For Sale

12 Jul

There are things I want, and the days or weeks where I’m not wholly consumed by my pig-headed drive to get them leave me miserable, listless, angry. I’m like one of those dogs that chases its tail and snaps if you don’t give it a task — except that I hate, absolutely fucking hate to be told what to do, also being the world’s largest brat.

The dog metaphor is still good, though, just that I’m particular about choosing my own work. Then I sink my teeth in and I don’t know how to let go, even if good sense would tell me it’s not such a good idea after all. A bulldog, then, who won’t let the little kid’s skateboard go even though the trucks are causing bruises and bleeding gums.

(I’ve been called worse by nicer people.)

Sometimes tenacity has a payoff, though. Bruises heal, blood clots, but the prize is yours forever if you win. And that’s why I do it — let’s not beat around the bush, that’s why we do it. I quit my job and devote myself to a story, The Story, and even I know it’s shit. Move on, they say, so I do, I write other stories (little “s”) in the meantime, find them homes, learn how to suck less. But then I circle back around. I pour all the lessons back into The Story. I toy with the idea of finding a place for it after five years, but I’m not ready. I bury it for another five years, digging it up every time I can justify a few weeks for another circle back.

Thirteen times, to be exact. This is my magic number, because I get this feeling I’ve never had before: this is what you wanted it to be. I shove it out the door before I can convince myself not to.

Welcome home, Story, The Publisher says.

For weeks after, I don’t know if I should laugh or scream, so my throat aches from silently trying to do both at once. My eyes burn, so I drink a bottle of champagne, but it wears off too fast. Every time I start to cry I just start laughing and can’t finish, so it’s all still gummed up inside me, and it will be until I’m finally having a day where I feel shit enough to cry for some other reason, which will also take out the excess from this one. Then I’ll be able to breathe.

The people I know and love, the response to my little (huge) success is wholeheartedly amazing. More amazing than I would’ve had the guts to imagine, if I had any at all. But I guess they weren’t just humoring me with the endless edits and heroic scientific efforts and dialogue coaching and comments and love — wow, that’s some serious fucking love, man. I realize that feeling right there is why I wanted this in the first place — the feeling that we’re all on this wavelength, or at least know how to find it. A story without a reader has a half life, a half meaning. That’s no way to exist.

I get some passive aggressive bullshit, too. You’re finally getting lucky or you finally know the right people, they say.  Worse, too, things I’m not supposed to hear, that they’d be mortified if I did because they probably don’t mean it, not that much, anyhow. I get it. I mean, I don’t get it, as bulldogs don’t really have time for that kind of thing. But I am getting lucky in that I know genuine people, too. I still want to make them happy and connect with them and laugh and scream and holy fuck, my throat hurts.

But maybe that makes me doubt — or maybe it just makes me smart. I dissect my themes, my characters, my intention, and I look for the worst possible thing anyone can say about it, because they will. I’m okay with it, because that’s not an insult. The insult would be not noticing it at all. But I should be prepared, have the armor ready so I can stand up and accept my mistakes and apologize for my stupidity and survive my own happiness intact.

I get sick of myself after a day of that and wish I could justify another bottle of that champagne, but it’s expensive, and no one’s getting rich. Just crazy, crazier, and I’m not using that word lightly because I know what it means, believe me.

This is what it is to be For Sale, I say to absolutely no one. Some people will be amused by what I’m selling just like I wanted, some people will pretend to like it out of kindness, some people will willfully misunderstand it out of spite, some people will be disappointed in me personally, some people will point out my lack of understanding, and they’ll all be right. (Because a story without a reader has a half life, a half meaning. That’s no way to exist.) Most people will ignore it, because in the grand scheme of my fucked-up chosen world, this is a drop in the ocean. This, the inbetween of absurd elation and crushing vulnerability, this is what it is.

Now I’m talking to myself:

So maybe you are a lucky fucker after all, girl. Next time someone tells you that, nod and smile and stop being such a brat about it. And get the fuck back to work, before you start snapping.


And that’s how it feels when I get a “yes”. My latest “yes” for a novel, specifically, but with a few changes, it can apply to any or all. I don’t know what it feels like for other people, which is why I finally decided, after lots of fearful excuses and doubt and other useless bullshit, to post this after all. Excuse or ignore the wankery — or tell me how it feels.

18 Responses to “For Sale”

  1. Cate Gardner July 13, 2011 at 3:08 am #

    I love this post so much.

    • Katey July 13, 2011 at 9:19 am #

      I guess neuroticism is sometimes charming!

      Wait, is neuroticism even a word? Well, anyhow.

  2. Aaron Polson July 13, 2011 at 7:59 am #

    Agreed. Now get back to work. ;)

    • Katey July 13, 2011 at 9:20 am #

      Oh, good to know, thank you!

      You’ll be glad to know that by the time you posted this, I’d been back to work for 12 hours almost. *puffed up*

  3. Anita July 13, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

    Katey, you make my heart smile.

    I don’t know how it feels for me yet (HOPE to soon and then we can commiserate), but I do have a pretty good imagination (as you know, I’m a fiction writer–LOL) and your post above pretty much sums up the way I envision it. I’m a friend to many amazing writers such as yourself who have already opened that magic door and stepped thru, and I’ve seen the crap you take along with the praise. And the passive aggressive stuff is the WORST. Cue Bittersweet Symphony and let the butt whippings begin!

    But know this. I love your work. Sincerely. And I can’t wait to read SCRIPPED in its entirety. Now, swallow that knot from your throat and get back to writing, my friend. Because you have a readership who’s waiting.

    • Katey July 14, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

      Mad hugs for that response. (I needed a hug, that’s what the whole entry is really saying, innit? Waaaaaaaaaank.)

      You will soon commiserate, and I cannot WAIT to see you rock it. Oh, and to read you rock it. I don’t know where I’d be without fabulous writers like you in my world, for so many reasons. Apart from in a straightjacket, of course — which in that state is enough of a location, I reckon.

      Bittersweet Symphony ass-kickings it is! :D

  4. Natalie L. Sin July 13, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    Luck is when talent is in the right place at the right time : )

    • Katey July 14, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

      That’s a good definition!

      Except it’s more hard work than talent in my case — hence it taking ten years for this one. But it’s the same in principle, right?

  5. Balaji July 15, 2011 at 8:47 am #

    I’m not sure who said this first, but I heard it from Sherlock Holmes – “Genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains”.
    I think it applies to you more than to anyone I know.

    • Katey July 15, 2011 at 1:01 pm #

      God help us both, darling. <3 <3 <#

  6. Meghan July 15, 2011 at 10:26 am #

    But I guess they weren’t just humoring me
    Never. We just had enough faith to make up for those moments when you didn’t. I know how impossible it can be to have any sort of objective opinion about your own stuff (especially when it’s THE Story), but I fell in love with your boys way back in draft 4 or whatever it was. And you know how picky I am. <3

    There's a line in the song "Breathe" – "And I feel like I'm naked in front of a crowd / 'cuz these words are my diary screaming out loud / and I know that you'll use them however you want to"… I love it a lot because I think it encompasses all of a Real Writer's experience. And by Real I don't mean what some people mean – that you're on the New York Times list, or you make more money than God, or whatever. I mean Real because you strip yourself bare to write a story, take off your skin and stand there in your bones. It's like inviting the entire world into your house when you haven't had time to do the dishes for a week, the bathroom's a wreck, and your dirty underwear is on the floor. The really embarrassing dirty underwear. And we're not going to mention the sex toys. And then you wait for the comments – because you know there will be comments – and wonder how bad they'll hurt. Because you can think they will or say they won't matter – but the truth is you never know until they hit.

    So yeah. That's my long-winded way of saying I feel you. And I think a lot of others do, too.

    And no, you are not lucky. Yeah, there's an element of fate or chance to everything in life – people you meet, even whether they have your favorite pickles at the grocery store – so in that sense, sure, you experienced some luck. What you experienced more of was working your ass off – both on The Story and in getting both yourself and it out there. People who don't understand that… well, they never will until they get out there and do the same thing. So maybe smiling and nodding is the most expedient response… but I also highly suggest hitting them with a large, deceased mackerel when they're not looking. <3

    • Katey July 15, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

      Mackerel beatings would probably make me feel really, really good.

      I thought for sure that if you saw this you’d get it wholly. Do I need any other reassurance than this sentence: “The really embarrassing dirty underwear. And we’re not going to mention the sex toys.”

      (Smug looks from G. I’m getting looooooooooooots of those this month…)

      And though I can never say it enough, I’ll keep saying it. Thank you so so much!

  7. Alan W. Davidson July 15, 2011 at 11:11 am #

    …wankery ignored.

    I only hope to have the chance to someday complete a novel to my own set of standards that is accepted somewhere (and begins its own half-life). Thanks for sharing those thoughts and emotions, Katey…and also…what Aaron said!

    • Katey July 15, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

      You will, Alan. But stories work the same exact way, just that this happened to be a big novel for me. Doesn’t matter the size, it’s just the–

      Right. I won’t go there.

      Thank you for ignoring my wankery :D

  8. Sue Penkivech July 16, 2011 at 8:05 pm #


    Y’know, I HATE when people start with the luck and the contacts. Seriously hate it. People will say it to me in reverse, “Well, you’re not going to get anything published, you don’t know the right people/have the right contacts/etc. etc.”

    No, I don’t have the dedication and drive. I admit this. Quite probably also not the talent (and no, that’s not fishing for compliments, it’s just a simple statement).

    You do. And I’m SO incredibly happy for you that it’s being recognized. Forget the P/A people, forget the luck. You worked HARD for this, and you deserve it.

    • Katey July 17, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

      Dude that is even MORE offensive of them to say it–like your quality won’t get you there. BULLSHIT. Yeah, you’ve got to make sure the quality gets to the right place but… come on. Fuck that noise.

      (You do have the talent, though. I ought to know.)

      Thanks, Sue. <3

      • Louise July 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

        Passive aggression–ugh, I hear you there, sweetie. I had to learn to put those people out of my mind, stop letting them drain me with doubt, but it isn’t easy somedays. *big hugs Katey* I know you’ve got the talent, because the first story I read of yours hooked me by the short and curly nose hairs. (Wait…can nose hairs be curly?) The Horologist–I still remember it. :) I asked Jodi right away, “Who wrote that one?” And I can’t wait to dig into Scripped. Keep writing, keep on keeping on. You’ve got some great stories in you.

        And congrats on the acceptance!

        • Katey July 19, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

          Aw, thanks, Louise! That was a weird little story, but I’ve rarely had so much fun writing a short. I really want to revisit the New Bedlam of that era :D

          Your commiseration means a lot. I’ve done a lot of asking you about things, since you’ve been there, and I appreciate you letting me rely on your experience. Also, just you in general.

          No more vampire-people. Fuck ‘em!

          Curly nose hairs… I’m not sure I want to investigate that, honestly.

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