Monday, February 15, 2016

Shooting My Eggs In One Basket?

When I first began my writing career, I struggled. And I mean struggled. Nothing came easy--not the writing, not the self-editing, not the submissions. Especially the submissions. And even though I thought I knew everything there was to know about writing (ha! the folly of youth), I eventually recognized and accepted that I'd have to zero in on what I wanted to write. Up to that point, I was sending a short story to Magazine A, an op-ed piece to Newspaper B, an article to Magazine C--the writer's equivalent of shooting a Gatling gun at anything that would stand still long enough for me to get a bead on it. Or not. Didn't matter. I scattered those submissions around the country like bullets, just hoping one of them would hit its target. 

Here I am struggling and shooting off submissions willy-nilly, 
hoping to hit that perfect target. You know, the one who would, 
to their everlasting joy, discover me, ask me where'd I'd been all 
that time, and pay me exorbitant amounts of money to write 
anything (and any way) I wanted. Not really. These are my 
grandsons, Cannon (no pun intended, although it would be a 
a good one), Hunter, and Dustin. And no, this isn't a 
Gatling gun, but it sure is an impressive piece of weaponry.
At that time, submissions were mailed (not e-mailed) to publishers and for the most part, no multiple submissions were accepted. To the fledgling (or even mature) writer, that meant sending off your baby to parts unknown and waiting breathlessly, sometimes for months on end, to get an answer. If it was a no, and in my case it often was, then off it went to another publishing house and the waiting commenced all over again. In the meantime, I scoured the world for opportunities to submit, made sure the editor hadn't died, been fired, or moved to another publishing house, and tried to come up with suitable ideas. 

Oh, I had success with greeting cards, essays, anthologies, a steady newspaper column (twice), speech-writing, ghostwriting, and feature articles for the local newspaper. I was thrilled each time I saw my name in print, but it was hard work and drove me nuts. Eventually I came to the conclusion that none of those were what I wanted to do for the rest of my writing life. Frankly, I couldn't stand the tension, I'm not known for my patience, and I had a lousy aim. Scattering my bullets ... er, submissions willy-nilly wasn't working. Eventually it came down to one thing: did I want to wait forever on several pieces of work for a yes or no, or did I want to work exclusively on one project? I opted for the latter, so now I write novels (and blog posts).

Others might come to a different conclusion, particularly those who crave the excitement of what's around the next bend, who search for the next big thing readers are interested in, and who never get bored with just one project. I envy them that sense of adventure and their willingness to put their eggs in several baskets. But I'm one of those people who wants all my eggs where I can see them. I enjoy getting to know my characters, researching the setting, and having only one thing to concentrate on for a long period of time. I need to know that when I close my eyes at night and my mind wanders (as it inevitably does, much to my body's discomfort the following morning), I'll be thinking of ways to improve the one project I'm working on at that moment, rather than having to mind-juggle multiple assignments. Of course, writing a novel isn't easy either, but it's a far better fit for my brain. I finish one, then move on to the next. 

Thank goodness, though, for those who are capable of handling several assignments at once. Without their talents, our magazines, short stories, greeting cards, newspapers, advertising, poetry, and all other forms of creative communications would come to a screeching halt. How about you? Do you crave the diversity of traveling several writing avenues at once or prefer walking a familiar path until it ends, then finding another?

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