When I got the contract to write my book two years ago, my husband teased me. “It’s like you’re in the NBA,” he said. “Every writer wants to be published, just like every basketball player dreams of being in the NBA. And you’re in.”
It was true. By my own novice writer’s standard, I had arrived: something I wrote was going to be published with my name on the cover! It was a lifelong dream come true. I was ecstatic.
And then, in October last year, my book was published. It’s a beautiful book (I kiss the feet of the designers) and I’m proud of it. But here’s the thing: if Doug is right that publication is the writer’s version of the NBA, then publishing one book with one small press is the equivalent of bench warming. And the problem with bench warming is that no one sees you play. The big name big shots are out there making the baskets and winning the game, and you’re sitting on the sidelines, hoping your coach will put you in. And of course, he doesn’t. Because you’re a benchwarmer. And that’s what benchwarmers do: they warm the bench.
I am not sure what I was expecting to happen upon publication. It’s not like I consciously thought I would be a different person—a published writer person—or that my life would look dramatically different. But I must have been expecting something, because whatever it was, it hasn’t happened.
In fact, nothing in my life has changed except that I can now find myself on Amazon. Big whoop. (Okay, it is a big whoop, but you can only do that so many times before it gets seriously stale.)
I still have frizzy hair, nasal congestion, seemingly endless laundry, children who are sometimes disrespectful (don’t they know who I am? I’m a published writer!), and the responsibility of getting dinner on the table every night. I mean, did I really expect that those things would change simply because I now had a book to my name?
I can’t have been that naive, surely. But I do think I expected that being a published writer would lend a sense of glamour to my days, make me feel more significant and important and worthwhile than I did in my pre-publication days. But it hasn’t. Even if you have a book with your name on the cover sitting on your desk, frizzy hair is still not glamorous, and nasal congestion is less so.
No wonder I felt deflated.
So now I’m back to the grindstone, revising my novel, writing a proposal for another non-fiction book, trying to sell articles to magazine editors who don’t want to buy them. Sometimes, post-publication, I wonder why I insist on doing this. I’m not making any money, my hair is still frizzy, and thus far only 1800 people in the whole of the U.S., the U.K., and Canada have bought my book. Clearly, this is not a glamorous profession.
But I can’t help it. The words come, the characters cry out to be made real, and I have to heed their voices, write them down.
I may be a bench-warmer to the end of my days. Most writers are. (And who am I to think I’ll somehow be different?) But even if I have to sit on the bench for the rest of my life and watch other writers get all the attention and the accolades, I’ll still try. I’ll still practice, writing that sentence, that paragraph, that scene over and over again until I get it right. And one day, please God, it will be my turn to play to a crowd.
In the meantime, I’m going to see what I can do about my hair.