Where the Streets Are Not Marked
“You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both you elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?
And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.
You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…
…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a sting of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
That’s not for you!”
Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
Let me tell you a little story about what it’s like to write and launch a book.
It’s a process filled with waiting places – places where you can choose to sit back and hope good fortune stumbles over you, or where you can take matters into your own hands and walk to the good fortune.
The beginning of this journey is filled with excitement. You head down these long wiggled roads at a break necking pace, and it’s exhilarating and terrifying, and you sort of stumble your way through the process until you reach the other side. Finished. A completed manuscript in your hands.
This is when you enter the first Waiting Place.
You hold in your hands a tiny piece of your heart, and you have to decide if you’re going to let anyone read it. So you timidly hand it over to strangers, hoping they like it. And you wait for the “Yes” amidst a whole lot of “No.”
If you’re not content to stay in that waiting place, you persist and push through all the “No.” Because eventually, with a little dedication and refusal to give up, you find your “Yes.” Someone agrees to bind up that piece of your heart, and put a title to it. This, it turns out, is where the real work starts.
Launching a book is like running a marathon in the dark. You sort of stumble along pitch black roads, feeling your way toward the finish line, hoping you don’t peter out and die before you get there. That’s where it’s imperative to have running partners by your side.
Last weekend, I headed up to Greenville, South Carolina for the Allume conference. This is the third time I’ve attended this conference, and it holds a special place in my heart. This is the place where I found my running partners.
There’s a confidence that comes from being with a group of people who understand this crazy journey of publication. They understand the rejection and the fear. They understand the extreme exhaustion that comes from pouring your heart out on the page, and the utter terror that you feel when you must submit those pages to be judged.
The first year I attended Allume, I went all alone. I had the unedited manuscript for my novel tucked away in my bag, and I met with several agents, all of whom loved the concept, but “fiction is a touch sell,” and on they went.
Except for one.
She agreed to at least read the first 50 pages and give feedback. “It’s too long,” she said, and she was right. 150,000 words was a ridiculous length for a debut novel, so I spent the next year editing, and cutting, and shaping it up.
I went back the second year with my edited novel, but I was also joined by Wendy, and together we had a proposal for a new book – a book for creative moms, meeting them right there in the mess of motherhood.
This time, we heard “Yes!”
Then our agent took my novel and said “Yes, again!”
I went to Allume this third year with two books in production, and the weekend was spent trying to learn the ins and outs of marketing and launching. It’s intimidating and overwhelming. I’m running a marathon in the dark.
But at least I’ve got running partners by my side who are cheering me on. Several of them have already walked this path, and so they offer advice and wisdom, lighting the road before me just slightly.
It’s exhausting and overwhelming, this journey I’m on. But I’m glad I pushed myself out of the waiting place and onto this path. Dr. Seuss was right – waiting isn’t for me. The journey is so much more fun when you move forward…even if you’re moving in the dark.