The good some closure can do

my writing area . . .
Three-ring notebooks dominate the lowest tiers of a five-shelf unit in my writing station. Printouts of manuscripts and edits, e-books, and Internet tips and articles fill these binders--pages and pages and pages of material I generated or created to help me learn and improve my craft over the years. Paperbacks and hardbacks organized by function--craft, models, comparables, aspirants--are crammed into the upper shelves. Those that don't fit are piled on end tables, bureaus, or empty chairs in every room of my house.

Utility drawers upstairs and downstairs are stuffed with red and black pens, paper clips, binder clips, post-it notes, highlighters. Literary journals, a notebook full of manuscript requests, submissions, and rejection notices line the shelves on my work desk. Another binder lists writing contests organized by month, dating back to 2008, but hasn't been updated since I started graduate school.

Six years. Seven novels started, chapters of which haved been shared with family and friends to varying reviews. Three completed. Evidence of countless revisions. Rewrites. Stories and novels redux. Three years of online critiques printed and collated. One master's in creative writing earned and even more binders of graded writing--one per semester--taking up space.

Until a week ago, nothing much to show for all this work--no, mess--besides about a dozen short fiction/essay acceptances, a half dozen contest wins, and too many snark attacks to keep straight, mostly from other writers though several agents get high marks for snarky zingers, too, in response to queries. One of my favorites: "I remember when I wrote my first novel . . ." in response to querying my first novel.

When you win a contest, you're up. When you get a savage critique from an online site, you're down. Up. Down. Up. Down. Rarely is there any kind of equilibrium. Writer friends lift you up. The same ones put you down. High. Low. High. Low.

That's why, when Booktrope Publishing out of Seattle offered a contract to publish my opera book this month, I accepted. I needed some closure--on at least one of my projects--in order to keep working on the other projects--on anything.

I realize now I felt weighed down by my completed manuscripts that didn't accomplish the ends I envisioned for them. Now that Booktrope is publishing the opera book, that chapter of my saga can be considered done--no revisions required once the book is published--and I can recollect my widely scattered attentions and channel them towards a fewer number of projects.

Though we are encouraged to multi-task in the workplace, and everyone claims to be good at it, I've realized over the years that I am not. However, the only way to persevere as a writer is to multi-task. Shop one novel while you are completing another and polishing yet another while you're entering a story contest or writing a blog post or doing a review of a friend's book. It's what we all do, and frankly, it's exhausting.

I will continue to juggle novel completions, submissions, and rewrites because that's what the profession demands from us. Having closure on at least one of my works has restored my faith in making the journey and has made it feel less like a slog.

The path to publication is a slog. Remember?

I know! However, because of the closure offered by this particular acceptance, I feel like a horse reshod, a kid with new Keds. I feel reenergized in my once-noble, now wholly consuming quest to be a published writer.

As my friend Mary Beth says, "There's nothing a little success won't cure."

Note: My debut novel will be published in December 2011 by Booktrope Publishing.

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