In the past three weeks, I have given it up about seven times. The first time was when my new book contract was rejected by my favorite editor. It was only the second rejection—not the end of the world or the topic by any means. But in this economy, the only books getting bought are by celebrities, fad diet gurus, and reluctant heroes. Those books are rarely good.
Then again, one of my closest friends, Sheri Booker, finally sold her book about the black funeral parlor industry. Nine Years Under will be published by Gotham/Penguin.
Sheri sends me chat messages every few days asking me how my writing is coming. “I quit writing,” I tell her every time.
The first time was right after talking to my agent and promising I would take her advice. She suggested I sell some stories related to the project, and I have dozens in my head, but I am wrestling with the futility of endeavors like these and anguish and fear and all those things that plague writers in the sophomore slump.
After the second time I quit writing, I got a message on Facebook from someone I don’t know and didn’t pay: she “loved, loved, loved” my book, “and so did the 3 friends [she] bought copies for.” Maybe I’d come back, I thought. Nah, I rethought.
Sheri has become my guardian writing angel these days. I think she’s trying to repay me for being hers last year. She had just received constructive criticism from my agent regarding her book proposal, and she wasn’t sure she would bother to pursue the project further. I became her nagging Jewish mother, asking her nearly every time I saw her what progress she’d made, even while I was stuck in the red leather recliner trying to survive.
I am sure she thinks I am the reason she has a book contract now—that I pushed her when she was ready to give up. So when she asks me every other day, she sounds a little desperate to rescue me.
The other day, when Sheri asked me, I told her I was going to spend some time working on large mosaic projects and maybe some photography. I made it sound like I really did have alternate career plans and that I was fine with that. “maybe you do need a small break from writing / but you and i both know that you haven’t quit / you are a true writer.”
Last night, I got another Facebook email from someone saying she got my book as a gift and was prepared to dislike it; who wants to read about cake when you can bake one? she asked.
Well, I would sure rather read than bake. I’d rather write than bake.
Oh, yeah. Except that I quit.