With the exception of my college’s literary magazine, I’ve never been published. This is a source of some vexation for a few people in my life. My not-so-wicked stepmother, Sally, finally asked me point-blank, “Really, Katie. Why?” I gave her my stock answer of fear of rejection, but that’s not really true. I mean, there is some of that there. Nobody likes rejection, myself included. There’s nothing worse than the pin-drop silence of a room of people who haven’t “gotten” what you’ve just read to them, or receiving an edited piece of work that looks like the editor opened a vein over the page. I’ve experienced my share of both. It’s a special kind of agony. Yet, I’ve kept writing. Despite rejection, I still believe that I’m a good writer.
Although it’s shameful to admit, I do know why I’ve never sincerely sought publication: I’m lazy. Working to get published is a grueling process, and I lack the drive and ambition to put forth the effort. I know. I told you it was shameful. I feel this shame most keenly after reading a book, short story or screenplay that I really like, especially when it was written by a woman my age or younger. I flip to the back flap of the jacket, stare at the author’s picture and think, “That could be me. That should be me.”
At the risk of sounding completely arrogant, I’ve been given a gift. For me, the process of writing comes easily. Sometimes, when the juices (ew — juices) really start flowing, a kind of magic happens. Ideas, phrasing, plot and all that other stuff seem to come from another place, and my fingers on the keyboard can barely keep up with what’s coming. I realize this doesn’t happen to everyone. I realize that I’m squandering my talent by not going further with it.
I tell myself that there’s more time. I find comfort in learning that a famous author’s first book wasn’t published until he or she was fifty. I know this is lazy thinking and a cop-out. I’ll be 35 years old next year. I’m almost 40. Time, as it is prone to do, is running out. Ironically, I feel intense anxiety when I think of myself on my deathbed still unpublished. It scares me.
I attended my first meeting of a writer’s group last night. Although I suck mightily at submitting my work for publication, I rock out at taking writing classes and joining writers’ groups. Folks are always encouraging to me. “You should do this,” they insist. “I know. I know,” I say. But I never do.
It’s time to make a change. It’s time to put on my big girl panties and send some shit out. I want my picture on that jacket flap.