A long time ago, during a low point in my life, someone tried to advise me: “When you come to the end of a rope, tie a knot and hang on.” I remember snapping back: “When you come to the end of a rope, you should let it go and find another one!”
My particularly rope that I’ve been hanging on to is Writing to Get Published By A Major Publishing House. Letting go felt impossible, until now.
What changed? There were a lot of factors, but the main one has to do with author John P. Locke. Last fall I did some editing on one of his novels, and over the course of the next few months, we became friends. From him, I re-learned a key element to my own writing process that I had forgotten: Writing is fun.
John didn’t say this out loud: I got it because of who he is and how he communicates and writes. When we talk, everything seems easier and more lighthearted. There’s definitely a ‘flow’ there that inspires me, simply because of his attitude towards his own writing. When I first read John’s novels, I recognized in them the quality of a really fine writer. His style is fast and furious, hilarious, descriptive, violent. From the first few pages of Lethal People, I knew that, if he wanted to, he could be published by a Major Publishing House.
To my fascination, John had no interest in mainstream publishing. The idea of months of querying agents, then more months (in my case, years) of an agent trolling novels, and the odd desire to receive hundreds of rejection letters, meant nothing to him. He wanted his books out and available, with a cover he liked, blurbs and ads and press releases that he approved, interviews and reviews by people who were appreciative, and a writing-and-publishing process that he enjoyed. He’s already working on his fifth novel – and he only started writing novels a year and a half ago.
John writes because it’s FUN.
I had forgotten that feeling. How books used to pour from me, with cheerful abundance, like a fountain. How words were playful, interesting things – not heavy stones to build a tome. Sentences could come and go, like a breeze. Chapters were filled with laughter and (usually) lots of kisses. A story was light as sunshine, and sprang forth like flowers.
Thanks mostly to John Locke, but also thanks to all the other pioneers of this exciting Independent Publishing Movement, I was finally able to let go of a rope I’d clung to for far too long. Since then, I’ve found that I can sit back and watch in wonder as one sentence leads mysteriously to the next, and stories grow of their own accord – because it’s ‘flow’ – because it’s fun.
Think of a ‘rope’ in your life that you’re hanging on to. It can be a big rope – like a job you’re not happy with but feel you have to stay with, or a relationship that perhaps is nearing its end. Or it can be tiny – like a sock you’ll never finish knitting or a haiku that isn’t working. Imagine how tired your arms are, how exhausted you feel, how you long for someone to come and help you back up the rope to where you were. Feel your loneliness: there’s only you there, hanging on to that rope, legs dangling over the abyss. Maybe even cry a bit.
Now, instead of trying to climb back up the rope, imagine letting go. You realize that to hang on to a rope when your arms are aching is just plain silly. There’s no danger – everything around is soft and slow and warm and lovely. You’re tumbling gently through a safe, interesting world that is totally unexpected, but still your very own, because it’s your own creation. Think Alice’s rabbit hole adventure, for example.
Close your eyes and allow the best experience imaginable to come to you – don’t try to force it. You might find yourself with a whole new way of looking at something that you were previously stuck on.
Now write it down. First, describe the rope you’ve been holding onto and the misery and ache you feel. Then describe the wonder of what occurs when you let go of the rope. Think outside the box – in fact, maybe nothing happens at all. Maybe everything that you were afraid would happen when you let go disappears. Maybe you simply feel relief.
- a fresh cord of wood delivered
- a wide-brimmed turquoise sun hat
- castles in Bavaria
- the eye of love