Seriously, Nobody’s Perfect, Icarus
Last week I talked about the agent side-quest that you need to finish to complete the main quest—the Quest for the Holy Grail (aka, the book deal).
The road to this milestone is hard and treacherous, and not for the faint of heart or the sensitive of ego.
Wow. I am literally dizzy from all the metaphor, so let’s cut to the chase. Where was I? Holy Grail, blah, blah, blah, agent, hard, oh yeah.
The agent part is a little like it’s your birthday, but you didn’t know it, until the phone rings and “surprise!” Getting an agent is the stage of the journey where you realize, if you haven’t already, that your book or story is still a work in progress.
It used to be just you, alone in a room staring at a screen. Now there’s two of you and a whole new perspective. The best agents—which is at least most of them, because if not, what’s the point?—make your book better. They see things you can’t; they know the industry, and they are in your corner.
They see your potential. They see you on the shelves at Books-A-Million. And on Amazon.com.
And this is the part where it gets tricky. Don’t get in your head. You can’t buy into your own hype. While they’re out there trying to make a name for you, you’ve got to write the next thing. And the next. And build your career one book, song, article, movie at a time.
Because every book, every story, every artistic endeavor, has to be your first one. You don’t ever arrive—not really. And not everything you do deserves to see the light of day. Hence the title of the blog.
Everybody makes mistakes and nobody’s perfect. Which means, like Icarus, who flew too high, sometimes you miss the mark. You may write 20, 30 pages of what you swore was a great idea only to realize it failed.
Maybe you wrote more. Maybe you even wrote an entire book, revised it, took it through peer reviews, and even presented it to your agent without seeing that there was something at its core that just didn’t work.
That happened to me on my third book. A book that I’m rewriting, from the beginning, as you read this.
See, just like a book is never done, you never arrive. Every book, painting, sculpture, song is a work of art, and art costs something.
Michelangelo didn’t sculpt David and go, “The rest is gravy. I can paint the crap outta that chapel with both hands tied behind my back. I have arrived.”
He never arrived.
Neither did Mozart. Or Leonard Cohen. Or J.K. Rowling.
And neither can I—I learned that the hard way.
And neither can you.
You gotta work it, every day.
Otherwise you’re just a legend in your own mind.
Nobody wants that.