As I prepare my manuscript pitch for an annual literary conference tomorrow, yet again, I can’t help but wonder if I’m in it for the long haul. Where writing is concerned, I have no choice. I’m simply not myself when I don’t write. I have to do it. I need to do it. Anyone that knows me personally can tell when I’m not writing. I am, to put it mildly, a beast. My desire to tell a story wakes me up at the crack of dawn most weekends when I should be sleeping, sometimes it even happens in the middle of the night. Writing gives me no choice. I must succumb to its pull or embark upon my own personal madness. So for that, I am faithful.
What about publishing? Am I committed as wholeheartedly to passing through the traditional gateway, or do I think I can go it alone? The stomach knots that twist and turn in anticipation of another set of pitches remind me of how similar this dilemma is to relationships.
My frame of reference is skewed in this department because I’m lucky enough to be someone who still has both of my parents in my life. They are loving and wonderful parents and always have been. I’m also proud to say they have been married for a very long time. It’s a feat to admire, yet I know it to be no other way. Still, as I go through life I’ve seen many a long-term relationship end, including ones of my own. All the while, I’ve wondered if those who stay are stronger than those who leave.
I suppose, like anything else, it goes back to the heart of the relationship in question. I’m simplifying my example for the sake of argument, but generally one can ask if the relationship is primarily good and adds something positive or primarily bad and either adds nothing or takes something away. Anyone who has been in a long-term relationship knows it’s not all hearts and flowers. There are days you want to run screaming and other days you can’t imagine your life without that person. But what makes someone stay in it for the long haul?
Commitment is powerful. Especially when backed by vows, but if that was all it took then there would be no divorce. Now, I won’t even begin to pretend to be a relationship expert but in my experience there is usually something deep down inside, something almost innate, that keeps people in relationships over decades through the best and worst of times. A powerful and unwavering force locking them in place because there is no other way they would rather live. Let’s face it, life is tough and sometimes running seems like the easiest answer. If your connection is truly real, staying through the tough times should only make it stronger. And if something has been missing all along, then staying could cause a life of regret.
I’ve always admired those couples, like my parents, who had lifelong relationships and until I met my husband, I never understood that kind of love and commitment. Even when it’s the worst you think it can be and it gets even worse, somehow that is when your heart is the strongest muscle you have ever known and the answer is clear. Stay. Stay. Stay.
So when I think of my pitches tomorrow and what it may bring for my writing career, I’m reminded of those who stay and those who go. Who’s stronger? I think both, so long as they followed their heart.
When it comes to writing, I plan to stay, stay, stay because I have no choice. It is my love. Publishing on the other hand, I’m not so committed to one route. I think I’ll let the chips fall where they may and keep my options open. I’m not afraid to go it alone. In fact, the thrill of such a challenge excites me. It’s not to say that I don’t want to be a member of traditionally published club. I just want to make sure that I follow my heart and have no regrets.
For now, I think I’ll leave it up to the stars.