Anne R. Allen is a freelance journalist living on the Central Coast of California. She has published two novels in the UK with maverick indie publishers Babash-Ryan: Food of Love (2003) and The Best Revenge (2005.) Babash has, alas, shuffled off this mortal coil, so she is out of print and scrambling down in the slush pile with everybody else. She writes a blog that she hopes will help new writers benefit from from her prodigious collection of publishing mistakes at https://annerallen.blogspot.com
A few months ago, Nathan posed a question on this blog: “How Do You Deal with the ‘Am-I-Crazies’?”
Those are the blues that can overwhelm the unpublished/underpublished novelist as we slog away, year after year, with nothing to show for our life’s work but a mini-Kilimanjaro of rejection slips.
The truth is, most fiction writers spend our lives sitting alone in a room generating a product that has zero chance of ever making a penny—or even being seen by a person outside our immediate circle of friends, relations and/or personal stalkers.
So—not surprisingly—we occasionally ask ourselves that big, existential question: WHAT ARE WE—NUTS?
Trying to answer can plunge a writer into despair. So how do we cope?
Most of the over 250 respondents to Nathan’s post answered with variations on the following advice:
1) Embrace the crazy and accept that we are, most of us, deeply and certifiably Looneytunes.
2) Chocolate helps.
3) Ditto booze and caffeine.
4) Ditto sunrises, music, and long walks.
5) Ditto the company/blogs/tweets of other lunatic writers.
6) And reading good books.
7) Or crap books, because we know we can do better than THAT.
8) Funny, nobody mentioned sex,
9) But denial is good. Really good.
10) And keep writing, even if it’s just for ourselves, or the one person who reads our blog, or the dog, or whoever…because: WE CAN’T STOP OURSELVES.
And why is that?
Well, I have a theory: It’s the Tralfamadorians. If you’ve read your Vonnegut (and what business do you have calling yourself a writer if you haven’t read Vonnegut?) you know about Tralfamadore. It’s a planet where a super-race of toilet plungers exist in all times simultaneously. The name of their planet means both “all of us” and “the number 541,” and they control all aspects of human life including social affairs and politics.
Since these beings have infinite time on their hands, I figure they’ve got a lot of leisure to fill up with reading. And how do they get their books? Of course! They compel earthlings to write novels. Hundreds of thousands of them. Way more than earthbound publishers and readers can handle. But on Tralfamadore—hey, they’re consumed like Skittles.
In fact, the Tralfamadorians are so eager for new material, they’ve figured out how to transmit stories right from our brainwaves to their TralfamaKindles the minute you type “the end” on that final draft.
And it could be that right now, as we speak, your first novel—the one that has been sitting in the bottom of a drawer along with its 350 rejection letters and the restraining order from that editor at Tor—could be at the top of the New Tralfamadore Times bestseller list.
Think about it. You could be the Dan Brown of that whole part of the galaxy, where readers are desperate—pining, pleading and panting—for your next book.
And that voice in your head telling you to pound away, day after day, trying to finish that opus, even though everybody, even your girlfriend—and your MOM for god’s sake—says it sux? That’s a transmission from the Doubleday Company of Tralfamadore saying, “Hurry up, dude, we gotta have this for our Christmas list!”
Hey, just prove to me it’s not true.
Julie Roads says
Every single word in this post is brilliant. Well, well, well done.
And nobody ever says that a person who spends the weekends golfing is insane.
I loved this! 😀
Julie Henry says
And THIS is why we love Nathan Bransford.
Lesli Richardson says
Hey, I'll mention sex. *LOL*
Hmm. It also explains the voices in my head.
AND it explains why the yahoos with the foil hats never get published on Tralfamadore. *LOL* Their signals out are getting blocked! 🙂
Thanks, Anne for a great post.
I write because I have to. Because the stories and characters in my heart and imagination MUST be brought to life on the page.
I've come too far to quit. My goals are in sight. We're writers, we create and share our beauty with the world.
Tambra Kendall/Keelia Greer
So you're upset at Nathan because he hasn't gone after the royalties?
I'm definitely in the "we can't stop ourselves" boat. It's salve on the heart when the words come out right. Am I crazy?
C Riede says
Great post! I've written 'I don't want to let the Tralfamodorians down' on a post-it and stuck it on the wall above my desk.
i love this post. by far one of my favourites.
There's no such thing as hurrying on Tralfamadore. It already is.
COME ON, ANNIE.
(Nonetheless, the metaphor is charming and appreciated, if inaccurate.)
Janita Andrus says
I am confident that my novel about my life as an ADDICT.
Ellen B says
A lot of people have said a lot of inspiring things to me over the years – don't give up, you never know when things might change, just keep working.
This one may be the winner 😀
Will it hurt my chances at publication if I've just used a Tralfamadorian to unstop my toilet?
Just for the record, this Tralfamadorian is not a toilet plunger. I'm a back scrubber with one of those poufy things on the end of it.
Andrea Franco-Cook says
Hey great post. Funny, especially the restraining order part. Now I have a "true" reason to write. Tralfammadore is waiting.(:
Leslie Garrett says
LOVE this post…and not just because I'm a slavish, adoring devourer (is that a word? should be…) of all things Vonnegut.
Thanks. I knew there was a reason I did this. Could never quite put my finger on it, though.
Nathan and all the Nathanites, THANK YOU!!
Being blog goddess for a day has been such an amazing experience. I'm basking in all these appreciative comments. And to the new followers who have come over to my blog–welcome!
And isn't it nice we haven't heard a peep from any anonymous trolls? Maybe the Tralfamadorians have activated the anti-troll shields to make sure we get the word out: get back to your brilliant WIPs, folks. Tralfamadore is waiting!
Carol J. Garvin says
It's as good a delusion as any I've heard and provides justification for continuing to embrace this sometimes-mind-numbing pursuit called writing.
Great post, thanks!
That explains EVERYTHING. See, deep down I always suspected it went something like that.
I blame Vonnegut. Had he not written about Trafalmadore, the Trafalmadorians would not have won multidimensinal eternal rights over Earthlings' unpublishables. Their terms of sale suk!
Rich Dailey says
Very helpful. Now I know I'm not so insane as to understand what this post is about. Thank you. Thank you.
"Theere's aaaaaaa place for us…somewhere a plaaaaace for us…"
Sing with me, everyone!
Diana Paz says
Great post, Anne! Your list is perfect and hilarious, and so is this post. I wonder if Trafalmadorians have all the rights to my stories or if any revert to me at some point in the foreseeable future…
I agree with Emily, your blog is a source of great advice and wisdom. Everyone should check it out 🙂
Also agreed that fishing seems like a such an unobjectionable pastime, even for the fishermen who come home empty-handed. Hmm, what if I take up "fishing" and go to a lake every weekend, but secretly bring my laptop instead of fishing gear? It could work!
I love it!
Just think, if we were Tralfamadorians, we'd already be published.
So it goes.
Peter Newland says
I'm a fan of #8
I found this post conspicuously timely (if I were crazy in the schizophrenic sense). Let me start by saying thank you, so you know to read the rest of the comment to understand that it is in this vein.
I originally came across Nathan's site by googling some variation of "Vonnegut" and "literary." I was searching for inspiration after being rejected by an agent for being too literary in my partial submission. Apparently, I was suffering from what I didn't know at the time to be the "Am I crazies." One of the first entries took me to his October 29 post where he defended the importance of literary fiction in a marketability-sensitive publishing world. If you recall, this was the post that directly followed the one where he, first, outright bashed literary writing. In the comments some of Nathan's supporters had been discussing Vonnegut, which got me reading his blog. As I'm sure you feel the same way, his blog has been very helpful in not only learning how to effectively query but stave off the "Am I crazies" (a biweekly issue).
I just went back to that post and noticed you were one of the commenters that day. Just last week, I finally queried Nathan and thanked him for his guidance but I now realize that I owe you a thank you too. Your comments revived my confidence at one of my lowest moments. I thank you sincerely.
Michael, it means so much to know I cheered a fellow writer. I go through the "Am I Crazies" at least bi-weekly myself. I'll have to go back and see what that comment was. Maybe it was the reminder that Vonnegut was published as "pulp sci-fi," and not considered "literary" until he'd been writing for many decades. And as pulp sci-fi, he wasn't that successful.
You may never be James Patterson Inc., but if you keep knocking on stubborn doors, maybe you'll be the next Vonnegut. Sounds like a better deal to me.
Great memory. That is exactly right. Just curious, do you read Haruki Murakami? What other authors do you like?
I gave a writing talk to a seventh grade class last week Friday. One of the questions was why read a book when you can watch a movie. Luckily, I had with me the original Treasure Island novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. I held the book up in the air and explained that it had been published ninety-nine years ago. I could pick it up at the moment of my choosing and dive directly into the author’s thoughts. “Writing is timeless,” I said. I also went on to explain that when you watch a movie you may see for example shot of a man walking down a dirt road toward the sunrise. You are watching it as an observer but you cannot live it. In a book you know that the stones are sharp against his bare feet. The morning sun is blinding him and with weary legs the character trudges forward as a bead of sweat slides down his cheek.
I asked them if they had ever heard anyone say that the book was better than the movie. Almost everyone in class raised their hands. I said how is this possible? They spend hundreds of million dollars to create the move…how can the book be better? They looked at me blankly. “Because when you read a book you can get right into the body and thoughts of the main character, you can live it.” I received smiles and nods and got the warm feeling that they understood.
What you write will out live you.
Point is we are not crazy…
Stricklen- Nice story and well put to the class. I'm not sure about the "not crazy." 🙂
Point taken. Writing a query over and over makes me crazy.
This post is right up there with my favorites, and why I continue to read your blogs & Tweets.
Keep up the madness.
Wanda B. Ontheshelves says
Everyone quotes Gandhi because he is a social change agent par excellence, or sui generis, well you know what I mean. But Martin Luther King Jr. quoted Gandhi, and I feel, unless you're MLK, maybe you should think twice about quoting Gandhi. I think MLK is a phenomenal writer, if you have ever read any of his books – collected speeches, etc. – there is a lot of quotable material in there, for grants and other purposes. And just all around inspiration.
Casey McCormick says
I'm reading this late, Anne, but I wanted you to know I read it and LOVED it. Totally explains everything. Woo. Glad you figured it out for us.
Stephen Byrne says
This is such a great post. I’m blog hopping today (all linked) just come from Anne R. Allen’s blog and finding great sites like Nathan’s too. I’d call this a productive day.