Releasing Angels From Granite

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'I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.' Michelangelo.

A heartfelt, hopeful and honest screed for scribes...

 

There is always a chance…

There is a chance that your novel will snag the attention of some influential agent who understands where you're coming from and how the dynamics of the marketplace might be harnessed to your book, that he/she will carry the rest of the team and that you will get to edit and polish it under the eye of a sympathetic and enthusiastic editor.

There is always a chance that you will eventually hear that a publishing house wants to pick up the work. It could take a year, or two...or three...

There is always a chance that you will get a non-returnable advance…

There is always a chance that you will attract sales, sell online, to bookshops, to libraries, achieve foreign rights…

There is a chance that your work will gain sufficient interest for said agent to want to see follow-up titles…

There is even an off-the-scale chance that, in terms of success, you'll become the next J K Rowling… (When nothing is certain, anything is possible...)

But bear in mind…

Such phenomenal luck happens by accident. No one predicts it. No one contrives it. No one knows why or how it comes about, though in retrospect reasons will be assigned, patterns recreated with superstitious obsession and hopes staked on dreams and hot air.

Rather…

Write because it is your own sacred path to comprehension of the world and humanity...

Because you want to share some of those revelations...

Because it puts life's joys and agonies in a truer perspective...

Because you have a story to tell and, by heaven, you're going to tell it…

Write, develop the knack of objective appraisal, and refine your process. The insights gained by commitment alone will work greater wonders than an MFA, or Creative Writing Degree… (New authors seldom believe this!)

Write...and keep writing...and you will have many adventures and epiphanies…

Write...because it will do the work of the Sculptor on the glistening marble (granite, maybe, for most of us!) that is the unique You...and will thereby change the universe…

And for those following the dream of fame and fortune, it may be worth noting…

There is no automatic connection between writing well and the ability to write and construct fiction.

Releasing cherubs from stone is not for everyone in that sense.


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Margaret Drabble's writing room, jigsaw pieces on the table.

Copyright

© Copyright Rosy Cole 2015

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#amformatting

 

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The pilcrow is a cryptic beast

With character upright

A sentinel whose measured strides

Suggest a blessed foresight.

 

Observe him well and you will see

How firm is his embrace

Despatching with a guardian's foil

That ghostly random space.

 

It's plain his purpose justifies

A presence in the frame

For words are apt to mutiny

And stake a wasteland claim.

 

So love your friendly pilcrow

Forget his shoulders gnarled

His shepherding will bind and keep

Your sentences corralled.

 

Copyright

© Copyright Rosy Cole 2011 and 2015

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Without Trying

 

I’d never heard of feline gingivitis stomatitis before four years ago. Then, suddenly my big orange buddy had inflamed bleeding gums, severely bad breath and eating problems.  He drooled and had listless energy. That’s when I first learned of the condition.

We took the cat to the vet, changed foods multiple times and tried all manner of treatments to deal with the symptoms and lessen the impact. We found nobody knew what causes the condition. That bothered me. Fifty years of living with cats and I’d never heard of it. Suddenly, I was dealing with it. We followed a rhythm of giving him steroids alternating with anti-inflammatories and antibiotics. Cycles of improvement and decline followed. Eventually the medicines caused problems. Nothing could be done as he decided he was done. His body shut down and his heart failed.

Another of our cats, Lady, began going through the same. Wow, living all those years with cats without ever hearing of it or seeing any literature on it? That surprised me. My wife and I had two to four cats for the last thirty-eight years. I had cats while growing up. How had I not heard of this? Was it the food, water, vaccinations, the air, something in lawn products or the air? No amount of research lessened the mystery.

Lady was already suffering from kidney failure and bladder infections when her gingivitis stomatitis struck. We put her to sleep. We rationalized, she was quickly losing weight, was already down to six pounds, almost half of her healthy weight. She didn’t seem comfortable and was not sleeping much. We we were doing her a favor. We also acknowledged that caring for two sick cats had burdened us and we were weary and emotionally drawn. The cats’ illnesses and treatments were part of a larger pile of friends and relatives being sick and passing away.

A black and white stray cat that we named Tucker came into our life as my orange cat’s health issues accelerated a few years. We fed him, gave him water, searched for his owners, checked him for a chip. Now he’s ours and he has gingivitis stomatitis. His drooling is terrible, with breath so foul, landfills would be offended. We again began treatment. Anti-inflammatories and antibiotics. Teeth removed and cleaned. Same course we’d traveled with the Gingerbear, except we didn’t use steroids. I didn’t want to, not yet. That would be my last choice. Had anything new been learned? New treatments? No. A body of anecdotal treatments and observations was growing but the vet profession and industry had learned and developed nothing new.

Tucker had new shots December 22nd. I tracked his progress on the calendar. On January 22nd, I noticed slight drooling. His energy dipped. The drooling rapidly and steadily increased, his breath worsening. It was all nasty again by January 28th. Time for more shots, I figured, sighing. But –

Here’s an optimistic but. One treatment attempted for The Gingerbear and Lady was probiotics. We still had some. It hadn’t expired. The treatment had not worked on them, mostly because both seemed turned off from it, refusing to eat food doctored with the stuff. They were like picky little kids. But I tried it with Tucker. He didn’t seem to notice the stuff at all. I began it on Wednesday, gradually increasing it each day. I’d been watering down his kibble since the first day his problem was discovered, to make it easier for him to eat. Now I mixed his grain free, gluten free, rice and meat kibble with wet food and added probiotics. Why not? It was on hand.

And, lo. Wow. No drooling last night, Friday. No drooling this Saturday morning. Increased energy and a surge in spirits. It seemed like the probiotics significantly improved him. I’m astounded by the impact, and heartened. I hope this will keep his issue at bay for a while.

There’s no new lesson here, just a reminder that what works for one doesn’t work for another, human or beast, and that what doesn’t work for one may work on another. I can never know what solutions will work and shouldn’t assume they won’t just because it didn’t work for others. Just keep trying. Maybe something will be found. Maybe not, but I’ll never know without trying.

As I do with everything in my life, I see how applying that lesson to writing is beneficial. If anything, it’s always been my mantra. Keep trying. Keep trying. It was one of the core lessons I taught to people in quality management. When your first attempt fails, try again. That’s how knowledge s learned, achievements and experiences gained and processes improved. Failure does not mean stop. Failure should be expected and accepted. Fail, learn the lessons garnered from failing, and try again.

That’s what I had done. From trying to outline my first short stories to writing and publishing them to outlining novels to developing my writing process and realizing I’m better as an organic writer to writing and finishing novels, keep trying, keep trying like crazy. But, yet again I stall as I think about publishing all those novels. I’m working on three this year, I finished four last year, and wrote two huge trilogies in each previous year. Ten novels finished – not including the traditional first novel mess – none published, with only the flimsiest of efforts made to acquire an agent and a little more energy expended to investigate Other Than Traditional publishing routes.

The other night’s oh dark thirty epiphany about my completed novels (posted in The Old Writer) influences me. It’s an interesting aspect of myself and how I’d drove my energy to conceive and write novels, and edit and finish them, but not publish and sell them. Pretty damn amusing. Like getting a college degree and then deciding, well, that’s it, I’m done.

And, I’m wrong. I’m not done. I need, I tell myself again, as I probably do five or six times per year, to get serious about publishing something, somewhere, any of them, come on, man, get off your ass. Step up.

And I answer myself, you’re right, okay, I will, I’m gonna do it, this time I’m gonna do it, here we go.

Yes, here we go.

I’m amused, though. I see the negative/positive side of myself and how it affects me. I tend naturally toward organizing and analyzing things. They’re both useful and I’ve had success through those traits, until they’re used too much. Then they paralyze me. That happens to me here. I over-analyze and over-organize my publishing efforts. I need to just do it, as I learned to do with writing – or posting on the net. Just do it.

I’m also amused, though, by how little feedback is given in publishing rejections. No, thanks, it doesn’t work. What about it doesn’t work? It can be a million things, for example, a tired agent/editor reading it and passing because they’re too tired to accept, too long, poor structure, trite writing, the book being poorly written, too experimental, or of a genre that agents, editors and publishers don’t see as profitable. There’s minimal feedback. Lessons learned are much harder. Without lessons learned, how do you figure out what’s ‘wrong’? There isn’t really a way. Yes, you can hire readers, join critique groups, pass manuscripts around to friends and family, workshop manuscripts, do public readings, attend conferences….

Mostly, though, it’s a matter of continuing to try. Keep looking for avenues and trying them. Even a dead end can be a lesson learned.

 

With my mind relieved of that thinking, it’s time to write like crazy, again, at least one more time.

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The Mutability of Literature

Language gradually varies, and with it fade away the writings of authors who have flourished their allotted time; otherwise the creative powers of genius would overstock the world, and the mind would be completely bewildered in the endless mazes of literature. Formerly there were some restraints on this excessive multiplication. Works had to be transcribed by hand, which was a slow and laborious operation; they were written either on parchment, which was expensive, so that one work was often erased to make way for another; or on papyrus, which was fragile and extremely perishable. Authorship was a limited and unprofitable craft, pursued chiefly by monks in the leisure and solitude of their cloisters. The accumulation of manuscripts was slow and costly, and confined almost entirely to monasteries. To these circumstances it may, in some measure, be owing that we have not been inundated by the intellect of antiquity—that the fountains of thought have not been broken up, and modern genius drowned in the deluge. But the inventions of paper and the press have put an end to all these restraints. They have made every one a writer, and enabled every mind to pour itself into print, and diffuse itself over the whole intellectual world. The consequences are alarming. The stream of literature has swollen into a torrent—augmented into a river-expanded into a sea. A few centuries since five or six hundred manuscripts constituted a great library; but what would you say to libraries, such as actually exist, containing three or four hundred thousand volumes; legions of authors at the same time busy; and the press going on with fearfully increasing activity, to double and quadruple the number? Unless some unforeseen mortality should break out among the progeny of the Muse, now that she has become so prolific, I tremble for posterity.

 

Washington Irving

The Sketchbook

1819

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