Becoming a famous writer seems like a pipe dream to many. You have more of a chance of getting struck by lightning than you do of publishing a successful novel, and, to add insult to injury, some people get struck by lightning multiple times. That’s right. You’d have more of a chance of becoming notable if you walked into a field and made random dares at God than if you actually sat down and tried to beat out 80,000 words on your laptop.
But you can do it. I promise you, with enough effort and a little bit of luck, you can join the pantheon of writers who now see their work in the aisles of a bookstore. And then, when sales do not perform to expectations, you can join the even larger pantheon of writers who walk through the bargain section of a Barnes & Noble, and can be comfortable with the fact that their book is now covered in “thirty,” “fifty,” and “seventy percent off” stickers.
At times, this goal may seem unreachable. I know how that is. You down cup after cup of coffee and you stare at a blank page that will mutate into some clear white abyss. People who think that falling, or any metaphor relating to the act of falling, has to occur in some deep, dark pit, have never stared at Microsoft Word for hours, begging for a sentence to just seep out of the sliver between their fingernails and skin, and creep across the keys, thus giving them the satisfaction that they’re now at least one millionth of one percent of the way finished. You beg for that kind of release, blindfolded, and chained to the bed of your own aspirations, while the dominatrix that is your stupid, unwilling brain, a brain that has imagined every public reading and interview that you’ll ever give once this book is finished, refuses to comply. Sometimes, you’re not even granted the sound of the slap of the whip in your brain’s hand. Sometimes, it’s just darkness and silence, and you’d scream aloud if you didn’t have your ball gag in.
You can get past this. You can slay your dragon/climb your mountain/beat the odds/Lance Armstrong/Whatever Whatever, and you can complete it, and you can submit it, and after what feels like thousands of rejections, you get that one person who says “Yes,” and you become famous enough to put your book in the bargain price section of the Barnes & Noble. It will sit right beside 101 Military Fighting Techniques To Save Your Life, and a 2010 coffee table book about the Kardashian spawn, a book that only serves to answer the question “Hey, what if we made something with the word ‘KARDASHIAN’ on it that could collect dust forever?”
Don’t aim for critical achievement. Don’t look to please the New York Times Book Reviewer. Set your sights on the Barnes & Noble bargain section. People walk through Barnes & Noble every day, and scoff at the prices, telling themselves “Well, I’ll get it when it comes out in paperback.” And then, in a last ditch effort to make their mall trip feel somewhat worthwhile, they’ll step over to the bargain section and after having a laugh at the ridiculous images on last year’s calendars and flipping through the 5,000 page collection of every H.G. Well story, their eyes will fall upon you. Right next to the Mad Magazine Halloween Collection and the pop-up book about vampires that seems to have had its cover ripped off, they’ll notice the price tag, decreased to fifteen dollars, and then to ten dollars, and finally to seven dollars, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll take that chance.
They’ll skim the covers, and read the writer’s biography. If they’re aspiring writers themselves, they’ll feel a wave of angst and jealousy, as they read that you got a book published at an age that’s younger than they are now, and put the book back. But if they’re kindly, if they’re a grandmother who was disappointed by the Home & Garden selection and decided that there had to be SOMETHING in the bargain section worth purchasing, or a guy in his late twenties, trying to spend the last few dollars on a gift card, they might just take your book to the front register and purchase it.
Many people consider dreaming to be “shooting for the moon.” But what if you don’t want the moon? What if you’re shooting for a piece of space debris floating by, or maybe some chunk of a dilapidated satellite, orbiting constantly, and just waiting for NASA to pick it up and take it home? Go for it. Take the plunge.
You might surprise yourself.