When you love the work, it can be hard to acknowledge that it is work.
My husband said recently that I’d been busting my ass writing, and that I should be proud of my accomplishments. It was nice of him, and days later I’m still thinking of it. Writing does not look the way I believe work ought to look. When he’s been busting his ass, cars run better, chrome is shinier, the house is cleaner. When his extended family is busting ass there are visual arts to enjoy. When my extended family is busting ass, something gets built.
When I bust my ass, my desk is still a mess. And it is rare that I get to see the finish of my work. I write stories. Stories don’t feel complete until they have found a reader, and have lived in another person’s head the way they have lived in mine. Selling a story has become the stand in for that, but it is hard to sell a story. And selling a story is largely out of my hands. All I can do is send it in to open calls and hope it strikes a cord with that editor.
And because I don’t always get that finish with a story, I don’t have that moment where I step back, admire the thing I have built, and clink glasses with my husband as we celebrate with a drink. (Well, we do that for sales, but again, those don’t happen very often.)
I have been working very hard to make a lot of new stories. It has worked. I have new stories. They might not sell, but that does not mean that I have not been busting my ass. It is difficult to make a story resonate with somebody else. It is difficult even to sit down and make that story happen when there are so many other things competing for time. And the cat! Oh, the cat hates it when I sit down to write because I am focused on a box of light that is not him!
I think the cat might be fueling some of my anxiety over what work looks like…
But damn the cat! (No don’t, I love him.) Work can look like twitchy fingers on a keyboard, or blank stares into the depths of my Dracula mousepad while I’m trying to decide if “antediluvian” is too pretentious a word. (It is.)
I bought some yarn to reward myself for the work. I’m going to knit a sweater because unless my husband reminds me to sit back and have a drink, I reward myself with even more work.
I have read (or listened to) two stories this week that I really really really want to share:
And Then There Were (N-One): A Sarah Pinsker is invited to an interdimensional conventions of Sarah Pinskers, and must solve one of the Sarah’s murders. Written by this reality’s Sarah Pinsker. It is genius.
The Starship and the Temple Cat by Yoon Ha Lee: A ghost of a cat guards the ruins of its temple from a starship that wishes to share poetry. I listened to the podcast, and I had to skritch behind Mr. Peeper’s ear while listening to keep from openly crying.