Posted in Publish or Perish on August 23, 2012 by Susan Weiss
August 26, 2012
I needed a break. A break from blogging. I’m sure that it corresponded to what felt like a break from writing. (Even though I was still writing, I felt pretty absent from the process.) Also, ironically, I’ve been once again discouraged by the process of trying to get a novel published (ironically because discouragement kept me away from my blog). What I refer to as my second novel (which is technically my fourth novel) hasn’t inspired even a suggestive peep from any of the agents I’ve sent it to. When I find myself so intensely analyzing the relative merits of e-mail versus snail mail submissions, I know that I’m headed for the gauntlet. More about this newest installment of publish or perish at a later time.
Meanwhile, I’m writing a third (technically a fifth) novel that emerged from my fascination with crows. I decided that I really must try to befriend a crow—or rather, get a crow to befriend me. In advance I named my bird buddy Billy. I thought I’d attract Billy to my yard by spilling various foods (though not any of the carrion they’re known to like) on my grass and waiting for the hungry creatures to arrive en masse. But nothing happened while I observed, hidden inside my house, by a window. When I discovered later that the food was gone, I concluded that I’d hosted a small feast for the squirrels.
Posted in Publish or Perish on April 01, 2012 by Susan Weiss
April 1, 2012
I took a break from blogging, just as lately I seem to have taken an unintentional break from writing (but not from being a cancer patient, though I did get good news—relatively—at my last appointment). I began sending my second novel to agents—six by now—and have heard not a peep. There seems to be a progressive/regressive decline in the extent of communication that goes along with rejections. Some years ago, when I was submitting a novel to agents and publishers via snail mail, the only way to go back then, I got a lot of form rejections but sometimes a note of personal encouragement or a suggestion would be handwritten on one. Sometimes I’d even get a custom-written letter. When I was submitting my last novel (now published) I got all form rejections with maybe one or two personal comments. This time I’m not even getting form rejections. Has it really come to this?
On top of the ordeal of trying to get published, I’m beginning to wonder why I write. Considering that I was composing stories and poems almost from the time I could write, I understand that I am, by nature, a writer, that writing is part of how I process life experience. So why am I dragging my feet now? Is my literary sluggishness related to the fact that I got my first novel published—not with a bang, but a whimper? Was that, aside from internal drive, the motivation that kept me going—to become not only published, but transformed into a celebrity, my book title a household word? And now my delusions have been destroyed. But that doesn’t really sound like me, and my imagined life of fame and fortune sounds like such an improbable outcome that I can’t imagine it serving as an incentive for so very many years.
This is not writer’s block. I have, more and more, begun picking away at my third novel. I know what it’s to be about. I even know the ending. But I feel that it needs some other element, like the dual narrative structure in my first novel or the use of script format in my second. How ironic that is, since these features, I was told, might have been what made my novels more obscure, less accessible, and definitely less commercial and publishable. So maybe that’s where I am right now, at the difficult nexus where my aesthetics and my misguided fantasies converge and conflict. Should I be writing for the best-seller-buying public or for myself?
Posted in Publish or Perish on March 11, 2012 by Susan Weiss
March 11, 2012
Lately I've been experiencing a blankness. Writing creatively feels like a struggle even though I thought I'd become such a facile writer over the past several years. I'm not sure whether I have nothing to say or am having trouble getting it said. Notice the lapse in my blogging schedule. As an author, I'm disheartened by this literary constipation. But I'm not, in general, depressed or dissatisfied or disgruntled. In fact, I feel quite at peace.
Could it be, then, that I'm outgrowing my need to write? Perhaps I've emptied myself of all the mental clutter, the static that interferes with meditation. Not a writer's block, but an elevated state of enlightenment. I like that thought, though what will I do in place of writing. I'm too old to go to law school, would be miscast as a real estate agent, and too inconsistent to attempt to upgrade my at-home cooking skills into any kind of business.
I don't really believe that I'm experiencing a bliss based on not writing. But I am thinking that writer's block, or something like it, might not always be a bad thing. I hope my ease with words will return one day soon, and for now I think I'll just trust that it will.
Posted in Publish or Perish on February 12, 2012 by Susan Weiss
February 12, 2012
Fear has been visiting me this past week, an unwelcome visitor, of course. I am suddenly highly anxious again about the status of my disease. Nothing directly related to my health has prompted this latest round of fear, though I can’t help but relate it to my father’s death, my children’s comings and goings—mostly goings, other life changes. For quite a while now, I’ve managed to exist, no, even prosper, without the flattening influence of fear chasing me around everywhere I go.
It is very hard to distinguish between the object of fear and fear itself. Once I become frightened about what is going on inside my body, I mistake that fear for an authentic intuition that my cancer is on the move. Even as I write this, I worry that I can make bad things happen by fearing them. But if my mind has such power over my body, wouldn’t I be able to will the cancer away?
This fear is a couple notches below the tension that makes your heart race when you think you hear someone enter your house at night. It may subside, but it is always there, like a pesky fly that buzzes around the room until finally the buzzing stops, and you think the fly has headed elsewhere. But then you hear it again and realize it had only landed for a brief moment of rest.
Posted in Publish or Perish on January 21, 2012 by Susan Weiss
January 22, 2012
This past week marked the anniversary of my first momentous cancer-related events: the surgical removal of my tumor and the termination of my pregnancy. As I think about my two convergent themes for this blog, I think of all of the fiction I’ve written that has been inspired by my cancer and, even moreso, by the loss of my daughter. I suppose that writing about her kept her alive for me. Her presence in my creative process has become, perhaps, more subtle over the years, though she has in a way become my muse, recurring as character, sentiment, or a whisper in my ear.
Loss, death, fear, gratitude… Having cancer has launched me into so many realms that I believe have enriched my writing. I would have preferred not to have been blighted by this insistent disease, preferred not to bid an earthly goodbye to my girl Thea, but I have tried to find value in even such unwanted experiences.
I gave Thea life, and then she gave me life when her tiny, unformed body was wrenched from mine, clearing the way for the chemotherapy that would, in theory, stop the spread of the cancer inside me. Oh my darling and unimaginable child, today you would have been 20 years old. I fancy that I know exactly what you would have looked like and what kind of disposition you would have had. I so hope that some preservation of spirit allowed you to seamlessly, and without suffering, continue in a state of being: blessed, breathless, and serene. No one can comprehend the awfulness of a mother having to trade her child’s life for her own. I don’t believe I can ever be worthy of such a sacrifice.