Thursday, November 10, 2011
AN ANNIVERSARY OF SORTS
Sitting at the table in the breakfast nook, I like to watch the birds that visit our birdfeeder. The smaller birds; the sparrows, the finches, the chickadees, and such flit in troupes from the trees to the feeder, to the fence, to the bushes, and back again. Entertaining and fun, they're constantly on the move and squander their energy on following the crowd. The doves stick to the business of eating as they plant themselves under the feeder and scoop up all the seeds the busy smaller birds knock off the narrow edge. They grow fat and complacent feeding off easy pickings. A number of other birds; magpies, crows, woodpeckers, robins, hummingbirds, those that don't congregate in flocks or depend on the feeder make brief appearances, eat quickly while keeping a wary eye out for danger, search out a few worms or bugs in the garden, then hurry on their way. Another bird that is a regular visitor to our backyard is a hawk. When the hawk appears almost all of the birds make a mad dash for safety. Unfortunately a few burrow deep into the pine limbs as though hoping to remain invisible to the predator; they usually wind up being the hawk's lunch.
Some writers are like those sparrows. They're so busy flitting about between conferences, web sites, Facebook, and other places where writers congregate, they get little writing done, almost no original research, and expend all of their energy running about, hanging out, and wishing. If they actually reach the point where they submit their work to a publisher or agent it suffers from a lack of attention to detail, more dreaming than actual work, or a myriad of other shortcomings. A few cower in a corner, never getting brave enough to actually submit a manuscript or search for an agent. Their talent dies from a lack of courage.
Some writers are like the fat doves, content to live in their make believe world and do little to actually get published. They're content with whatever falls their way. They may get published, but they never reach the heights they might if they worked harder and had more motivation.
Some writers are more like the robins and woodpeckers who show up for a few communal sessions, work hard, then go on to the next opportunity. They scope out the market, draw their material from multiple sources, and take personal responsibility for their success or failure. Like the hummingbirds, some work extra hard, and are a blur of color and industry.
Now where does the hawk fit into this picture? There are a number of parallels I might draw here. There are a few writers who like to puff out their chests and let everyone know they're bigger and better than anyone else. They thrive on cutting other writers down. Occasionally the hawk might be the person who is too big for the feeder, too proud to pick up what falls on the ground, but takes savage delight in writing nasty critiques or reviews to kill the work and confidence of others who are a little vulnerable or insecure. (I've yet to meet the published writer who isn't still a little vulnerable and insecure.) And sometimes the hawk is the talented individual whose talent and hard work makes it possible to soar above the ordinary.
In the ten years I've been writing reviews for Meridian, I've read over a thousand books, met scores of writers, and watched writing careers that have soared to great heights and lost sight of writers whose careers have dropped out of sight. I've seen great talent squandered through sheer laziness and I've seen writers who succeeded in getting published through hard work and persistence in spite of limited natural talent. I've cheered when a deserving author got a big contract and I've cried when a talented author received rejection after rejection. I've been uplifted; I've been bored, I've been informed, I've endured, and I've been entertained in the most delightful ways. To all of you, thank you. You've made this past ten years memorable for me. And I hope you don't mind, if while I stare out my window, I name a few birds in your honor.