There's a beautiful moment in the semi-autobiographical novel Junkie by Burroughs. In one chapter, after kicking heroin, he's writing about getting his life back together and how great things are. The beginning of the next chapter opens with him shooting up with his friends. No reason. No explanation. No excuse. It's just what addicts do.
I had over twenty-four months of glorious peace without worrying about plot or characters or publishing or literature. I really didn't miss it, much. Sure, I thought about it now and then, when I saw a good movie or heard about the latest best-selling novel. But overall, I occupied myself with other things to pass the time: teaching, traveling, running.
Yet in the end, the curse always returns.
Every addict has his own trigger. For some smokers, it's that first shot of tequila. For some tequila drinkers, it's that whiff of cigarette smoke. For writers—well for me, and I hesitate calling myself a writer, it's the lure of instant gratification.
For decades I blamed my lack of production on the gauntlet of literary agents, publishers, slosh piles, and overwhelming odds. That sense of futility slowly built up during the long slog of writing day after day until it overwhelmed everything else. After enough time trapped within myself, it was easy to stop writing; why continue when the end result was just another unread manuscript? What difference did it make if the novel was done or half-done?
Then comes Kindle. And iBook. And NOOK. And all the other e-readers that are flooding the market. Publishing is changing. That heavily guarded entrance into the writing world is crumbling. I’ll be surprised if any small publishers exist 10 years from now. Even the huge publishing houses are going to have to change the way they do business. Self-publishing, with all its fallacies, is more easily accessible than every before. It's no longer forking over about $5,000 for a 100 copies of a hardcover book to hawk to your friends and relatives and whoever else will pause to listen to your pitch for a couple of minutes. Now, you upload the great masterpiece and the whole world has access for the low, low fee of $1.99. Who can resist taking a chance at that price?
Actually, I wish my addiction to writing was this simplistic. I wish it was all about just getting published. Or about money. Or about fame. But it’s not. My writing is … well, I’m hoping this blog will help me sort that out.
Yet, regardless, I'm back on the junk.
One difference is that this time I plan to record the whole writing-a-novel process from beginning to end. Share the anguish. The drudgery. And in the meanwhile, rant about a variety of topics that have always bugged me about the creative process. For the truth of the matter – or more important, the truth to me – is that writing sucks. It drains my life. It destroys hope.
Yeah yeah, but here I am. So, get out the spoon, tubing, needles, and lighter. It's time to get hooked again.