writing puberty

In ALL, BOOK PUBLISHING by Stephanie Klein43 Comments

When you’re first trying to be a published writer, you just want to be heard.  How do I get people to read my stuff?  You have that feeling, that "it" nagging you, so you talk about trying to get published.  All you do is talk about it.  I didn’t talk about it; I started a blog.

Location.  Location.  Location.  That’s what it came down to for me.  I needed a space to house all my thoughts and photos, a space I could access from work, home, a lackluster “this is all there is to do?” vacation.  Chris hooked me up.  “You so need to start a blog.”   

I wrote daily; no one was reading it.  Then instead of hitting reply to the “how was your weekend?” emails, I just sent ‘em a link.  Here’s what I did, what I saw, and by the way, how craptacular I feel about my life.  Cool. 

I believed I had what it took to be a writer.  I knew because writing was my gym.  Some people get that pent up-not so fresh feeling-look on their faces when they haven’t been to the gym.  They need to run.  They need to eat.  Cranky no mas.  I become ornery when I don’t write.  It’s my exhale, and when I do it, I lose track of time.

I knew I had what “it” takes, like a woman wearing leg warmers and a leotard, practicing the sheet music to A Chorus Line’s “Nothing.”  I knew it from the bottom of my soul, and despite what anyone told me, I believed I’d be a writer.  If only the right person would read “it.”

I wrote honestly, uncensored, without self-consciousness because whenever I’d read anything that moved me, I realized it was the truth the writer revealed that evoked such an emotional reaction.  (Even now, posting this, I struggled.  I had to honor the honesty written here, but I was afraid by posting this it was admitting some kind of success.  I worried it would be seen as a self-indulgent and haughty effort at self-everything.  But I followed by lead.)  I wrote with my fingers crossed. Intermittently, I’d read reference books about submitting SASEs to a list of publications.  Hell, I’d even buy the book, then flip it onto my night table.  WTF?  Why can’t these places take email submissions?  I attended a class at the local Y about getting published.  Damn, there’s certainly a lot of paperwork.  I don’t even own a checkbook, and what’s a stamp for?  I’m a mouse tomato; I never sent anything to anyone.  It wasn’t fear of rejection; it was sloth.  It’s the same reason I never send in rebates: you can’t do it via email. 

London found my blog.  That’s where it all began.  Eventually, the most fantastic thing happened: my dream came true.  The big one, the one I’ve wanted since I was on my elbows in the fourth grade dreaming it up.  Holy gobstoppers!  It came true, and along with the squeals of excitement comes a heavy cloak of red panic. 

Having a dream come true is like coming into money—even when no money is involved—and you don’t want to pull an M.C. Hammer.  You want to invest your luck properly, be conservative, despite being young, you want to hoard the moments and keep them.  Terrified you’ll piss off the fate gods, you think before speaking, worried you’ll say the wrong thing and jinx things.  You don’t know whom you can tell, or how much telling is an overindulgence. 

I didn’t know what to fight for in a contract or which lawyer to sign.  The one who charges two Manolo Blahnik’s an hour, or the one who charges much less at 6 bottles of Reserve Veuve Cliquot an hour?  I picked off my new manicure.  Is this really happening?  Like, can I tell the cab driver?  Is that safe?  What if I whisper it?  It will stay closer to me if I just whisper it.  I don’t want to sound braggy, but I need to tell people.  I can’t not tell people!  I knew I should’ve been playing it cool, like I’d imagined I would if I ever came into good fortune.  I fail miserably.  How can I relax?  I can’t even play hard to get on my dates, and now I have to be Cool Hand Luke when it comes to my life dream that only gets actualized once?  I so don’t think so.   I’m about to scream and notify the asshole who never called when he said he would, to tell everyone who ever shrugged when I’d confided my secret wish for myself, to inform each individual who told me, “nah, not interested.”  But I didn’t because there’s something called humility.  I was also vexed it would all be taken away, the way I imagine new parents of an adopted newborn feel in their first weeks as family.  You don’t think your heart would be able to bear it.  You remind yourself to breathe. 

You take precaution with your hopes, trying to measure them and keep things neat and leveled.  You’re used to calculating your MTBU.  When you meet a guy who gives you the “this is its,” you remind yourself.  You were perfectly happy before you met him; you’ll be happy again once this ends.  Your pessimism doesn’t even shock you.  You conjure clichés, “this too shall pass,” to prepare yourself for the moment when you awake to find your dream has been yanked back and the sun does not continue to rise! If the dream remains intact, you’ll soon have to face the nightmare critics, ghouls crouching in your shadows. 

Then I heard, “well, keep your feet grounded.”  And I’m like, what the hell does that mean?  At the end of the day, with all the new and exciting things that will happen, I’ll still be picking up Linus turds and letting the kid lick up my nose.  Why are people cautioning me with the word “grounded?”  I’m terrified; the last thing I’m doing is getting ahead of myself.  My fears are doing their best to keep me down.  Have no fear.

Jennifer tells me my fate gods are like fear in that they hold me back.  They don’t keep me from doing anything like fear does, but they keep me from “truly reveling and appreciating and taking in your happiness.  Don’t be neurotic.  Love life like you know you do!”  Then we squeal together because she’s a true friend.  True friends aren’t just there to commiserate and support you through the hard times (some people get high off counseling the wounded); they’re there to celebrate and bask in your successes.

When all the celebration is over, you come home, too terrified to do the one thing you considered your breathing.  You’re afraid to write.  Now that the piles of writing books on your bedside table are justified, you’re petrified you’ll fail at it.  You won’t live up to the high expectations, even in your best heels.  A few days go by, things sink in, and you’re over it, back to writing.  But now you’re trying.  I mean now it really counts.  But you’re cautions and wary, worried “trying” is disparate from “doing.”  You and your Dangerous Mind have been discovered, but it’s like first charming a teacher.  You want to keep your A, and "darlin’ keeping an A is harder than earning an A."

So now that you’re a signed author, now that you can say, “I’m a writer” at a bar and mean it, now that you can hope they’ll ask if you’ve been published, you begin to revisit things.  You reread.  You start to believe everything you used to write is better.  Your “used to” is worth more because then you weren’t trying so hard.  Then you weren’t worried.

You were worried then though.  You weren’t worried about word choice or sentence structure.  Then all you wanted to do was move someone, touch them with your writing.  You wanted to illicit an emotional reaction, but now you believe that’s not “writing;” that’s just a story.  That’s where things get complicated.  When we stop thinking of the story and fret instead about its telling.  It’s the struggle you face when you’re only on your first lap.  It’s writing puberty. 

You focus on the pleasure it brings you to write.  You begin to read more.  Now there’s competition.

Sometimes I read things—Nabokov, Irving, Munro—and I shake my head.  “Yeah, in my entire life, I’ll never be that good.”  Then I read other things—I’m choosing not to share what I find wretched writing—and I’m like, “If that can get published, I certainly can.”  But now it’s not about being published; it’s about feeling proud of my work, every single sentence.  Every word selection and storytelling tactic magnified under a critical glass of assessment.  I was born to do this; I won’t fail at it. 

Then you can’t sleep.  You’re addicted to the refresh button on Amazon’s Top Sellers list, eager to find your position in the lineup.  You know when you awake the reviews will be out.  A critic will tear you a new asshole, and you’ll weep, realizing not just your dreams but your nightmares came true.  Your writing is only popular because of the subject.  Your sentences are forced, and you and your life are unoriginal.  Your work will be summarized into one laconic phrase: “She tries too hard and fails at that successfully.” 

That will happen.  Rejection happens to everyone. But I’ll keep writing because I’m not doing it for praise or condemnation.  I’m doing it just for me, being true to myself and what I know I was put on this earth to do.

Comments

  1. Very well written…I can completely understand and empathize with how you feel. Every time someone tells me 'you should send a piece to so and so', I get hives. I write. I want to be a writer when I grow up. But something clams up in me when I have opportunities to make the dream a reality. I AM a writer. With or without a reader. But the thought of strolling through my favorite bookstore and seeing MY book with my stupid mug on the back cover makes me…terrified. Take a deep breath…and keep writing.

  2. Well said Stephanie. Your admirers are proud of your successes, both in and outside of the public arena. There's a reason you get 20,000 hits on your site.

  3. "Trying is disparate from doing."

    I would guess that "doing" is when the words pour out faster than you can type them down, and "trying" is staring at a blank screen, with a blinking cursor acting like Linus probably does when he wants to go outside for a walk.. "Come on! Come on! Let's go! First word!! Come on now, first word!!!"

    Stephanie, your whole blog resounds with the trying/doing theme… And the red-headed heroine we tune in for each day almost always seems happier when she stops trying and just DOES.

    As for being grounded, for what little it may be worth, I say revel. You've earned it. You're not likely to forget how hard you've worked, and that'll help you keep your wits about you when the atmosphere gets thinner up there.

    Only one caution, though. The first few graphs of this read almost like a resignation… "I wrote," "I believed"…

    Please, whatever you do, don't be THAT grounded. Don't write in the past tense about a ride that's only just beginning! You won't want to miss this!

  4. stephanie,

    observations-

    at times i think of the relationship between you, your 'outside life" and your blog in the context of "the important of being earnest". perhaps we all have a bit of jack and ernest in ourselves. rarely do we reveal this, much less acknowledge. i'm consistently proud of your ability to skate such a perfect figure eight.

    second, i'm sure it is not lost on you that most of the comments on your blog are from other bloggers. it would seem to me the highest praise is to be acknowledged by your peers. stick that on your "why to blog" list…

  5. We're proud of you too, now keep going.

    Great change of photo by the way. Is that a sand dollar? White really suits you. Kaballah?

  6. I really love your writing — stopping by Greek Tragedy is one of my favorite morning rituals! I'm sure you've read this, but just in case … The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho). Have a wonderful day.

  7. I like reading your blog. I don't always agree with, or like, what you have to say, but I never expect to agree with anyone on everything.

    I was a musician for years, and the critics always suck, but so long as you are doing what you love and waking up happy every day, who the hell cares. As Robin Williams said, "Fuck it."

  8. WOW. This post took my breath away. I was reading…ME. Except, I'm still at the "please dear God just let me published" stage. But even so, just as eager as I am for the day to come, I'm also terrified of success for exactly the reasons you stated. What if I'm not good enough? What if when I'm published I start trying harder and consequently my writing goes downhill? And the worst fear yet: what if I'm the only person in the world who thinks I have any talent? I mean, I thought I was a great singer until last year when my best friend told me I'm completely tone deaf. Anyway, thank you for perfectly capturing the constant stream of dialogue running through my head. You are a brilliant writer – refreshing, raw, funny and talented. You deserve every ounce of success that comes your way.

  9. I firmly believe I have what it takes as well. No matter if I surface in the Penny Shopper or the Wall Street Journal, I too shall be publish.

    Congradulations.

  10. Remember at all times: There are no statues of literary critics, art critics, music critics . . .

  11. I hafta just "AOL!" the existing comments because I want a few seconds of fame on your coattails. Maybe this is just more of that unsolicited advice that you don't want, but I don't think I'm qualified to give advice. Besides, you're doing better than I am, how can I think I can improve you? :)

    Seriously, you have a bazillion readers a day who respect you and love to read your latest thoughts. So these have found their way into a book — all the better for us to read on subways (or Beijing taxis in daily traffic jams). So you have success right now — that's only stating the truth. So you might, fail, you might continue to succeed — you're reminding us that somedays it rains. You've got a lot of Karma coming to pay you back (in the positive way), this is only the tip. Say what you will, we read you for your courageous openness. We're the ones who remain thankful that we have not experienced what you have, the Angst behind the thoughts that bubbled up to become words.

    I'll never be the writer that you are, but that doesn't stop me from spouting on a blog myself (it's techie crap you guys, don't even bother). Your success should not stop you from continuing to be just as open. Awww shit, that sounded like advice. My bad.

  12. I'm glad you believe in yourself. We must if we are to succeed. Sure we can listen to our detractors and even begin to doubt ourselves. But confidence and faith go a long way in pursuing the dream. A little talent never hurt either. You, my friend, are confident, faithful to your dream, and yeah, a 'little' talented. *Hugs*

  13. I just discovered your blogs today. I am hooked. Not only are you interesting but there are so many ways I feel like I can relate to your feelings. Mainly though, I feel that you are encouraging to everyone that reads your writing. We must all realize our potential. I may only be 22 now and soon graduationg from college but you make me feel more confident about what is out there for me and the adventures I'll face in the near future. Most importantly, I am empowered and look foward to becoming an independent and more of a fearless woman.
    Thank You,
    Eileen

  14. In a few "internet minutes" everyone and his brother will discover your blog, thanks to the Sunday NY Times article! The paper seems to have embraced blogging, and I have blogged about you and the Times on my blog today! Congratulations on your accomplishments!

  15. I read in NY Times about you recently. The Headline 'Reader, I Dated Him' fascinated me and I checked your blog site. I really liked the stuffs you posted and felt the style as a grand one in first reading. I ll go through all the pages you wrote and comment later.

  16. Dear Stephanie,

    Sorry but I believe my opionion will hurt you. Sorry again, but I like to be politically uncorrect more than correct, more rude than polite, hardly clear more than diplomatic.

    So I will go straight to the point. I see everybody like you, millions of people read your fucking blog. Fuck you darling and your fucking boring silly life. Greek Tragedy you write. You do not have any idea what really is a Greek Tragedy. You are just exploiting your knowledege of internet marketing, you are just exploiting the curious voracity of an annoyed public which is not able to understand the difference beetwen reality and fiction.

    I am sure just a couple of things every day you describe are really part of your daily life. You invent the most just because you are what you are: a fragile, weak, unsecure new yorker girl. I laugh every time I watch at "Sex and the City" four girls' adventures. What are you, a kind of Carrie in that horrible tv series? Are really NY girls so stupid, so vane, so void? Do you have a brain, girls of NY? Do you have a minum of real problems or you need to invent them to justify your life?

    Have you ever experienced what is to live under a bridge? Nothing to eat, nobody loves you. Have you ever experienced suffering and pain up to think suicide is your ultimate solution? Have you ever missed your job tens of time because people just want to exploit you? Have you ever missed thousand of dollars because you opened a business and everything went wrong? Have you ever spent your life just walking in the street with no goals in your mind to justify your life?

    I could continue with hundreds of example like these but I do not think you own the right Q.I. and/or emotional intelligence to understand them.

    It seems your maximun problem are the suicide (you say) of your pet bird or the interruption of your maternity. Well, this one is hard, I can understand it. But do you have any idea how many girls every day are violated and put pregnant against their willing? Have you ever been violated maybe?

    Please make a favour to everybody: stop to publish your stupid blog. Live life as anybody else in the world an go to the psycologist if you need to understand how to give sense to your life.

    Life is just enough hard with all these terrible problems we have. We do not really need a stupid Stephanie Klein affecting it more.

    Fuck you darling, fuck you with love

    Vincent

  17. Dear Stephanie,

    Sorry but I believe my opionion will hurt you. Sorry again, but I like to be politically uncorrect more than correct, more rude than polite, hardly clear more than diplomatic.

    So I will go straight to the point. I see everybody like you, millions of people read your fucking blog. Fuck you darling and your fucking boring silly life. Greek Tragedy you write. You do not have any idea what really is a Greek Tragedy. You are just exploiting your knowledege of internet marketing, you are just exploiting the curious voracity of an annoyed public which is not able to understand the difference beetwen reality and fiction.

    I am sure just a couple of things every day you describe are really part of your daily life. You invent the most just because you are what you are: a fragile, weak, unsecure new yorker girl. I laugh every time I watch at "Sex and the City" four girls' adventures. What are you, a kind of Carrie in that horrible tv series? Are really NY girls so stupid, so vane, so void? Do you have a brain, girls of NY? Do you have a minum of real problems or you need to invent them to justify your life?

    Have you ever experienced what is to live under a bridge? Nothing to eat, nobody loves you. Have you ever experienced suffering and pain up to think suicide is your ultimate solution? Have you ever missed your job tens of time because people just want to exploit you? Have you ever missed thousand of dollars because you opened a business and everything went wrong? Have you ever spent your life just walking in the street with no goals in your mind to justify your life?

    I could continue with hundreds of example like these but I do not think you own the right Q.I. and/or emotional intelligence to understand them.

    It seems your maximun problem are the suicide (you say) of your pet bird or the interruption of your maternity. Well, this one is hard, I can understand it. But do you have any idea how many girls every day are violated and put pregnant against their willing? Have you ever been violated maybe?

    Please make a favour to everybody: stop to publish your stupid blog. Live life as anybody else in the world an go to the psycologist if you need to understand how to give sense to your life.

    Life is just enough hard with all these terrible problems we have. We do not really need a stupid Stephanie Klein affecting it more.

    Fuck you darling, fuck you with love

    Vincent

  18. I am anxious because after vincent's comment noone is writing about Stephaine and her write ups. Fucking vincent's comment is last and final one, you all people mean? he really doesnt know how much Stephaine is being loved for her franked write ups.

  19. This shit is so stupid. I can't believe people actually make a big deal out of this! You can find blogs everywhere and many are much better than this. Try acting like a lady, you're pretty gross.

  20. The Italians where a surprise but Vincent and Stephanie are (as Krishna writes) an inspiration. Why would anyone take the trouble (especially Vincent) to write something so aggressive to someone they don’t know just to say that they don’t like what they read. Why bother? Why not simply close it and go somewhere else? I might be tempted to say it’s for the same reason Stephanie (Klein) never sends in rebates, it’s easier to do on the internet, but I’m not sure, because they posted it to the blog for everyone to see instead of sending a private e-mail. Dare I say these people are looking for attention? Sounds evil, especially in this crooked world where people get “violated” every day.

    Fred

  21. you sum up my reasons for writing better than I do, though I may lean more toward writing for myself than publishing… I am happy I stumbled across your words (you amuse and inspire and rekindle memories of my youth in NYC :)

  22. Wow. I had no idea that that was why you started your blog — to confirm and develop your talent as a writer and eventually 'go pro'. Honey, you have got some balls. I mean that very much as a compliment. To try to hone your craft in this very public forum where you invite anyone who wants to take a shot at you means you are tough. It's not for the faint of heart, at all. The experience you went through with your marriage and abortion made you one kind of tough, and this is making you another kind of tough. And that's great. Not tough like hard, tough like confident and tough like unshakable. You compare writing to a gym; I would be more specific — it's like learning to box by just showing up every day at the gym and going for it even if you get the shit kicked out of you the first hundred times. If you can make it this way (and it already looks like you have), you earned it baby, and no one can take it away from you. You definitely didn't take the easy way.

  23. London found AANYer first too. What do the Brits know that 'Americans' don't? No need. Your story is inspiring, passionate and interesting. Dear Vincent, eat something.

  24. London found AANYer first too. What do the Brits know that 'Americans' don't? No need. Your story is inspiring, passionate and interesting. Dear Vincent, eat something under a bridge.

  25. cool stuff, i get the inspiration (often whilst commuting) but am still finding my way in the blog world.

  26. Vincent, I feel sorry for you but not every person on this planet needs to experience life under the bridge to be a complete and stable person. Sure, people acknowledge and lots of people actually do things against poverty/rape/pollution etc but I myself live a decent and "normal" life: I have a boyfriend who truly loves me and a terrific family. Well, I have been anorexic in the past and I am jobless at the moment but I consider myself a happy person. Stephanie Klein's writing is nice to read and she deserves the praise/money/book deal etc. she receives. She's lucky. You are just jealous and you wish you've been acknowledged and recognized.

  27. This expression was very inspirational. I like the way you played around with our emotions. The fact that we as people allow ourselves to fail before we begin. That we will plan for disapointment before we test the waters. You know at times one should just say, ag Fcuk it and throw cautios to the wind.
    Good write up and I enjoyed going through it.

    I hope you carry on not fearing rejection and thrive in expressing your emmotions.

    Sweet

  28. Ms. Klein,

    I think blogging is a great way to hone your writing style, which I LOVE BTW. Honesty is grand. What you're doing here is wonderful. admirer, I agree – Stephanie, you have courage. After reading Vincent's rant, my respect for you is strengthened. Criticism of all kinds really does help in many ways. I do not think this is self-indulgent at all. It helps you write. I can empathize with that. I am a senior of English with a very unceratin future. As I'm sure you'll never tire if hearing, you've inspired me. Good thing I go to a very liberal school, because if it wasn't for my Autobiography teacher's assignment (explore respond, and critique your blog) I'd have never found your site. It is a breath of fresh air to read your posts.

    Thank you, and happy writing! I

  29. Ur writing style is great but it is obvious that your blog mainly consists of 'stories' developed from your own imagination as opposed to what is actually happening in your real life. Alot of it is rip offs from sex and the city and even your picture can attest to this, with the curly hair and the pose etc etc (it reminds me of carey bradshaw) Don't get me wrong, sometimes you may write about what your thinking etc etc such as your most recent post, but as for events occuring, some are obviously unbelievable ( although entertaining ) and only a moron would believe that theyre true. Anyways keep it up, i look forward to this mixutre of fact ( i assume ) and obvius fiction each morning :)

  30. "Only a moron"… Kellie, you make me laugh! You assume you know someone. You assume you know their life. You assume there is "obvius fiction".

    Believe what you wish. I am a longtime reader and 1- could care less if this were true or not 2- have read the catalog to the point of knowing it is true.

    This post was from May and you comment in November!

  31. Stupid greek geek people have nothing to do in their life? I loved the headline 'Greek tragedy', cause Greeks are already a tragedy by existing. I wish you happy burns with your forests…

  32. As far as your IQ is concerned, you don't need me to tell you that it's not too low to understand and/or accomplish anything. It's evident by your writing.
    Second, I'm sure that a comment like Vincent's wouldn't even phase you at this point. Not only because his writing is horrible and he makes a total ass of himself… but because all the nonsense he writes is so far from the truth.
    You are not blogging to save the world, and maybe you haven't joined the red-cross.
    But sometimes someone might restrain before making a terrible mistake, because of something in YOUR blog that made them think twice.
    There are more than a thousand ways to "help."
    We can't all be doctors, nurses, and therapists.
    Your gift is writing. I think you use it well. As for Vincent's comment, it's niether helpful nor constructive. That's what I call a hypocrite and a cock-sac (or ass-pie, whichever you prefer!) :)

Leave a Comment