So we’re puttering around this morning, cleaning the kitchen, feeding the animals, fussing at each other a little. Ok, so I put the clear plastic date container onto Miss Muffins (our old rescue chihuahua) and said something along the lines of “You are now a tiny transparent turtle.”
Ilona was not amused.
“You’ll have to wash it now,” she told me.
“The dog or the container,” I asked, genuinely puzzled.
Well yeah, “Oh really, I had planned to fill it straight away with fine chocolates.”
The plastic container of course, not the dog, we’re not maniacs. For some reason she took umbrage.
In her defense, I’m not nearly as funny as I think I am and with us now being empty-nesters, she ends up bearing the brunt of my wit. Later she grabbed a clearly damp, if not wet apron and attempted to roll it up and put it in a drawer.
“Do you want it to grow mold, cause that’s how you get mold.”
I’m a big Archer fan but I’m not sure she got or appreciated the clever pop culture reference.
“Fine,” she retorted, “I will throw it away and you will buy me a new one.”
I quickly agreed and plans were made for an excursion to the mall and or Bed Bath and Beyond.
With that settled and tempers cooled slightly, we talked about how we thought the ARWA event went last night. I thought it went well, we talked, people asked questions, we answered as honestly as we could. We gave insider info without naming names. We had a good time and hoped that everyone got what they came for. One question stood out, and it’s a question that comes up a lot. Basically, Rules. What are they, are there ones you never break, are there ones that you always break. Ilona responded first by saying that, basically, the only rule is that there are no set in stone rules. I countered that my number 1 rule is, and I’ve said this before, we never give back the money. I know that seems at first flippant but I’m completely serious. Here’s why: If you have to give the money back it means that you, for whatever reason, can’t deliver. Someone paid you to write something and turn it in by a certain date and now you can’t or won’t. Ilona elaborated that this business, the business of writing, still runs very much on the handshake, the verbal agreement. Like anything else in life, all you have is your word and your reputation, that if you say you’ll do something, you have to do it. All you have is your name and once that’s gone, that’s kind of it.
We thought about why it’s probably the question that we’re asked most often by aspiring or new writers. Here’s what I think: Writing is hard. It’s hard because it’s not like baking a cake. No matter what anyone tells you, or tries to sell you, there’s no recipe, no “one weird trick,” no life hack, that will guarantee success in writing or publishing. We can tell you to keep at it, to write everyday, to not quit, to get an agent, to not let the rejection letters get you down but neither Ilona or I can tell you how to write a book that will get you published, get you on the NYT or USAToday list, to get famous or get a TV or movie deal. Hell, if I knew that last one we would have a show, but I don’t know that we ever will. A friend of ours, whose books I quite like, has had three TV shows and if I thought she had the secret formula, I would ask her for it, but I know she doesn’t. None of us do.
Steven King wrote a book on writing, but even if you follow everything in that book, you still won’t write like Steven King. It’s better to just write like you. To be authentic.
Even worse than that though is that it doesn’t get easier. We’ve written ten Kate books before this and any number of short stories, novellas and even POVs. If there was a trick to it we’d be doing it in our sleep by now, but it’s still hard. I’d like to think we’re better at it but, just like being married for twenty-two years, we both still have to put in the work, pretty much every day. That said I can’t imagine doing it with someone else and we have a lot of fun but nothing good is easy. Ilona just read that part and went “Oh, it’s so hard to be married to me, it’s horrible.” No, it’s not but even after nearly twenty five years and two adult children, if one of us checked out or stopped really trying, then it wouldn’t be good anymore. In the end, write what you like, marry who you like and just have fun with it.