Writers are warned about the fiasco of their first novel before they even begin covertly scratching bits of dialogue on legal pads during business hours, much less birthing characters and their capers. Of course, there are many good reasons why writing and sending out that first novel can be hairy at best, but before images of the martyred writer start dancing in your head, consider the six little words that have sparked many a revolution: what have you got to lose?
If you fear that your book will not make you a literary celebrity, that’s probably true; but you have more of a chance of remaining in anonymity if you aren’t finishing and sending out that first work. The worst that will happen is that that your novel will be forced to endure the writer’s spring cleaning, taking up residence in the sock drawer with the sobering knowledge that the socks are more likely to get a publishing contract. Just remember the old adage, though, that the first novel is meant to function as a sort of lubrication for the next tome to come shooting out of the writing mind.
Besides, you’re a writer and must be prepared to make a living off being a glutton for punishment. The act of creating even the briefest anecdote involves a number of verbal sacrifices and downright word deaths. Each term is chosen over countless others that could have filled the same slot. You are the alchemist who can convert your joy and pain into words, but you dream of the impossible: of placing your thoughts down whole on the page.
The crux of the writer’s pain, then, is that, although you have articulated some part of your imaginings, you know those images will always exceed that attempt, remaining imprisoned in your head. However, the real artistic impasse is that, although the image will not make it to the other side whole, it won’t make it there at all if it’s not translated. This makes the art of a writer like a creation myth, as the idea must be sacrificed before it can be resurrected into words.
Writers are doomed to repeatedly undergo this perverse exercise in order to make their art. Ultimately, what you hear when you read is the torture music of the author caught in the midst of the painful process of expression. Let me leave you with one thought: if you live with this ache every day, you can handle the rejection letters.