I mark the small firsts

The first story I wrote. Shuddering and shaking my head, I recall it was just yesterday, sitting in sunshine, that I attempted a memorable first sentence, a yesterday that’s 37 years back on time’s circle.

The first joy from creating and telling a story.

The first rejection. Yes, that first form letter from Issac Asimov’s Science Fiction and Fantasy.

The first dejection and introspection on what went wrong. Introspection – another way of saying that my heart and soul were torn out of me, leaving burnt, shadowy images of my existence. Really.

The first book purchased on short story writing. Damon Knight’s book. Bought it through Writer’s Digest. It’s still up here on my bookshelf, to my right.

The first decision to try again. Not really a decision. Hurt and angry, I was certain I was a writer. Still trying to prove that, but I think most writers are always still trying to prove that in myriad ways.

The first pilgrimage to a writers’ conference to figure out how others do it. That was in the late 1980s, when I attended a writer’s conference in Yellow Springs, Ohio, chosen as much for what was being offered as its close proximity to home. I was in the Air Force and assigned to Germany then, so if I was going to the United States to attend a conference, I’d also visit Mom in Pittsburgh, PA.

A personal rejection from an editor or publisher, instead of the form rejections. I never met George Scithers, but he wrote me a beautiful rejection letter. I was upset because I was rejected but my wife pointed out the positives in the letter. TYVM, George Scithers.

The first critique group, and the first insights into the creative writing reading publishing editing marketing selling labyrinth. Some people like everything explained. Others want to unravel themselves. Some enjoy happy or Hollywood endings and some think life is gritty and there aren’t happy endings. After a while,  I recognized, just write what I enjoy. I know that what I enjoy is far of the mark for most people, but I’ll have one happy reader.

Finally, the first sale and publication. “Marketing Wars”, Abyss and Apex Magazine. Yes, I remember.

A fan, the first! Sure, it was my nephew but he’s smarter than me and effusive in his praise.

The first glimmer that I wanted to write a novel.

The first draft of the first novel.

The first overwhelming sickness when reading the first novel and realizing I’ve written a piece of shit. Still have it, with the promise, I will edit it. Yeah.

The first realization that every almost writer experiences this.

The first jealousy of other first writers’ debut successes. Yes, I get jealous of them, of their writing, their talent, their success, their interviews, their big money. But I hunt down information on them. I learned that Andy Weir wrote and was rejected and gave up for a while before The Martian. JK Rowling went to being an overnight sensation after years of efforts. Kathryn Stockett endured five years of rejections before The Help was published.

The first time that I sucked in my breath, grit my teeth, and told myself to keep writing. I don’t recall the exact date/time/space or the events surrounding it but I do recall sitting, fists clenched, sighing with dejection and thinking, do I want to keep trying?

And the first time that I realize that I don’t want to, nor stop, writing, no matter how hard it is. No, because writing is fun, satisfying, intrinsically rewarding. Concepts, ideas, stories  and characters wash in, an ocean that never stops. Many hit the beach and I wander along, picking them up, adding them to the collection. Some grab me tightly and don’t let go.

So I write.

By the way, Returnee, up there at the top, is the first novel I decided to self-publish. It’s available over on Amazon.

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