My First Three Novels
The first one took about two years full-time. I started when I was twenty-four and gave up when I was twenty-six. The price of that one was my bank account, my sanity, my marriage.
The next one, six years later, took about eighteen months full-time. That one I actually finished. Couldn’t find a publisher for it either.
The third one, three years after that, took about two and a half years and brought me to the point where I was seriously considering hanging myself. The only reason I didn’t was I couldn’t find a hook strong enough to hold me. That manuscript didn’t find a publisher either.
Was I discouraged? F*#k, yeah.
At that point I packed up and moved from New York to L.A., where I spent the next five years writing nine screenplays on spec (about six months each, working real jobs at the same time). None of these found a buyer either.
Yes, in many ways those years were as hard as they sound.
But at the same time I was getting better. I was learning my craft. I had learned how to write a sentence, and I had figured out how to write the sentence after that. I was not making money (at least not in the field I wanted to) but I had become a thoroughgoing pro in the sense that I could start a long-form project and I could finish it. That had not been the case in the beginning. I had learned how to sit down. I had learned how to stay sitting down. I had learned how to deliver, even if I was delivering to nobody but myself.
Had I found my voice? No. Did I have a name for Resistance? No. Was I a good writer? No. Did I have any realistic confidence that I would one day succeed? No.
But I had reached the point where I no longer gave a shit. The fact that I had no money was not going to make me quit. I didn’t have a family, I didn’t have a home, I didn’t have a future I could count on. None of those was going to make me quit either.
By that point I didn’t even have a dream. That was a good thing. I had given up on the fantasy that there was a brass ring, or a movie deal, or a rave review that was somehow going to change my life. I had found what I did, which was to sit at a keyboard beating my brains out, day after day, no matter what.
Have you written one book and can’t find a publisher? Are you discouraged? Have you started three businesses, four, seven, ten—and they’ve all failed? Are you discouraged?
Nobody said this racket was easy. But that’s true of everything, isn’t it? Raising a child. Keeping a marriage together. Reinventing yourself when everything you went to school for falls apart.
My hat’s off to everyone who starts out with a dream and launches herself, in the face of adversity, into bringing that dream into reality.
I can’t prove it but I’ll bet that 99.99% of the men and women who read this blog fit into that category—and the other 00.01% do too but they just haven’t figured it out yet.
It’s mid-February now, the time when diets crash and gym memberships fade away. It gets easy, amid the snow and cold, to lose focus and start asking those questions that Resistance loves to hear rattling around in our heads.
Hang in there. I will if you will.
You might not realize it, but you’re getting better. Trust me. I know.