It keeps me awake at night, haunts me in the daylight, paralyses me with terror…
Can you guess what it is?
The bogeyman? No.
Giant, flesh-eating wasps? Horrifying, but not scary enough.
The bogeyman riding a giant, flesh-eating wasp? Eh…no.
I know you can’t imagine anything worse, so I’ll tell you:
Let me explain why.
You ever try keeping a five-year-old entertained? You use toys, make weird noises, and possibly stand on your head, and if you’re lucky, they stay happy. Imagine trying to do that all through words on a page. You have to say something meaningful in phrases a five-year-old can understand, and you have to make it interesting enough to keep the mini Energizer Bunny entertained.
These things have to be short. You have to fit all that meaningful, interesting content into, like, five words. Okay, maybe like five-hundred, but still, pretty darn short. Which is hard—I was raised on Tolkien and Dickens. ’Nough said.
In the two weeks since my interest in children’s books burst into being, about a million people have told me it’s a hard market. …okay, about four, but they were all knowledgeable people whose expertise I trust. “Agents hate taking on children’s books,” my professor assured me.
I wrote a children’s book anyway.
I poured my soul into it—entirely unintentionally. One day, I read an email from my mother, and I thought, “I should write a children’s book about this.” And then …I did. With no idea how to write one, with no idea how long it should be, with no idea who might publish children’s books or what process to follow to get it in front of someone who might care about it. In fact, I started it without even asking my mother if it was an invasion of family privacy to turn my grandmother’s dementia into a children’s book.
I have no tidy bow to wrap around today’s post. I’m sure you’re all expecting, “And guess what, guys? I sent it out, and they loved it, and I got a contract, and it’s coming out next year!” But actually, I haven’t sent it out yet. I’ve gotten some feedback—some really positive feedback—from some family, some friends, and one widely-published children’s author. But I haven’t sent it out—in fact, I haven’t even finished researching who I could send it to. And the truth is, it might never be published. It might live for eternity (till my computer crashes, anyway) as an unpublished file in a whole folder of unpublished files, just the phantom of unrealised potential.
But here’s the thing: that’s okay.
Yes, it really is.
To spend hours on the words, to pour my heart and soul into a story, to lovingly craft sentences and phrases…and then to see that work live forever in the shadows…that’s meaningful. Because my desire to publish is an outgrowth of my desire to write. I write to process, to understand myself better, and I desire to publish because I believe that individual issues relate to broader human experience. Because my heart and soul might mirror someone else’s, and if writing helps me reach conclusions and gain insight into myself, perhaps reading my conclusions might help someone else gain insights, too.
But if that never happens, nothing is wasted. Because, like I said, I have to stop discriminating against readers. And if I’m my only reader, but I gain something from my own writing, the process is entirely as valuable as if my book becomes a bestseller that touches thousands of lives.
Because the power of words is not quantifiable. Because there’s something beautiful and mysterious in the way that arbitrarily assigned sounds and letters can touch our souls and teach our spirits.
And that why I write. Not for bylines. Not for fame. Not for money.
For the mystery.