One of the best things about my second job is that I get to work with a bunch of interesting college students. One of my colleagues is a writer.
“I’m hoping to get a book published before I graduate,” she said. I said something noncommittal the first time she brought it up. I don’t know if it’s something in the water, but she’s not the first student I’ve met who thinks that once you’ve written 300 pages that you are done with your book.
This time we had a conversation about it. I did not hesitate to lay it out as I saw it. Just call me Indy Clause Killer of Dreams.
“I wrote my first book when I was sixteen,” she said. I wrote a novel in a composition notebook when I was thirteen, but I was 35 before I decided I could call my writing or my unfinished manuscript a book. (There has to be a happy medium.)
She had queried agents but with no success.
“I need to have qualifications,” she said. “Maybe I should have been a creative writing major.”
“Maybe you should try submitting something,” I suggested. “You know, get some smaller things published first.”
“I did. I sent two things out this summer. But I haven’t heard back.”
“That’s awesome,” I said. “Send out more. You don’t even want to know how many years I’ve been submitting.”
“I want to be a full-time writer.”
“That’s the dream, right?” I gave her the kind of look I give kids who think they don’t have to put citations in their papers. Don’t bullshit me. This shit isn’t easy.
The conversation made me feel old.
“I just want to be published.” I know, kid, I know.
I don’t know what the creative writing professors are telling the kids, and I’m not sure why they think books don’t take more time to write and revise. I admire their ambition, but it just isn’t that easy.
Unless, of course, I’m doing it all wrong.