May 2, 2007

Book Deal


Ann Lamott: In a very important way, writing gets easier, because I've been doing it full time now for thirty-plus years, and just as you would get better and better if you practiced your scales on a piano, I've gotten better, and can try harder and harder pieces.
But writing is always hard. It does not come naturally to me at all. I sit down at the same time every day, which lets my subconscious realize it's time to get to work. I give myself very short assignments, and let myself write really terrible first drafts. But I grapple with the exact same problems every writer does, which is having equal proportions of self-loathing and grandiosity.
I sort of live by the Nike ads: Just Do It. So I sit down. I show up. I do it by pre-arrangement with myself, because I know I'll feel sad and terrible if I shirk on that days writing. I do it as a debt of honor, to myself, and to whatever it is that has given me this gift of being able to tell stories, and to make people laugh. Laughter is carbonated holiness. Other people's good writing is medicine for me, and I hope mine is too, for my readers.
I’ve always written. I thought I could be a writer some day … But then when the opportunities showed up, I procrastinated until the opportunity went away. I was too afraid to find out that I couldn’t really write. Because then what would I be?

A few years ago when God torched my life, something snapped. I wrote. I wrote and wrote and could not stop writing. I wrote to get the pain out, get the story out, get the truth out. I wrote to stay sane. Most all I wrote because I could no longer NOT write.

Once I started to write for its own sake, I started to like writing. I got to that place of, ‘even if I never get paid for this, I’m still a writer. So, write.

Over a year ago I published online for fun and for free, a story on a website called Infuze Magazine. It was called “Rejected by eHarmony!” It detailed all the frustrations I encountered in online dating. Including being rejected by eHarmony three times.

A while later I got an email from this editor at a big publishing house. The gist was: she read the eHarmony piece, found my blog. “Have you ever considered publishing?”

I wanted to respond, “Do you mean, ‘have I considered it yet today?’ It’s only 8:30 am.”

Well she had contacted me right when Larry and I got engaged. Needless to say I got sidetracked. But eventually I got a proposal to her, based on a lot of that gut wrenching stuff I had written when God torched my life. I called it “Angry Conversations With God.”

When you’ve been in a career filled with near misses, where all the control is with some one else out there, you learn to develop a tough skin. Meaning, you talk yourself out of hoping.

But a couple weeks ago I heard from the editor. It passed muster in Nashville, and then New York staff approved it. Her publishing house was offering me a book deal.

I kinda blanked when I heard the voice mail. Wait. What? Oh. Oh WOW!

Not so Out Of The Blue

You hear these stories of people being plucked from obscurity, usually gorgeous young chicks who got discovered at a used car lot and went on to star in a hit TV show and cut a record album. Then went into rehab and is now working at an insurance company. That was never me.

I’ve realized is that it happened just in the course of doing what I needed to be doing all along. Incremental steps, not one big giant step. Gigs here, articles there. Bigger articles, bigger gigs. Money for work. Through that I got over my procrastination and just wrote.

Mostly I gained a sense of Inevitability. This will happen. It will get done. With God’s grace, friends’ support, and my commitment to the process of just doing what I know I am supposed to do. I have no idea if it will be a success. I have no control over who decides to buy it, who’s going to like it. But I have control over writing it. And I have that sense of inevitability about it. It will happen, because it’s what I’m supposed to do.

This morning, our friend Anna Waterhouse sent me the Ann Lamott quote above. As I was printing it out I found a fortune I had received in a fortune cookie years ago.







Gotta write...

PS ... since this post I've done live readings of some of the chapters. You can watch them on my website.

8 comments:

Stephanie said...

You know those places at the beach where the run-off rivers come down and if you're walking, you can't cross there because it's too deep? I've been up there to that part of the beach. I've turned back fifty times because I know for sure - you can't cross there.

This morning I got up and looked at your blog, and there you were. Up there - at that place - but you crossed there!!! I'll figure it out in awhile - how to, I mean - because I want to - but right now I'm just standing here blinking in the sun. Wow.

Stephanie said...

By the way, here's another really good Anne Lamott interview

http://www.powells.com/authors/lamott.html

Lisa Milton said...

Congratulations!

Please keep us up on how it is going - can't wait to see the finished product. Maybe a book tour in mossy ol' Portland?

(I saw Anne Lamott a couple of weeks ago at a reading Powell's sponsored. She read from her new book - good stuff.)

Karen said...

Susan,
I'm looking forward to reading your book! Congratulations.

I think I'm to the place where you were a few years ago....I just have to get over my procrastination. It's getting too painful NOT to write.

Thanks for reminding me I just need to keep doing what I'm doing, and love the process whether I get published or not.

Karen

Anonymous said...

It's Doug Perkins, I'm having trouble and can't log in here for now - mucho congrats on this one, but I always knew you had the goods. You gotta write, fish gotta swim, and birds gotta drop stuff on everyone as we all do what we were created to do!

Annina said...

From one of my favorite poets:

Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. ~Rainer Maria Rilke

So there you are. Facing that terrible empty page and filling it up, then revisiting it again and again because -- dammit! -- that's what you do.

LouthMouth said...

"I’ve always written. I thought I could be a writer some day … But then when the opportunities showed up, I procrastinated until the opportunity went away. I was too afraid to find out that I couldn’t really write. Because then what would I be?"

Okay, it's not just me then?

Cornelia Becker Seigneur said...

Congrats_ great story! thanks for the e-mail and glad to be cyberspace writing pals !

Cornelia Seigneur

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