“No man is an island,” but especially for those of us in the arts, a dream can seldom be achieved in a vacuum. Most of us have or have had someone who encourages us when we need it, supports us emotionally, financially, socially, mentally–any or all of the above.
Pity them. Most of them didn’t ask for the job, but rather had it foisted upon them when we decided, at some point in our lives, that we wanted to write a novel.
Talk about being blind-sided! How nice, they said at first. A novel. A little pecking on the keyboard now and then, ruminating, reflecting, and then the agent takes it from there and we’ll collect royalties.
Instead, much like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole, they found themselves chasing a mystifying and often annoying creature whom they thought they knew well.
Writers. God love us ‘cause we’re one mega short of a byte. Our Patron of the Arts wannabes are left shaking their heads when we hand off our Coors Light to them at a party, leave a conversation mid-sentence and rush to the car to scribble down scene notes. When we forget to pick up Junior after soccer because we’re figuring out a way the killer can dispose of the body and still catch Flight 218 to London. Or when we run into the truck in front of us in traffic, puncturing the radiator, because we’re rehearsing our hero’s marriage proposal.
It’s not that we’re antisocial. We can’t control the Muse when it hits, or when it abandons us, so what if we drink a little, trying to coax her back? (Sorry about that broken ice luge, Honey.) We might get nervous, too, when we have a proposal or query letter in the mail. We might pace. We might even resort to smoking. Hell’s bells, we’re on deadline! Release the dams. If the Muse abandons us, we’ll chew nails, stick twenty-seven Post-it notes about plot on the headboard and greet dawn still staring at the monitor. We’ll eat seventeen Twinkies in a row or read quotes from Maharishi Mahesh if it’ll prime the pump.
So what if our moods swings make Britney Spears seem stable? Depending on the incoming mail, we’re perfectly capable of doing an impromptu Venus Williams jump-dance (no matter the setting) or bawling our eyes out on the backyard glider. It’s not our fault. We’re totally at the mercy of the judges. Or editors. Yeah, all those $@(!%* people with the power, because we have none, and we get a little cranky about it, so watch your tone when you say “royalties.” Repeat after me, “We *love* two-for-one coupons at McDonald’s, and free samples lunch on Fridays at Sam’s Club is mighty tasty.”
My husband has abandoned the “fight” side of the “fight or flight” option. He gave it a valiant try one year, attending the Rocky Mountain Fiction Wrirers’ summer picnic. Deluged with a foreign language, he retreated. What’s the matter with him? Wat’s so threatening about Deus ex machina, CRMs, remainders, galleys, ARCs, blurbs and em-dashes? Guess it didn’t go well with his mayo because now he seems to grow wings for his “flight” pattern each year when picnic time rolls around.
Then there’s conferences, a kind of Woodstock-for-the-Bookies, a loll in Fiction-Land, a Literary Love-in where writers flock in a shameless communion of lectures, lamentations, levity and liquor, all conducted in that same jargon-laden vocabulary that addles our mates’ minds.
Even vacations aren’t sacred. The unsuspecting Patron of the Arts might join you on a cross-country trip to view the fall colors in Vermont, only to be taken on a 500-mile side trip to Kansas – with a teething toddler – so you can add authenticity to your description of a farm in Kansas. Or she might not-so-enthusiastically agree to being dragged up a fourteener so you can determine if scree is indeed slippery enough that a 120-pound villain could push the hero off the mountain.
They support us when the book sells, and when it doesn’t. They’re with us when sales are good, or bad. Their support is one of life’s true gifts.
They love us in spite of ourselves. Loyal to the end, they indulge our manic need to visit yet another book store, or endure long critique sessions when we invade their living rooms on an otherwise serene Saturday. They might lovingly video a book signing or workshop so we can promote our latest book, and sacrifice in countless other ways so we may pursue our writing dreams.
It is in honor of our true life heroes that I write today, and it is with the deepest appreciation for my own Patron of the Arts that I propose we give this award to our unsung heroes, if for no other reason than they can read something we write — with love and dedication — to them.