Monday, April 20, 2009

Is Anything Ever a Perfect Fit?

Female Figure StudyI might only have one more drawing for you after this, at least for a little while--tonight is the last evening of Rob's figure drawing class, and then if I want to keep in practice, I'll have to go to the sessions downtown. Of course, Rob is happy because the semester is almost over; and I'm happy too, because we're both going to be less busy after that. (I've noticed that busy-ness in our house tends to trickle down...)

Then again, though, I usually find ways to fill my time, even if I manage to eke out some free moments. Reading is a big culprit. Today, though, I used some time well, and sent out a couple of writing-related queries. I have this quarterly Excel spreadsheet that I use to keep track of queries, and last quarter (Q1 2009) I did well, sending out a pretty decent number of queries--12. I hadn't sent anything out yet this month, though, after having gotten a disheartening clump of rejections around Feb. and mid-March. A few of those were from agents who I really thought might be a good fit--that's always disappointing.

But then, is there ever really a perfect fit right off the bat? I found a new place to query one of my novels today, and it seems like a great possibility: relatively new literary agency, actively taking on new clients, open to unsolicited queries, very interested in YA, interested in graphic novels and multicultural themes...I was excited. Then, after sending the query, I thought about all the other times I sent my work to agents who seemed like a great fit. At best, I got a sentence or two of explanation with the rejection. At worst, it was a friendly but generic "no, thanks," sometimes accompanied by a "not right for us" or "we're not quite enthusiastic enough."

And it occurs to me that there are probably 8 gazillion other would-be published novelists thinking the exact same thing at the exact same time, after reading the exact same online interview: sounds like a good fit. Cue the deluge for poor Mr./Ms. Agent. I'm sure it's not fun for any agent to go through the slush pile. And it's also not fun, as a writer, to feel like you're deluged with rejections. I know I'm nowhere near deluge status yet, though I'm quite well into the double digits. I read this article earlier today, thanks to Robin Brande, about knowing when to quit, and realized I've got quite a ways to go, in fact, to even call my rejections anything more than a trickle. Still, it wears on me. I'm getting rejections from all different walks of the writing world, too.

In many articles about perseverance in fiction writing, including the one I just mentioned, the authors casually mention how long they had to keep at their "lesser" writing projects--often editing, freelance article writing, short stories, whatever--as though these were no problem, no problem at all; just the minor stuff that keeps the writer writing and helps put food on the table. The truth is, none of that feels minor to me, and none of it's as easy as it sounds--the author of the article has that right. And as for when to quit...who knows. I just sort of vacillate between Impractical Career Prospect #1 (freelance art/design/fine art) and Impractical Career Prospect #2 (writing/editing), trying not to hear my parents' voices saying "I told you so" and trying to come to terms with the fact that I'm evidently not a normal sort of person who wants a normal sort of job.

And I keep trying. Even when I don't want to.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Can't-Do List

Female Torso StudiesI've noticed that to-do lists tend to be both a blessing and a bane to my existence. I'm constantly making them, and without them I would probably be too scatterbrained to remember all the crap I'm supposed to get done (not a good thing for a freelancer); but at the same time, I find them paralyzing and stifling. Not to mention all the things that I WANT to do but don't actually ever make it onto the to-do list because I can't quite justify spending the time on them, somehow. It's this latter idea that I'm having a real problem with lately.

Male Torso StudiesThat is, I'm tired of shoving aside all the things I want to do, all the long-term projects that I really think would be good for me, simply because, immediately after I think I might like to do it, then I think, Oh, I can't do THAT. So I made myself a Can't-Do List. It's a list of all the things I want to do but haven't been able to find time for. Secondarily, I scooped 45 extra minutes out of my day--at least 30 of which is spent either agonizing over what to do next or procrastinating, and the other 15 unnecessarily prolonging my coffee break--which I will use at least four days a week to work on items from the Can't-Do List. Here's the list, with appropriate can't-do notes:

  • It might be nice to drive out into the countryside to a park and sit at a bench and write or draw for part of the day. (No, I can't do that. I don't have time.)
  • I think I might like to do a major project like a graphic novel or an internet thing. (No. I don't have ideas that are good enough. I'm not skilled enough. I don't have time to invest on something that big when I have other work I should be doing.)
  • I want to make some illustrations and send some out and develop a portfolio of samples. (I can't. What would I draw? I don't have a style. I don't have enough skill. I don't have time to make the drawings good enough.)
  • I want to make enough art to have a show, or at least send work out to juried shows. (But again, see above. No time. Not enough skill. No ideas. Can barely even finish art work I'm currently working on. Have too many other projects that take precedence.)
  • I would like to make a chapbook of short-short stories with accompanying artwork, but I seem to have run out of steam with those and now I'm afraid to try.
  • I want to make "found poems" out of found text; even found stories, and maybe accompany them with artwork in a chapbook.
  • I want to get back into practice on the piano at least a little, and possibly start learning how to play the drums.
  • I want to try to fit in a little meditation every day or every other day.
  • I want to make enough handmade books that I can set up an Etsy shop for them.

So my goal is to spend the first 5 minutes of my 45 minutes meditating, and the other 40 on one or two of the list items. It's the 45-Minute Plan, and I'm not allowed to procrastinate about it AT ALL. I have to eliminate the "but I should be doing X....but I should be doing Y..." that takes up so much of my mental space. It's really, really difficult. I'm hoping that making this sort of bite-sized plan will help.