Like the ostrich with its head in the sand, I have kept mine buried in my writing. It is a comfortable place for the ostrich and also for me. Unlike the ostrich, keeping myself buried in writing is not useless. If I keep writing I can ignore the next step. Unlike the ostrich, I do take my head from my writing and find I am once again in Robert Frost’s yellow wood. Except this time the divergent paths have dissolved and the yellow wood has given way to a cliff face against which I am stretched. My fingers grip and clutch tightly to the secure hand holds I have found. My feet rest firmly beneath me on several ample outcroppings. I heave a sigh of relief. This I can do. The standard admonition “don’t look down” does not apply. It is exhilarating to look down, behind, and back to view the accomplishments that brought me to this place.
UP! I gaze with longing at the top. The pennant of success snaps in the wind at the pinnacle. The goal is clear and voices of friends encourage me onward. Friends. One refuses to read anything I write until she has purchased the published book. My lab rat looks forward to the day when she will own a signed copy. A fellow writer keeps sending me blogs, nibbles of the best writing chocolate that keep me creeping upward, wanting more. My son has told new acquaintances that his mother is an author, unpublished, but he is confident that will soon change. UP! The pinnacle entices and the view is exhilarating.
UP! That is where I should not look. The summit is far out of reach. It is not simply one or two clear hand holds, a scrape of the knee and I am dragging my body to the plateau of achievement. UP! The destination is clear, how to get there, that is not. Between me and the pennant lies an indistinct and dizzying maze on the face of the cliff. Where next? Which hand first? Do I push with a foot? Do I pull? I could go sideways. Would that lead to a better path? How long can I stay here before I lose my urgency and become a disappointment to myself and others?
Have you ever read the book or seen the movie, Banner in the Sky? Rudy is a teenage boy living in an Alpine village. He wants to become a mountain guide as his father had been. He wants to conquer the peak that killed his father. His want is modified and he is allowed to climb the peak as a porter. Up the mountain the party climbs. Down below in the town the village telescope is trained on the climbers. Elizabeth watches intently and describes what she sees for a hotel cook. One foot and then another, up they go, and she climbs on the tables and shelves of the kitchen to illustrate. On the mountain that is precisely what happens. One handhold, one ledge, follow where it leads, back track when the lead dies, try the next, the party eventually gains the summit and plants the banner.
In all endeavors a little planning can propel you forward faster than a mad scramble. It is time to do a little planning to thwart a mad scramble of my own. Perhaps it should be MUCH planning! What prompted this? Two books my son left one night on my desk. Getting Your Book Published for Dummies, and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published, as well as more poking around on the internet.
UP! Don’t look that direction, too much information, too confusing, too many facts. Where is that white flag of surrender?
UP? Yes, but only up. Not too far up, just enough to discern where I am in the process and what would be the next best move upwards.
My philosophy with any work that confronts me is this: take stock, make a list, do the easiest, fastest tasks first. Satisfaction and encouragement comes in quickly checking items off the list. This is my list.
• Know your market
• Present a concise summary of your work
• If you are writing fiction, finish it before marketing
• Know your genre
• Understand your audience
• Keep your word count between 75,000 and 120,000
• Polish your manuscript
• Show your work to friends for critiquing
• Edit for grammar and spelling
• Select a title
• Write an interesting author bio
• Research what is involved in publishing
• Do not submit your first novel
• Attend writers’ conferences
• Subscribe to Writer’s Digest or….
• Maintain a website, get on Facebook or Twitter
• Follow the guidelines given for submission
The list, while not exhaustive, is as extensive as I can handle for the present and is not arranged in any particular order. The mental checkmarks of what I have already accomplished give me a dash (that would be more than a ‘pinch’ and less than a ‘handful’) of confidence. I have no need for the white flag of surrender. Some items can be done quickly, others will take more research and thought before I approach them. The list also suggests future posts. (I’d rather ‘post’ than ‘blog.’Who came up with that word anyway? The word ‘blog’ sounds and speaks like a word my mother would have frowned upon. “Culture your tongue!” would have been her admonition.) As I said, for the moment the list is sufficient. It is with one exception. Quit worrying about UP! DOWN! or in between and PRAY!
PRAY! Is this where the Lord wants me to be? Will He pry my hands from the cliff and set me down in the village where my real work is waiting? Will He push, pull and drag me upwards because I am slow and reluctant to understand His guidance? Will He direct my vision to a peak or a pinnacle I do not yet see? Until the Lord leads me differently, I will continue, one step and then another, up I go, but not on the kitchen counters or shelves. I’ll leave that for the movie version of the book.
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