees and houses and things a little way's off to block the wind, but never near enough to generate shade, so even just the nice warmth of early autumn or mid-spring feels like the Sahara. Winter days without snow are no pleasantry either, but they are the best. Days when the ground is good and solid. It's easy to cross, mostly, but at times it can be difficult, because the ground has frozen itself in odd positions (I avoid the creek in winter and take the road until I'm past the water. If drivers don't like it they can fuck off).

And that's just weather conditions. Traffic is quite vital as well. Most days the traffic is light, but one must I remember I am moving on foot. What is nothing to a car is a lot of traffic to a footman. On good days, the traffic is virtually non-existent. And for a while, it was fantastic. They were doing road work down on one side of a major intersection, thereby cutting down traffic considerably. When that work was done, they were working on another end of the intersection, and traffic remained light. Now they're working on a section of major road a little distance away and have established the first road they were working on as a detour, because if one runs straight it leads square to another major road that'll get you into town, and if you turn in the direction of the high school, it's a slightly more twisty way into town. Traffic has picked up considerably since they did this, of course, and it is a bitch. And even if the road work is cutting down on traffic, it isn't always pleasant. They were re-tarring the streets, all the way from that intersection to my very road, back in late November/early December. For a little over two weeks, I had to make major diversions just so as to not be cutting straight through their road work.

On top of road work and traffic, the weight of my bag varies. I don't really need my bag, but I use it because it makes life a bit simpler. On the average day, I just have a pen, a handful of papers, and maybe a novel. I could tuck all but the novel in my pockets and get going, but having a bag makes it easier. Some days, however, my back is not a pleasant burden to bear. Days like today, when I have my psychology book. It is the only text book I have, and due to my inability to use the lockers*, on the days when I need it it must be lugged along, and it is unfortunately a very heavy book.

When the weather is rubbish, my friend Brad is nice and gives me a lift in his car (and oh how jealous I am of that car -- an '08 Audi A4 Sedan in very condition), and I mean he is really nice, because my home is infinitely out of the way for him. It only takes about five minutes to get from the school to my house when traffic isn't bad, but he lives out on the fringe of the district, a good half hour to forty minute drive away from the school. He takes the time to drive me home, drop me off at the top of my super long driveway, turn around, and go home himself. But that's only when the weather is really bad, like the one day I was halfway home and a terrible, terrible thunderstorm just tore open above me. 99% of the time, the only resources at my disposal for getting home are my own two feet. Even on a good day, by the time I get home, my legs are sore, I'm a bit tired, and a bit sweaty. Add to this that I am so often beginning to get dehydrated because I refuse to drink from the water fountains and I have not eaten since five or six in the morning. On a good day, I get out of my last class at 12:40 and am home by 1:15. On an excellent day, I'm out at 12:40 and home by 1:05. On bad days, home by 1:27. On days like today, I got home at 1:40.

It would, in fact, be easier to do what I have done only three days, and on each of those three days it was because there had been a blizzard the weekend before and snow was still coming down hard. But it would be much easier for me to go to the front lobby and sit on one of the pew-like benches and read, or go sit in the nice, toasty stairwell at the far side of the front of the building and read, or convince my girlfriend to cut her study hall and hang out in the stairwell with me. It would be much easier, and in a lot of ways much nicer. But I cannot bring myself to do it. Even on days like today, when I was a fool for crossing that field with so much snow in it and I was ravenously devouring the clean patches for some degree of hydration, I absolutely love my walk home. It is the one thing I look forward to each day. Not just because I am getting out of school, but because I genuinely enjoy it.

When Nathan posted his stats late last year, I noted that the odds of just getting a request for a partial from Nathan are a slim 1.22%. It was noted on a blog someone posted a link to over on Nathan's forums that the odds of becoming a client with an agent who has a decent web presence are less than 1%. Add to it that publishing nowadays is not what it was even just a few decades ago. There are cases of authors even as late as the 90s, who had a book or two published in 1997 or 1998, and then didn't have anything done again until the mid-00s and now their career has taken off. But for people such as myself, people hoping to be debut authors, publishing nowadays is rough.

People have made comparisons to the film industry and acting, but that's not quite right. If you audition for a film, yeah, you might not get the part, but if the original guy bows out or for some other reason cannot fulfill his duties, if you made a good enough impression at the audition stage you will probably get chosen as his replacement. When it comes to stage acting, there's a little something called understudies. Acting is a very rough business to break into, but it's not really make-or-break. You can still take time to build yourself up, and you can live comfortably while being fairly unknown (how many people have heard of Timothy Dalton or Paul McGann?). Publishing nowadays is very much make-or-break. If you don't soar from the get-go, odds are you're going to crash and die in a horrible explosion. And if you're not willing to adhere to the system, tough. There are a million more people just like you out there, trying vainly to get their novel noticed. If one washing machine breaks down, they'll just bring in a new one before anyone has the time to notice.

In fact it would very much be easier to go through a company like Amazon. Self-publishing to the Kindle and using amazon's POD service has turned out very well for a lot of people. Never spectacularly -- but even hard print doesn't turn out spectacularly for a lot of authors. But if you're willing to do the greasework, self-publishing through Amazon can be just as, if not more fruitful, than publishing through a house. In fact one would have to be crazy to say, "No, I'll pass on the decent sales and try my luck with worse-than-Vegas odds in the hope of one day finding my book in a store somewhere". And yet I will choose the long, difficult walk home every single day.

*I never got the hang of the lockers in middle school, and halfway through middle school I was sent to the alternative school, where there were no lockers. At the high school, lockers are an optional and we mostly use our bags, so I just never really got round to using the lockers and thus cannot open mine for the life of me.


  1. BAM, you've been served...

    Um... I'm not actually sure how to announce this but *ahem* If you're interested, I gave you one of those Creative Writer award thingys on my post today because I got one *grins*

    Don't freak out on me but I like your posts, and was told to share it with good bloggers..

    So...erm.. enjoy, I guess...

  2. Haha, it's fine. In the middle of making myself lunch atm (I can't wait for school to be over so I can eat lunch at a normal hour), but soon as I've finished I'll get on it. And you'd think by now I'd have learned to stop cooking while doing stuff on the laptop. About a week ago I nearly set fire to the kitchen making bacon while listening to music from Fiddler on the Roof (to be fair, in that instance I was singing/dancing about my kitchen, not playing around on the laptop...but the laptop was playing the music, so he's a guilty party).

    Actually this award is kind of a good thing. I had nothing to post about today, unless you really want to hear me moan about how all the women in my life today are being inexplicably pissy. And on an unrelated note: You win brownie points for being from my favorite country ever.