I have had a long-running love/hate relationship with William Shakespeare. Yes, I know, you're shocked, but 'tis true. The Immortal Bard has been getting under my skin since the fifth grade.
One of his plays that really rattles my cage is Hamlet. Hamlet didn't work for me as a protagonist. I never connected with him. It might have been the royalty thing -- not like I'm going to have a lot in common with a Prince of Denmark -- but didn't he just get annoying after while? I mean, To be or not to be is not a question. It's a pity party of one whining for a better table.
What burned me was how Ophelia got a truly raw deal; I always thought her ghost should come back and haunt his dumb ass. Ophelia was a younger version of Othello's wife, Desdemona, who also went nuts and committed suicide. Sure, Shakespeare made it look like the Moor killed her, but if your paranoid hubby comes to bed muttering about you cheating on him with his best friend and how he's going to put out your lights, do you hang around? Not if you're in your right mind and want to live, you don't.
Hamlet's incessant whining aside, the word be has been on my mind a lot lately.
Be is a big word for writers. It's the better table, the one that isn't by the restroom or tucked behind a potted plant. From wannabes to bestsellers to has-beens, writers are forever chasing after that better table. It's what you do to be a writer.
When I got into the game, publication was the table I wanted. To be a writer, you had to be published. And that was the whole deal.
Brother, was I clueless.
After I published my first novel and tried to sit down at that table, I was told (among other things) that it wasn't good enough. To be a writer, I had to be like all the other pro writers, join their groups, fit in with their agendas, network and self-promote their way, pay for awards competitions with them, go to cons, do booksignings, impress the right people, sign with the right houses, get the right reviews, make the right lists, etc. etc.
After a while trying to do all those things didn't make me want to be a writer. It made me sick, and horrified, and sad; at one point it even made me stop writing. I don't blame anyone but myself for that. I was so ignorant of the industry that I was practically begging to be chewed up and spit out by it. Once I figured out that it was me, my stupidity, my inability to be anything but who I was, I quit trying for the better table.
You know what happens when you stop trying to be a writer? You go back to square one, to that place where you left behind your dreams. Mine was always to write books and publish them; the little table behind the potted plant where few people can see you. Whatever you call a person who does that, that's likely all I'll ever be. But as tables go, it's small and comfortable and quiet. I can invite whoever I want to it whenever I want, like now, or I can sit there and write alone, in peace. It's not the best table in the house, but it's where I belong.
As for that elusive snipe of publishing, the big be, I don't know if there is such a table. I've heard a lot of rumors about it but never caught sight of it. I suspect no one ever does. Writers who want to be something in this business are forever chasing a better table, like the end of the rainbow's pot of gold or that distant shimmer in the desert that promises water. I hope someone finds it, but it won't be me.
How's your table in publishing today?
*Added: We're still doing the usual Friday 20 today; I just forgot to title the post that.