I was driving to meet a friend for dinner when I heard a Robert Plant interview on the radio. I've searched in vain to find a transcript; I think it's lost to the winds of change.
I grew up on Led Zeppelin, as classic rock lives on in southwest Iowa today as it did in its heydey. Middle America is where time stands still for old-school rock and roll, as it does for mall hair and some forms of acid-wash jeans. There are places deep in the heart of Nebraska where I assume people are still pegging their jeans, similar to the Space Odyssey: a land where time stood still and perhaps the universe ceased to rotate for several decades. That, my friends, is western Nebraska.
Anyway, Robert Plant was talking about his creative process. He said if he listened to what people wanted him to be at this point in his career it would all be awful, that he had to create what he is now for himself. As I was driving deeper into Kansas and reflecting on my own tiny writing career, I thought to myself, wow, if Robert Plant has deep existential questions, then I am totally fucked.
But that's it, isn't it? This is all there is, for all of us, what we have in this moment. Lay down your swords, boys, this is who you are.
Today I worked with Laura Fraser on a session at BlogHer PRO all about putting together a book proposal, which I did for SLEEP IS FOR THE WEAK in 2006 or 2007. The book came out in 2008. If I did today what I did in 2008 for SIFTW, I doubt it would have been published. If I did twenty years ago what I did for THE OBVIOUS GAME in 2011, I think it would've sold better. The fact is, the world turns, and the publishing world turns with it, and none of us really knows what's going to happen next. What worked yesterday won't work today, and works today won't work tomorrow. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Being a writer is more about the career than the book. Save yourself the pain and absorb that truth.
(I really wish there was a typed transcript of this Robert Plant interview. You're going to have to trust the paraphrase here.)
So the host was asking Robert Plant about his career (and what a career!) and Robert Plant was basically saying at this point he just does what he likes and who cares what the bastards think? (Again, I paraphrase.) That at some point, people have an expectation of you, and you have to decide whether or not to fulfill it.
I have no idea if there is an expectation of me other than what I set for myself. I'm guessing probably not.
Yesterday, I lost a notebook with all my ideas for my next novel on Southwest flight 699 from Kansas City to Phoenix. I've filed a claim in the hopes that my little notebook with owls on the cover has been found. The first thing I did when I got to my room was open a Word document and word vomit everything I could remember from the five-hour drive home from Thanksgiving into it. The idea is so weird anyone who finds the notebook and reads it might think I am crazy.
I'm a little crushed that I lost that notebook. I may have cried in the Phoenix airport.
And as I dried my tears, I thought of Robert Plant.
And I thought about what expectations I have set for myself.
Today in the BlogHer PRO session I admitted, once again, all my writerly failures. How many times I have been rejected. My ongoing search for a career agent. My many projects in all their various stages. Laura actually called me out and insisted I would do better to work my network, and I admitted to myself and to her that maybe I haven't asked more people that I know in the field to introduce me to their agents because
Even after two books, I am scared.
I want to be Robert Plant.
I want to get to the point where I make my own art, and I do not worry about where the cards may fall.
I went into the session with the hope that people would hear my part of the story and understand that the artistic gig, the publishing gig, is fraught with rejection. I would have nothing, absolutely nothing, published without the sheer force of my will. Nobody else has ever cared about it like I have.
You get up, you send more queries, you get critiques, you revise, you query again. And so on.
Thank you, Robert Plant, for reminding me that in the end, nobody cares about my art like I do.