People who work in the arts world need patience.
A visual artist can probably bring an idea to fruition more quickly than others: a painting or drawing may be completed in hours, but often it takes much longer. But then there is the puzzle of how to share the piece with others; unless they view or buy it, the appreciation is fleeting and perhaps never to be repeated. It may end up being relegated to the back of a studio.
Performance arts involve long periods of planning and rehearsal, then culminate in one or several performances. Those who watch and enjoy have to carry the memory and images of these occasions and the feelings they evoke, but the actual events may never be repeated. Months of work is over in a few hours.
A writer faces a long period of gestation. Longer than a pregnancy, probably. Anything from months to years, with no guarantees that anyone will ever see this embryonic manuscript. It may take some time before the words even begin to appear on the screen. Some books involve massive research while others are inspired cameos written in notebooks, devices on the run or the back of a paper napkin.
My books spawn many sticky notes, shifted endlessly around on an empty wall. The chapters jostle for their order and some are deleted in rash moments, only to be dug out from computer trash and restored to dignity somewhere else in the evolving story. Ideas that seemed brilliant at the start are left sitting on the languishing list of thoughts, some never make it to the written word.
Moments of doubt lead to disloyalty to the unfinished manuscript. Maybe I will try writing something shorter? More sensational? A dash of spicy sex? Fiction writers struggle with plot twists and how to save the hero and write in all the loose ends, while non-fiction writers are stuck with the facts and how to make them interesting and readable when they can’t be changed to make a better story.
It comes down to the question that publishers ask of those who submit their writing in trepidation: why would anyone want to read this book? “Why indeed?”, I asked myself many times while writing my last book.
When the author emerges from the labyrinth of publishing options with some sort of deal or determination to self-publish, that is just the start of the journey.
Reading, editing, re-drafting, editing, “killing your darlings” (a frightening literary phrase that causes author anguish), more editing, feedback, editing. After months of this, the poor writer not only hardly recognises their manuscript, but begins to feel that no-one will like it and can hardly bear to read it one more time. Eventually it is handed over to the publisher; it is like giving away your own child.
Copy-editing, formatting, typesetting, photos, more proof-reading and several months of negotiating over commas and bargaining hard for the bits you thought were your best work – are we there yet?? Then the child that was given away comes home again, all grown up and dressed up with a coloured cover, words formatted and ordered on pages with chapter headings and page numbers. Title, table of contents and acknowledgements give the book a proper form and shape.
After possibly years, it rises up out of a turbulent sea of edited and cut words, and stands tall, takes a bow. “I am ready to go out into the world”.
The book is released – gone from the author’s laptop, joining the world of millions of printed books, catalogued forever with a unique ISBN. Copyrighted. Searchable. A real book and I am the author.
Living for Shalom: the Story of Ross Langmead was released on 31 August 2021.
Also on Amazon, Booktopia, Koorong and other online stores.
Or contact me via this website to buy direct. (AUD$34 including postage)