Do you feel it? That you live and die a little with your stories? It's a wild ride, this writing gig. Peaks and valleys. The post about confidence made me think about something, along with a prompt from something Wanu mentioned the other day. It struck me that I might not have told you that I once had a literary agent. Did I? I figured I must have at some point... but then I started wondering. Perhaps I didn't?
And the reason I bring it up now is that I learned something from that experience. It was a few years ago now, for a book I wrote called A Love More Desperate,, a sort of surrealist war novel. The day the agent offered representation was a beautiful, happy, wondrous day. It was a day of validation, one which I'll always remember. It was a bright day in a time when I was mostly seeing black ones. I was trying to work while going to Teacher's College, I was planning a wedding, I was overworked and exhausted and just diagnosed with Colitis... and my father had just died. And then an agent asked to represent my novel.
It was a beautiful thing. Over the next while I worked with the agent, revising certain elements in the book. And then it was ready to go, and... the agent passed away from cancer.
As good as that first day was... this one was bad. Emptiness, really. It took awhile for it all to sink in. My hopes severed, loose, like a rope suddenly untethered. Life was interesting, too. Moving, starting a family and a new business... I put the book aside. Right choice? I don't know. But I was burnt out with it, I think. And maybe writing in general, or perhaps it was just a time to deal with life and grief.
But the writing spark hit me again, of course, once life settled a little. I started writing some new things, found a new space in my new life for the written word. But, looking back, I realized I'd learned some important things too. That sense of validation, that acknowledgment from an agent... while a beautiful thing, it was not something to stand my hopes on. Confidence, faith, belief... these have to lie somewhere else, otherwise I'd always be riding that dangerous rollercoaster.
I think what I learned was that I had to seek validation in the writing itself. It had to be something inside. It had to be inside both me and the story. It had to be something I strived for and reached on my own. The validation, the true satisfaction, had to come from my own sense of things, my own happiness with what I'd written. The rest would come after, and it would be what it was. It would succeed or not. But my hope, my faith, would not be tied to the whims of a capricious publishing world, but rather to my own simple stories, to words that I could shape, to words that could believe in.
And now? This is the year that I'm going to pick up that novel again. I'm going to make it anew, and take it on a trip... but it won't be on a rollercoaster. A train, maybe. Heavy, solid, hard to knock off its tracks. Slow at first, perhaps, but it has speed, a growing momentum. Hard to stop, those trains. I'll be in the dining car, relaxing, enjoying the view. I won't know the destination, but I know I'll be happy wherever it takes me.