Anne R. Allen is a freelance journalist living on the Central Coast of California. She has published two novels in the UK with maverick indie publishers Babash-Ryan: Food of Love (2003) and The Best Revenge (2005.) Babash has, alas, shuffled off this mortal coil, so she is out of print and scrambling down in the slush pile with everybody else. She writes a blog that she hopes will help new writers benefit from from her prodigious collection of publishing mistakes at http://annerallen.blogspot.com
A few months ago, Nathan posed a question on this blog: “How Do You Deal with the ‘Am-I-Crazies’?”
Those are the blues that can overwhelm the unpublished/underpublished novelist as we slog away, year after year, with nothing to show for our life’s work but a mini-Kilimanjaro of rejection slips.
The truth is, most fiction writers spend our lives sitting alone in a room generating a product that has zero chance of ever making a penny—or even being seen by a person outside our immediate circle of friends, relations and/or personal stalkers.
So—not surprisingly—we occasionally ask ourselves that big, existential question: WHAT ARE WE—NUTS?
Trying to answer can plunge a writer into despair. So how do we cope?
Most of the over 250 respondents to Nathan’s post answered with variations on the following advice:
1) Embrace the crazy and accept that we are, most of us, deeply and certifiably Looneytunes.
2) Chocolate helps.
3) Ditto booze and caffeine.
4) Ditto sunrises, music, and long walks.
5) Ditto the company/blogs/tweets of other lunatic writers.
6) And reading good books.
7) Or crap books, because we know we can do better than THAT.
8) Funny, nobody mentioned sex,
9) But denial is good. Really good.
10) And keep writing, even if it’s just for ourselves, or the one person who reads our blog, or the dog, or whoever…because: WE CAN’T STOP OURSELVES.
And why is that?
Well, I have a theory: It’s the Tralfamadorians. If you’ve read your Vonnegut (and what business do you have calling yourself a writer if you haven’t read Vonnegut?) you know about Tralfamadore. It’s a planet where a super-race of toilet plungers exist in all times simultaneously. The name of their planet means both “all of us” and “the number 541,” and they control all aspects of human life including social affairs and politics.
Since these beings have infinite time on their hands, I figure they’ve got a lot of leisure to fill up with reading. And how do they get their books? Of course! They compel earthlings to write novels. Hundreds of thousands of them. Way more than earthbound publishers and readers can handle. But on Tralfamadore—hey, they’re consumed like Skittles.
In fact, the Tralfamadorians are so eager for new material, they’ve figured out how to transmit stories right from our brainwaves to their TralfamaKindles the minute you type “the end” on that final draft.
And it could be that right now, as we speak, your first novel—the one that has been sitting in the bottom of a drawer along with its 350 rejection letters and the restraining order from that editor at Tor—could be at the top of the New Tralfamadore Times bestseller list.
Think about it. You could be the Dan Brown of that whole part of the galaxy, where readers are desperate—pining, pleading and panting—for your next book.
And that voice in your head telling you to pound away, day after day, trying to finish that opus, even though everybody, even your girlfriend—and your MOM for god’s sake—says it sux? That’s a transmission from the Doubleday Company of Tralfamadore saying, “Hurry up, dude, we gotta have this for our Christmas list!”
Hey, just prove to me it’s not true.