Terms of art in the literary world have both entrenched meanings and a collected understanding among those who reside on the surface Terra Literari.
For those who have put word after word on a page — either paper or electronic — they are called “writers;” for those “writers” who have taken their words on a page to the masses, they are called “authors.” For those of us in between, I’d like to introduce a term of art: “stillers.”
Stiller: A person who has taken the time to write anything in any genre and tell others that this is how he/she has occupied much of his/her time over a period of time. Stillers have not yet been published in any form by anyone. Stillers are often asked “Why aren’t you published yet if you’ve written a book?” (Or two, or three, or six . . . ) Stillers tend to offer various reasons for non-publication; including, but not limited to, the following: “I don’t want to publish;” I’m afraid no one will like what I’ve written;” “I’m looking for a literary agent;” “I’d rather write.”
That last reason on the list is the one I use for remaining in the class of “stiller.” I’d rather write than try to convince a potential literary agent what I have written is worth trying to sell to a publisher. It’s a long and frustrating road riddled with rejections or gentle “no thank yous” from scores of literary agents who are looking for the next, fresh voice.
I fully understand the process. An aspiring author wants her literary agent to LOVE her book(s). For a literary agent to successfully pitch her book(s) to a publishing house, that lovely agent needs to be as passionate about the book(s) as the aspiring author is.
And herein lies the problem — for me: passion fades.
For me, I feel deep passion about the story I am writing. No doubt about that. That passion possesses me during the 57 days it takes me to write it; it slinks into my dreams; it distracts my attention from those things which are objectively important to me.
And then when the writing is over, I print out the manuscript and put it in a box on my bookshelf with a wide ribbon tied around it. That manuscript sits on the shelf waiting to be opened in a few months. But despite the “gift-wrapped” appearance, that manuscript is a like the dreaded holiday fruitcake. I really don’t want to open it because I know what’s inside: a manuscript that waits to be edited, to be read by me, to be read by Rob and beta readers, to be re-edited, to be double re-edited, to be judged.
It’s a much longer process than the writing. It is hard and tedious. It’s awful.
Why? Why is it so difficult?
Because after looking at something, which you had once felt such passion over, and picking it apart and trying to get it “just perfect in every way,” you just want to be done with it. You want it to go away and leave you to get on with a new one.
(Admit it: even if you’re not a writer/stiller/author, you’ve experienced this. Think of any ex-lover of yours.)
So passion fades.
For me, it’s been easier to just keep on writing.
I’m “still” writing. I’m a stiller.
And now it’s time to return to my work in progress, Accidental Gravitas.
I’m going to bet that someone will point out that “stiller” is much like the word “staller.”
I’m stalling . . .