The Writer’s Life … Pot Holes

Picture this:

You are driving down the highway to share a Sunday picnic with the family. The sun is high in the heavens, the kids aren’t fighting, and no one turns off that favorite song you play fifteen times a day. Then from out of nowhere, BAM, the front axis is cracked by a pot hole the depth of the Grand Canyon.

It’s raining. You’ve been shopping all day. You pick up the kids, drive into the take out window of your favorite fast-food joint, and load up on high carb, low nutrition dollar bargains. You are wet and tired. All you want to do is make it home before they implode and start throwing cheese doodles all over the back of the station wagon, the RV or your sedan.

Leaving the fast food joint you look both ways, see that distant puddle, and remembering your cracked axis, drive around it, and SPLAT, that sheet of water on the other side of the puddle covers a pot hole the width of the Indian Ocean.

Pot hole cartoon here

Translated into your life and hard times as a writer? You finish that first mad draft. The rush makes you feel giddy with excitement. You put her through a quick spell check, do a fast re-read and carry it off to the Critique Group.

The fifth and next to the last draft is finally revised, edited and ready for publication. You click send, and your first-born travels through cyber space to Agent A.

The sixth, and next to the last rewrite is polished until it shines like your grandmother’s china cabinet after she puts the 1,500th layer of bee’s wax. “Don’t use that Pledge stuff honey. Good old fashion bee’s wax, and muscle is what you need.”

You heed your grandma, ’cause what are grandmas for, if not good advise? You polish your WIP, do another query, and send it, and ten sample pages off to Agent B.

Down the road you travel, one book can use up more of your energy-saving gas than an entire fleet of taxis in New York City.  It devours paper and printer ink, and it occupies copious space in your hard drive, external back up drive, two flash drives, and a CD for good measure.

Your Critique Group was less than enthusiastic the first five times, and by draft number ten, they are secretly wishing you crack your axis and miss a meeting.

Agents A, B, and C, don’t send a rejection. They remain white noise on the world-wide web. Agents D, E, F, and G send form rejections, probably written and mailed by an intern.

By this time, you have hypothetically, cracked your axis, blown three good tires, bent one rim, scratched a fender and scrapped the underside of the engine and still, CRASH, another pot hole swallows you, your car, the kids and the groceries. It takes a tow truck and the jaws of life to get you to safety.

Wanna give up driving? Think it’s time to turn in your license and take the bus?

Do you secretly believe that writers are plagued by an inordinate number of pot holes, pit stops, dead ends and electrical storms that short-circuit their GPS on a dark, lonely highway?

Ready to give up, cave in and find a real profession, hobby, craft, pastime or vocation?

Maybe you think being a struggling painter might be easier? All it took Van Gogh was one lousy ear, being dead for decades, another hundred years for his bones to rattle in the grave, and he sold at Christie’s for millions.

As many New Yorker’s have discovered, there is no solution to pot holes. Each winter they open up like the graves in a horror story, or the creaking door on Inner Sanctum.

Each spring the Highway Safety Commission, blocks off funding, and little trucks roll onto the highways and byways and fill in the little suckers with fresh black tar.

Being mindful of law suits, the Mayor often announces that our Safety Patrol will post little yellow flashing lights at the opening of said pot holes to warn off unsuspecting drivers.

Each day another group of little trucks deliver the yellow lights. Each night the kids swipe them, and along with the STOP signs and STREET SIGNS,  they adorn the kid’s bedrooms like coat hangers.

No, there is no solution for pot holes in New York or anywhere else.

A solution for your writer’s life? STOP.

Yes, I said stop. Sit down and read what you have written. Read it a loud to yourself, and listen.

Since you can’t trust the Mayor of New York, the Highway Safety Commission, or dear old granny … trust you.

When you slow down and learn to trust yourself … amazing things can happen.

Or you could drive into the sunset, ride off a cliff,  and never be seen or heard from again.

How about you? Do you really think there is a conspiracy of nature, and college interns trying to wreck your dreams?

fOIS In The City

Note: Any viable solutions to pot holes should be mailed directly to your local mayor.

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40 Comments

Filed under Random Thoughts

40 responses to “The Writer’s Life … Pot Holes

  1. Great analogy and advice. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Brinda Berry

    What? No solution? I enjoyed this post. Unlike Van Gogh, I hope it isn’t after losing a body part and being dead a hundred years to be successful. 🙂

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    • Hey Brinda, sometimes I feel like several of my body parts are getting too old to negotiate the road … then I dig up and out and BAM … I find another surge of energy. Keep at it and I promise it won’t take 100 years 🙂

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  3. Actually, it was a young intern who first requested a partial, and then a full of my first project. She was very excited to show it to her boss, a BIG agent, who. . .may or may not have read it, as all I got was radio silence.

    But I’ve never forgotten young Lauren, who I hope now owns an agency of her own (what with her good taste and all.)

    R

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    • Rosemary, don’t you love the image of the overworked agent, her more than enthusiastic intern? It’s good that you still think well of Lauren, who might look back and remember … darn that’s one good writer I let slip away? You go Jersey Girl 🙂

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  4. Who knew a post on ‘potholes’ could be so deep? (Sorry, couldn’t resist) Florence, you really hit the core of the issues we face as writers – as the only constant, we are both best friend and worst enemy to our writing selves. My guess is that you handled each pothole with patience and good humor. The point is to persevere, not park.

    Thanks for this ~ as always. You’re another positive constant in the writing world! 😉

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    • I think you got it, Liz. If we park or stop driving, not only do the kids never get to music lessons … we never get to our ultimate destination. I always appreciate your comments and warm thoughts 🙂

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  5. Nice post, Florence – as one who has been battered by potholes (and has the scars to prove it) I’m with you.

    BUT – I’m also proof that you can come out on the other side!

    Not sure you want me to tell you what the road ahead looks like from where I am… 😉

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    • Laura, as one who has negotiated more pot holes and dead ends than this gal, you don’t have to tell me what the road ahead looks like … I’ll keep my eyes on the road and one of these days, I’ll see your mile marker and find out for myself. Then we can buy each other that drink 🙂

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  6. LOVED this post, Florence. And, Liz’s comment: “the point is to persevere, not park.”

    Perhaps it’s seems like a conspiracy — those elitist literary agents and editors — grrr and repeat. They struggle through piles of submissions that aren’t (in their opinion) worth the brain cells that wrote them.

    Takes a ton of faith in our writing and our story to believe we aren’t one of those “wannabe published writers with no talent.”

    At times, you’ll find me wielding the pickaxe to CREATE the pothole.

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    • How is it that the image of you wielding a pickaxe is so clear, Gloria. Maybe it’s because I see you as a “wannabe” who will stop at nothing to make her mark … or hole? About that conspiracy theory, make sure you don’t take the axe to any unsuspecting interns 🙂

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  7. christicorbett

    Oh how I love this post!

    I think the ones who survive all the potholes, sinkholes, setbacks, self-doubt, and so much other stuff holding them back really appreciate it when they get that much-deserved contract 🙂

    Christi Corbett

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  8. What a great analogy, Florence. I’ve plunged into numerous potholes on my writing journey: fear, doubt, perfectionism, discouragement. What’s important is to get back behind the wheel and keep on going.

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    • Isn’t it the truth, Keli?? Sometimes we need those bumpy times to give us a true appreciation of the smooth roads ahead. I think I like your reaction … it’s like getting back on the bike after you fall … get behind the wheel and get to where we know we should be 🙂

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  9. After reading this post it makes me think of all the reasons so many writers are going the indie route. You work and struggle and send out a gazillion query letters and get rejection after rejection. What does one do? If your work is good and edited and ready to go and you can’t find an agent, are you supposed to put it in a drawer and forget you ever wrote it? I don’t think so. And kudos to all of those writers out there who have taken the leap to get their work published and bypass the gatekeepers.
    Patti

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    • Patti, I think in this day, it is kudos to anyone who gets published in any way!!

      The hard work and time it takes will balance out in the end … Oh, never, never leave your first or second born in a dark, lonely drawer. Just take them out, let them get a little sun and rewrite them 🙂

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  10. What a great post, Florence! Very wise. It’s the hardest thing for a lot of people to do in our hurry-up culture: slow down. Think. Re-assess. Yes, sometimes it’s time to put that ms. aside and start something completely new. Go back to it later. Who knows: the road crew may have come in and filled in those potholes and it will be smooth sailing. This really does happen. Often you’re being rejected because of fashions in the industry. Chick lit was hot. Then it was dead. Now “screwball romcoms” are coming back in (Just another name for chick lit.) Sometimes it’s the road that needs fixing, not you.

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  11. LOL! Yesterday I read aloud the opening chapters of my manuscript and discovered a few brilliant lines worth keeping and a whole pile of krud that needs to be revised. Am I ready to give up? Not even if they fixed all of the potholes in the world. 🙂

    Wonderful post, Florence. I so enjoy popping over here for my weekly kick-in-the-pants.

    Oh, is that a hummingbird ….?

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    • Sheila, I truly believe that when we take time to smell the flowers, or watch that hummingbird … we are storing our muse for a better day. Once you return, you can turn the krud into gems 🙂

      And my kick in the pants on line buddy, is Laura Drake. You know where to find her. And you know you never fool with a biker/cowboy gal 🙂

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  12. Hey Florence,

    Those pot holes hit us for a reason. I cringe to think of my first submissions, the beautiful word art fit for no higher honour than lining the bird cage.

    Horror of horrors. What if an agent had said yes?

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    • Yes Sherry, I think we often need something to SLOW us down and give us time to study the road map and be sure where we want to go. I guess those summer interns are good for a few pot holes and road blocks along the way 🙂

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  13. Great metaphor, Florence! I especially like your solution– to just return to the work itself and focus on writing. I don’t think writers are necessarily more prone to setbacks than anybody else, but it might be easier to take rejections personally at first. The waiting is probably also difficult, especially in an age where most responses are so instantaneous.

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    • Oh yes Sarah, I think it is so true of our current “instant breakfast” culture to expect results like pop up tarts. It does not good to rush what should take a slow, easy ride and end up in a place we don’t want to be.

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  14. Christi Craig

    Great post, Florence, and lots of good comments. I totally agree with Sarah, too, on how easy it is to take it all personally and difficult it is to be patient. But slowing down, reading the work again, trusting yourself that (with each rewrite) you’re getting better…that’s great advice.

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  15. DM

    Very good post, Florence. Great analogy. Writing is so much like this. The best thing we can do is trust in ourselves and our abilities. ‘Believe in Yourself.’

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  16. LOL… YES!!! They are all against me, secretly plotting my failure!!! LOL
    No not really. All these potholes just force us to become better writers. Just think how incredibly awesome we’ll be in another ten years! 😉

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    • Well PK, I think you are already awesome 🙂 Yes, it often feels like there is a giant conspiracy out there. If you also combine the talking heads of industry, and their take on every fart and bump in the road, one could go mad.

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  17. Great advice. Sometimes the best thing you can do is take some space from your manuscript and recharge. It is amazing what that kind of fresh perspective can do for your writing.

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  18. Excellent analogy. Writing in NOT easy even if you love it. Like life and love its highs can be fabulous, its lows worse than the “slough of despond,” and the waits like the third trimester of pregnancy. An elephant’s pregnancy.

    But we do it anyway because we’re driven, just like winter climates drive those damn potholes!

    Great post. Thanks

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    • Casey, those who don’t love it, take up needlepoint 🙂 Speaking of the third trimester, my second born was one month past her due date. I wanted to pull her out by her tiny little curls … then the day comes and it’s all worth it.

      See you around the bend of that long, winding road.

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  19. Very intertaining. I agree that reading out work outloud certainly helps to see whether or not our words flow smoothly. That smoothness, that flow of words and ideas is what I strive for. I,m sure the potholes will always be there, but
    i’ll dodge them if I can. 🙂

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  20. No doubt, us writers need to write, or we’d never persist. A Canadian writing mentor Brian Henry said there are is one thing you need to get published: either luck, a good book, or persistence. With persistence we do write better books. I’ve lost track of how many revisions my first book has gone through. I now get very lovely, quite detailed rejections with suggestions for revisions that I can work with. I’m getting closer!

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    • Thanks for visiting, Sharon. I believe that when we persist, we become better writers, and that can only be a good thing for us and our readers. I think Mr. Henry mentioned all the elements needed; luck, a good book and tons of persistence 🙂

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