Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Auditioning My [Un]talented Child

Waiting for people to tell you what they think of your work is a special kind of hell, I think, and I can't imagine it's a whole lot more fun for the people who are reading the work. The last time I sent work out to friends was...gosh, two, three years ago? Neither friend ever finished reading what I sent (to my knowledge), after being so enthusiastic about it. One friend read about a third of the material and talked to me in wonderful detail about it, so helpful, and then it dropped off his radar and I never heard about it again. The other friend never got back to me at all.

I'll grant you I was pissed off at the time, but since then I've let go of it. (Oh, how generous of me.) I put myself in their shoes, and imagined having this obligation that I thought was going to be a pleasure, and embarrassing myself by being excited about it and then not getting around to it for days stretching into weeks, and knowing that my friend really, really cared about this thing that I was starting to consider a stone around my neck. What a very yucky feeling. Or, worse, maybe I had read it, and didn't like it, and didn't know what to say; maybe I'd presumed it was going to be a lot better than it was (or at least a lot more polished), and didn't know how to explain that I'd been disappointed.

On my side of the fence there's this beautiful albatross, this beloved child of my typing fingers, and I need to send her out for auditions, so we can find out from an unbiased source whether she has a shot of making it to the big time. To do this, and wait at home for my pretty child to return with a bevy of information about how to improve her weak voice and her droopy tits and then to hear nothing nothing nothing, is torment. But the people in whose hands is the work, it's not their fault. They have a lot of auditions to get through. My albatross is no more important (much less, in fact) than all the other items in their lives. She's my kid, but she's their burden.

If you ever find yourself in this position (I'm substituting myself for any author, here), please know that I want to hear about it if my kid sucks. If you're an early reader, it's not awkward for you to tell me, "Wow, I really thought this would be good, since you spent good years of your youth on it, but it stinks like yesterday's diapers, and here's why." Not awkward. Exactly what me and my kid need to hear, so we can get voice lessons and a boob job and move forward, marching on to Broadway.

(Did that [long-term] metaphor work? I feel like it did, but I'm not sure. See, this is why we need readers.)

The point is, we're both in shitty positions, the author and the readers, and I'm taking this opportunity to acknowledge that I know it. That for me to sit here and bite my nails bloody is no harder than for a reader to look at the manuscript sitting in the corner and know that she has to get back to it eventually. I know that. And what we both need to do is just let it be, calm down and do what's needed (even if what's needed is to walk away and never look back).

Whilst waiting for my dear, dear readers to get with the program finish their extremely difficult task, I've gone back to work on a horror novel I started two winters ago, and it's very slow going swimming back into it again. I don't know if the 30-some thousand words I already have on it are any good. At all. I don't know how to add another 40-some thousand (or more), when the story's pretty simple and I don't have a great deal more plot. Of course, that was my problem during the second half of the Greenland book, too, and now I have too many thousand words. If Matt will once more brainstorm with me and give me exactly the right book to read, I'm sure I'll be fine. Until then I'll flounder on.

In other parts of my life, I continue to cruise along in uncertainty. Christmas approaches. The thing I chose for my homemade gifts this year is by necessity a last-minute thing, so I'm planning to get to work on it tomorrow. There's this little panic critter in my head hollering that I'm running out of time and have nothing prepared and there are so few days left! and I'm having to remember over and over that it's a last-minute thing, I can't prepare any more than I already have. CHILLAX.

That's kind of the leit-motif of this month, actually. When I remember to take that advice, everything's awesome.

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