Monday, October 11, 2010

Outside Looking In

Tonight, as I stood outside my hotel room for nearly an hour, waiting for the maintenance man to figure why my key wouldn’t open the door (he finally had to bring a huge jack-like tool and pry off the outside of the lock, causing me to have to change rooms), I pondered what I should blog about. Then it occurred to me. Why not blog about being kept out of where you want to be?

It was either that or trying to come up with an analogy about the bathtub that doesn’t drain, and leaks—plink, plink, plink—all night long into two inches of standing water, but you don’t want to call the maintenance guy again, so you just live with it. And bathtub analogies are so overdone these days. You know, bathtubs are like e-book readers. It took a while for them to catch on, but eventually everyone started using them—except people who stink. And because of bathtubs, big publishers and agents became extinct, and the individual could finally decide what was really good without interfering editors.

Like that.

So back to being kept out of your figurative hotel room. Which in this case represents being published. As you stand outside the door—which represents the barriers to getting published (see the bathtub analogy above)—you think about all the good things you are missing. In fact if you press your ear to the door, you can almost hear everyone inside having a good time without you. Of course it could just be episodes of Family Guy and King of the Hill, which you can only watch while you’re on the road, because your wife hates both shows (and yeah, she's probably right.) But either way, you feel like you’re missing out.

And the more you wait in the hallway, clutching your chicken salad sandwich (which you ended up with because you went to some crazy Ohio fast food place that doesn’t actually sell burgers, chicken, or any other unhealthy thing, and has muffins instead of fries for a side dish), the more you start to think you’ll never get past that door. Maybe you’re not good enough to get inside the room. Maybe you should go to the little place down the street that has metal keys—which always work. And a vibrating bed—which only eats your quarters.

You wonder if there’s some trick to getting in the door. Maybe you have to know someone who has connections to the maintenance man. Maybe you have to do something different with your key. Hold the door while you slide it in and out? Slide it fast? Slide it slow? Slide two times quickly?

Every time those little lights flash yellow and red, instead of green and red, you become more depressed, and start eating your chocolate chip muffin, even though it’s supposed to be dessert. You know it’s only the key that’s being rejected. Not you. But you still feel like the door not opening is a direct reflection on you, personally.

But here’s the thing. Yes, knowing the maintenance man can help. But lots of people open the door without knowing the maintenance man. And there really is no trick. And whether or not the door opens for you says nothing about who you are. You just have to have the right key for the right door at the right time. As a very smart agent said to me once, once you reach a certain point, your writing is publishable. After that, it’s just a matter of finding the right person, for the right project, at the right time.

The thing is not to let that big heavy door psych you out. Doors can keep you out, but with the right key they swing open so easily you wonder why it took you so long to get in. But you have to be persistent, and eat the occasional chocolate chip brownie. And once you get inside, you’ll discover that the people in the room are no different than you. Except for Stewie, who really is different from everyone, and not just because his head is shaped like a football. They just happened to get through the door a little before you. But it’s a big room, and there is always room for more people. Especially if they bring more muffins and like strange and occasionally inappropriate humor.

Don’t like the analogy? Just wait till you see what I do next week with airline food!


Blue said...

Ohhh....can't wait for the airline food analogy! ;-)

Laura said...

Sometimes it feels like you're standing in the hallway forever. And that chicken salad only lasts for so long.

I liked the idea that eventually writers' work is publishable, that it's just a matter of finding the right fit at the right time. I'm clinging to that one for another year.

Cara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cara said...

Interesting analogy, I have to share what doors you have opened with Farworld, my daughter listens to your books on CD almost every night and asks me at least once a week, when will the next book come out...? I have to say, 'I am not sure'. I have a nephew who read both books in 3 days, they are waiting for the next book...

So, my comment is more of a question...Will there be another Farworld?