Friday, August 25, 2006

Analogous life

I've been thinking in analogies lately. This week, running has been on my mind, because I'm running in the NYC half marathon on Sunday, and I've been thinking about how running compares to getting published. As I've mentioned in some of the posts in my personal blog, one of the attractions of running for me is the fact that it's perfectly measurable. I can run 1 mile, or 10 miles, and nothing can take away that achievement. After November, I hope I'll be able to say that I've run in a marathon. That's an achievement that won't be able to be taken away. Being published is like that. Even if you only publish one book that goes out of print in a year, you're still a published author, and I think that's one of the great appeals of it all. Well, perhaps you published and non-published authors can comment on this...

But I'll also say that I no longer run to be able to say I've done it, just as most writers don't write to be published. I run because I find joy in being outside, feeling solid ground beneath my feet, breathing hard, pushing myself, feeling the breeze, feeling the sweat run down my face, being alive. From what I know (I'm not a writer myself), writers are the same way--they write for the joy of it, for the pain of it, because it makes them sane (and insane!), they write because they have to write.

Okay, I'm stretching this analogy a bit, I'll admit. Another analogy I was pondering recently: on Monday I walked to work eating blueberries. I start thinking: Life is like eating blueberries. Sometimes it's predictable--the big, plump blueberries are usually sweet, and the small blueberries are often sour, but I'll eat them anyway in the hope that they'll be sweet, although sometimes you don't end up finishing them because the sourness scares you off. But then every now and then a small blueberry is incredibly sweet, sweeter than a big plump blueberry, and that gives the most joy and makes you keep eating."

Cheesy, I know. But I liked this better than "Life is like a box of chocolates."

More: During our workshop on revision at the SCBWI conference, Justina Chen Headley compared the author-editor relationship to a marriage, and I agreed. We talked about how communication was extremely important, just as in a marriage. But then I thought about it a little more and said later on, "For the editor, it's a polygamous marriage." Editors love all of their authors, but can't devote all of their time to just one. (Many authors are polygamous, too, of course.)

In my editorial meeting, we also use the marriage analogy. If the response to a project is positive but not over the moon and the editor is trying to decide whether they're passionate enough to push it further, we ask, "Do you love it? Would you marry it?" They might just like the project a lot, but not love it enough to marry it, and if they're not prepared to marry it, then they shouldn't sign it up. (Unless, of course, the project is extremely rich, i.e. is going to make you a lot of money. Then you might make an exception and marry for like, not love.)

What analogies do you use in your life?


Libby Koponen said...
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Libby Koponen said...

On the drive home from the one writers' cnoference I ever attended, one of the 4 authors in the car (Erin) described almost dieing. SHe was a flight attendant, and the plane just started free-falling. She told us what at the time seemed would be her last thoughts: one was,
"I never did like this job."
(there were more serious ones I'm sure but that's what I remember. We all laughed.)

Then we started talking about what we would regret if we died now and I said (with some trepidation, thinking it might sound melodramatic/inflated)that it would be ok -- because I'd had a book published.

And everyone in the car said she felt the same way! --Anna, do you remember this conversation? If you do please make corrections...I think the points were made more eloquently than I have them here.

So Alvina I absolutely agree about its being something that no one can take away from you, no matter what, you've done it...also about having to do it.

Your analogies are fascinating (and the marraige one really surprised me). Thanks! I may blog my answer to that one.

Meghan McCarthy said...

I wouldn't equate the editor/author relationship to marriage, but rather dating. Sometimes you break up... sometimes you stay together... sometimes you hit a few rocky periods... sometimes it's the dream date the whole way through. Of course, the author is free to "date" other people... only the editor might get annoyed or dare I say jealous. Okay, now that I’ve put my thoughts on "paper" I feel a little strange!

Moving on...

I agree with you, Alivna, on some points about the book/running thing. However, there's one thing you've missed. I've been athletic my whole life, as well as artistic. The thing about running is (at least for me!) once you complete a race you want to run another... only with a slightly better time. Although I haven't run a marathon because of my lovely back/leg pain, I hope to! I hope when I DO run a marathon, I do ONE and then never do one again. HOWEVER it seems that when people run one, they are compelled to run another, even though the process can be complete torture. It's the same thing with books. Once one is done you think--maybe the next one will be BETTER... better sales, better reviews, better everything. I also think in the back of every author's mind is the hope that just one of their books will become really successful and make all the effort, sleepless nights, stress and agony, worth it.

Am I being depressing?


Anna Alter said...


I remember that conversation! And I do feel the same way. I think achieving the goal of being published (though of course once you are published, you are presented with other, more slippery mountains to climb)- meant so much to me personally and professionally, that I remember thinking "I could die now and be happy."

Melodramatic yes. But we all thought it at one time or another!

Anonymous said...


Are you willing to share which dates you liked best? Which qualified as dream dates?

Do you ever find yourself curious as to whom else your editor is dating? I do.

Katherine Tillotson

p.s. Alvina, I like your dance card.

Disco Mermaids said...

Hi Alvina,

Funny that you posted about this. Fellow authors call me "Analogy Girl" because I'm always throwing them out there.

As a long distance runner and writer, I totally agree. I certainly do write/run for the sheer joy of it. Sometimes writing is like running a treadmill...exhausting yet exhilarating, I enjoy the process even if there is no clear destination. And it's often hard to determine how far I've come. And sometimes I feel like I'm spinning in circles for no reason! But I get up and do it again the next day because it makes me happy.

And our favorite DiscoMermaid analogy is...
"The road to publication is like a churro...long and bumpy, but sweet!"