Indy Clause, Killer of Dreams

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.


13 responses to “Indy Clause, Killer of Dreams

  1. I suspect that having majored in creative writing would not have helped her. Maybe it’s different now, but during my four years of writing workshops we never once talked about the realities of the writing lifestyle. What sort of day job is best? How do you balance work and life with your writing? How do you form and keep a writing discipline? How often should you be submitting? How do you submit? Is work-for-hire writing a good idea? Of course, the answers to these will differ for everyone, but they’re essential questions for someone who wants to write for a career. When I graduated, my understanding of being a writer was the same as hers. “I need to publish a book. Then I will be a writer.”

    • In my MFA program I had one prof. talk to us about submitting and one other talk to us about strategies for keeping writing over the summer. [School redacted] in my experience is not known for having a lot of graduates who are still writing.

  2. It’s sad how little information my generation is given about this shit. We need someone like you telling us how it is. Don’t be afraid to be blunt about it. 🙂

  3. Harlan Coben once said: “I don’t want to brag, but with the fourth novel, I was getting $6,000. Overnight—just like that.”

    And Ridley Pearson, who has written many, many books, wrote six or seven hours a day for eight and a half years before being published. He actually fell back on songwriting to survive, which isn’t the traditional way ‘round . . .

    So I guess I’ll keep going.

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