Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Quit Writing

        So, when does one quit writing?
        Steven King says something like, when you have 600 rejections for any one piece, maybe you should think about another line of work, like wastewater treatment certification. I disagree. If you are a writer, you write. Period.

        You never quit.

        Consider the case of Helen Hooven Santmyer. Heard of her? I didn’t think so. She wrote a big, thick novel quite a few years ago that was published when she was 88. It took her 50 years to write. It was a hit, a best-seller, a Book of the Month Club Main Selection. She died three years later, but she worked on that book for five decades, FIVE DECADES, before it was published. It was called “. . . And Ladies of the Club.” Santmyer had written three books before, all published but didn’t sell, all immediately forgotten and committed to the “So what?” corner of history’s literary dustbin.

        Peter S. Beagle wrote A Fine and Private Place and it was published and became a best seller and is still selling copies today. I know that for sure because I’m teaching it in one of my college classes. Oh, and Beagle was 19 when he wrote that novel. He is now 70 years old with many best-sellers in the fantasy genre. Still writing, too.

        So, if you are a writer, you write. You don’t quit. You can take a break, you can back away for a while, you can try another genre if you want to.

        What do you do when you pick up another stack of rejections at the mailbox and feel like eating as much junk food and gin as you can?

        You write some more. Maybe you’re better with a bloated belly and a headache.

        There’s a cartoon I’ll never forget, even if I no longer have it. A scruffy man in a wifebeater undershirt is sitting at a table with a typewriter on it. He’s on the back porch and there are about fifteen dogs all over the place, all kinds. He has a blank look on his face. A woman, also scruffy, is standing nearby and she’s saying, “Write about dogs.”


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