This book has been a long time in the making, as it’s a product of the study I did for my thesis, only slightly amended for the amount of time I have had to think in between. I sent off the proposal about a year ago, did some revisions, assured them that it would be the right length and now I understand that the editorial meeting will be this week.
Every time I think about this book I can hardly believe that I’m at this stage. The aim of the book is to explain that identity is fluid and flexible and that there is a multidimensional way to model the construction of identity. I really hope that I get to publish it. For now I can only wait for the email telling me yay or nay.
On the fiction front I have not been so fortunate. I don’t know if Mercury is retrograde in Virgo or if my work is just not enough, but somehow it strikes me as cruel that agents and publishers don’t get back to prospective authors. Maybe I am crap, but why not tell me in a nice roundabout way, or even straight out? I could understand it if it meant writing out reams of longhand notes each evening, but a simple email rejection is better than months of waiting for nothing.
I have detected some unrest amongst some of my writing friends. I don’t know if it’s the credit crunch or something else, but authors are getting mighty fed up with not getting taken up by agents and are starting to analyse that empty feeling when no acknowledgement is forthcoming. The word ‘validation’ has been pushed to the fore and in one message I described my own needs for validation from writing peers as the behaviour of a ‘needy girlfriend’! When I had sent the message to someone I sat and thought about it.
I am familiar with the Buddhist concept of attachment causing suffering, and all to familiar with this in life when it comes to attachment to people. I am not someone who takes commitment lightly, and this makes it all the harder to let go or even distance myself. Words such as loss, abandonment and rejections are all part of my emotional vocabulary, and over time I have come to terms with them and accepted them in my life as part of socially constructed illusion.
Even so, I have become enmeshed in the circular dance of needing someone to say nice things about my work, needing someone to read it and preferably needing someone to publish it to make me a ‘real’ author. I am sad to say that this has became a large part of my life. Just the other day I read a journal entry from when I was writing my second novel, Finding Isaak. For a moment I felt disorientated and then I realised that this was before Life Immaterial existed. I felt a huge sense of creation, that I had managed to bring a story into the world that didn’t exist before, an extension of myself. For a moment, that in itself was a major achievement. Until the neediness of hungry avarice whispered in my ear that ‘it’s not published’ and ‘you haven’t got paid for it.’ Glass-half-full girl whispered in the other ear: ‘Yet’ and we all went back to checking our emails to see if any agents or publishers had responded.
It also got me thinking about fiction and non-fiction. In my postmodern opinion, there isn’t much difference between the two, but hey-ho, let’s agree with the marketing people who like to stereotype – sorry – genre literature. For a while now I have been writing novels and little by little they have climbed to the top of my writing priorities, as if it’s a race to get published. I know as much as anyone the horrors of editing, copy-editing and proofreading, so why I think producing a fiction book would be any more fun than producing a thesis, I do not know. I expect the difference is the perceived reward. There would be an advance then hopefully another book and some earnings. On the other hand, I don’t know of many fiction writers who just write; most have a day job and write in their spare time.
I sincerely hope that this attachment, this race for validation isn’t what is driving writers to put in so much for so little. It seems increasingly so that writing fiction is maximum effort for minimum financial reward; the only tangible reward seems to be validation. Writing non-fiction is a little different. We already know that to write non-fiction you have to know a lot about what is usually quite a niche subject, and if you are so deeply entrenched in that niche, a book is the obvious way forward and hardly seems like a job. Also, non-fiction is usually connected to the day job and can be usefully used on a professional CV without conjuring up a picture of a starving artist in a garret.
I’m not giving up on writing fiction, I love the feeling of creating a world that is new and fresh. I may even write something extraordinary one day. But for now it’s onwards and upwards with the identity book. As I sit her, pale with anticipation, champagne in one hand and a box of hankies in the other, ready as usual for every eventuality, I already have another non-fiction book in the stocks. Strangely, I don’t seem so attached to it. Is it because I’m an expert in my field and that I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel? Is it the lack of competition? Is it the overwhelming help and care Palgrave McMillan have given every step of the way to keep me informed? Or is it the recognition that I have finally crossed the finish line in this part of my professional life and that I don’t need validation?
Either way, I’m making plans to cut those scarlet arteries of attachment to fiction and enjoy it for the unique creative experience it truly is.
Keep your fingers crossed for me. I’m waiting, waiting, waiting.