The Fantasy of Being Published

A while back I read a memorable piece by Kate Harding on the fantasy of being thin. Harding is a fat acceptance blogger who writes movingly, in this post, about how much time she spent believing that being thin would mean “becoming an entirely different person – one with far more courage, confidence, and luck than the fat you has”.

This is how I was feeling about being a professional writer. Where one draws that line is actually kind of unimportant–does it start with your first sale? First pro sale? SFWA membership? Agent? Novel contract? Not all of those things have happened for me yet, but I’m very aware today that some of them have, and that I have not yet magically become an entirely different person.

I am still a person who talks too much and then feels dumb about it. I still don’t have great boundaries. I’m secretive about some things and I overshare others. I read blogs instead of working; I work instead of calling my family; I call my family instead of cleaning the catbox. I am vain. I spend a lot of money on clothes and not as much as I’d like on charity. I want to be eco-friendly and then I forget my reusable coffee cup when I go to Starbucks. I want to be admired and then I swear like a pirate in front of my superiors. I want to be healthy and then I eat potato chips and Irish coffee for lunch.

And I want, more than anything, every day, to receive another letter telling me that I have been found worthy. And each time this happens, I am overjoyed for an hour or an evening, but I am still myself, and I still have to wash my socks and attend that marketing meeting and buy butter and tampons.

What does this all have to do with the cute cat picture, you may ask. That is Arnold, who had to be put down a few days ago due to advanced kidney disease.

I was not there. I was on a business trip. My husband was with him, and called me from the vet, and after he hung up I sat there in tears in a brewpub in Manhattan, knowing that he had the harder task, and still wishing I could be there, instead of coming home days later to an emptier house.

Today’s that day, in my house, without my cat for the first time in sixteen years. And I think what would make it better would be selling a story today. And I know this is a fantasy, and that when I sell my next story, I will still be a person with only one cat.

What will really make the difference is nothing anyone else can do. What will really make it better, the only thing that will really make it better, is the conversion of this, my memory, my emotion, into story. I am still, only, and always, a person who does that thing.

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