“Thomas Mann was a prodigy of production. He wrote a page a day. He was one of the most prolific literary writers who ever lived.” ~ Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
I started reading Annie Dillard’s book The Writing Life by accident. I was reminded of it on Krista Tippett’s podcast On Being. She was interviewing Elizabeth Gilbert, who referred to the book as one of her forms of inspiration and guidance. I went to Amazon and hit “Buy with 1-click” by accident. It was a very happy accident because it gave me exactly the message I needed, the one I need just about 6 times a day: Christa, it’s all going to get done.
Emerson Page, the protagonist in my book, has taken a long time to tell me her story. We’re at about a year and a half into our adventure. She hides. She changes her mind. She only tells me her history in drips and drabs, because she is just learning all of it herself. Writing happens in a flood only once in a very great while. Even if you’re insanely talented or extremely lucky (or a combination of the two), writing is a lot like life. A page is a day, to be written and lived only one at a time. And that’s if you’re doing this full-time.
So now I’m closing in on making all my edits. I’m 80% of the way there. I’ll finish those out in the next couple of weeks. Then I’ll give it a read through in one sitting to correct grammar, spelling, and replace a word here or there. Then it’s on to writing query letters to contacts I’ve made over this nearly two-year journey and we’ll see what happens to me and Emerson. Maybe one agent out of 1,000 will send me back less than a form rejection note. Maybe a small press will show some interest. Maybe it’ll be deafening silence. As a writer, you’ve got to hope and work for the best and completely detach yourself from any idea of recognition or return.
I wrote Emerson’s story because I wanted to know it. I sat with her, and the many other characters surrounding her, for so many hours that I’ve lost count. She is never far from my mind, wherever I am, whoever I’m with, whatever I’m doing. She pops up, whispers something I can barely hear, and I follow her to listen, watch, learn, and get it all down. One word, one page, one day at a time.