WRITING AIN’T NO QUICKIE CLOSET PROJECT! (An essay by Hal Alpiar)

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(A Reality Check Chance Encounter)

I recently told someone who said he never read books or articles that I write books and articles.

He told me how lucky I was to have such a cushy job. I asked why he never read books and articles and he responded that he didn’t want to waste his time with reading about some idea that someone took into a closet, closed the door, and came out a few hours or days later with a story that would rake in tons of money (for doing virtually nothing, was his implication).

Though I must admit to being astounded at this evaluation and line of thinking, I persevered and asked what his occupation was. A landscaper. Gee, I responded admiringly, I always thought that landscaping was a cushy job- having the chance to be outside in the fresh air and sunshine, playing in the dirt, decorating property with flowers, and moving little rocks around so they look nice.

It’s not like that at all, he said. Oh? I said.

Yeah, sometimes the weather sucks and the skin on my hands and fingers is permanently dried up and cracked. I have to go to a chiropractor to relieve my back pains from lifting tree and shrub balls, and boulders and wheelbarrows full of those little rocks you mentioned, plus I’ll probably need knee surgery soon; even though I use protective padding, I’m on my knees 4-5 hours a day! How could you think that busting my ass like that is “cushy”?

That’s a good question, I said; in fact, I was going to ask you the same thing. I then proceeded to explain about my editing and re-writing efforts that averaged about thirty pages worth for every finished page.

Then, for good measure, I added that even after thousands of weekend and late night hours of struggling through thousands of words and word choice decisions, and settling on a draft, and organizing and printing and packaging copies and cover letters to submit for consideration,

I had actually experienced over a hundred rejection notices from publishers, editors, and agents before ever being told that one piece of my work might just possibly be good enough to consider giving publishing consideration

. . . but that I’d have to submit more before the judge and jury could be sure.

Then, I asserted, waving a forefinger in his direction, then comes the editing comments, like twisting knives into the heart of my work, forcing me to defend, or re-write once again. The publishing contracts and agreements require help from a lawyer I can’t afford, and the printing process is like flying across the ocean at 33,000 feet, 100% dependent on the control skills of someone who is a complete stranger.

Finally, like walking around your completed garden, arrives the crowning blow. Your job is done. The printers job is done. Now it’s time to move on to another project, right? Wrong. Now it’s time to promote book sales, and this, by itself, dear landscaper friend, is a fulltime job which I am untrained for and ill-prepared to carry out. Nonetheless, book sales are book sales, and I do have to eat, so here I go . . .  like being suddenly asked to fill in for an olympic luge racer.

Anyway, as you no doubt have figured out by now, writing ain’t cushy!

As a result of our talk here, though, I now have increased respect for the physicality of your work, your dependence on hand salve and the probability of you having to face increased healthcare insurance in the years ahead.

Hey, he said, over his shoulder as he started to walk away, you let me know what you write, okay? I want to read anything written by someone who works so hard on it as I do on my gardens, and especially by a writer-type like you who says “ain’t.”

Now ain’t that somethin’?  I yelled after him.

4 comments so far

4 Comments to “WRITING AIN’T NO QUICKIE CLOSET PROJECT! (An essay by Hal Alpiar)”

  1. Laraine Abbeyon 11 Feb 2008 at 3:49 am

    A delightful little story highlighting that “all is not as it seems”, and how even pursuing our passions brings its fair share of drudgery, troubles, and stress.

    [Laraine Abbey, RN, CRN, Clinical Nutritionist, Princeton, NJ, is living on the island of Bonaire, where she is writing a book on healthy eating practices]

  2. Jeffreyon 15 Feb 2008 at 7:51 am

    Oh can I relate…..well done!

    [Jeffrey Leeds is author of Simply Souper and The Spice of Life Cookbook – Healthy and Zesty Chicken Recipes (Momentum Books)]

  3. Kevin Bousqueton 15 Feb 2008 at 4:40 pm

    Bravo Hal, it is so true. Everyone believes that their own plate has the most on it, but as we all know we all have different appetites. Thank you for helping us all keep in perspective.

    [Kevin is Proprietor, Interlaken Inn & Conference Center in the foothills of the Berkshires, Lakeville, CT]

  4. Melanie Adairon 07 Mar 2008 at 8:59 pm

    An excellent tale! What a joy to connect and recognize each others’ gifts!

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