I came across a wonderful quote recently, by Gloria Gaither. She said, “You need to have ideas bigger than your life.” How profound and how ideal to sum up a writer’s goal. Novels, like paintings, can lift us above the ordinary and create worlds far bigger than our own lives; far longer than our histories and far removed from our world. Thank you, Gloria, for inspiring us to have ‘Ideas bigger than our lives’!
How long does it take to paint a remarkable painting? How long does it take to produce a reasonable novel? Well, it took Leonardo da Vinci begins four years to paint the Mona Lisa and 30 layers of paint were applied. Michelangelo began work on his famous Sistine Chapel ceiling in 1508. He worked for four years before completion. To write a novel takes anywhere from a few months to several years. Of course, some artists work very quickly – Picasso finished Guernica in 35 days, which may equate to just ten or twenty chapters for a novelist. In many ways, authors are the poor cousins of painters. Authors have fewer works, their works can’t be ‘seen’ and sold immediately on that basis. Authors will struggle to get their work put into the public arena and few authors can now breakthrough the iron-clad ring of rejection that protects the domain of literary agents and publishers. A recent statistic suggested that one in 10,000 writers will get their work accepted by a traditional publisher. Yet, the passion to write is strong and the desire to tell a story remains one of the most noble arts of all. Churchill encouraged us to “never give up” so we keep going, hopeful that even a small audience will enjoy a story that had to be told.
I was speaking with my accountant about my book – in the hope that he would be as excited as me about the $$$ signs that would follow. “Oh, it seems that everyone is writing a book these days!” was his response. My hopes were dashed. “Yes,” he continued, “I have lots of clients who are claiming expenses for their books.” Then he rattled off a list of names, including some that I knew. My lawyer was just publishing his second novel and a teaching colleague was editing his. And here I was, battling to get the plot sorted for my own new novel. Alas, I put my despondency down to “writers’ envy” – a condition where an author is overwhelmed by writers more prolific and successful than themselves. “Stop it!” I told myself, “There is no point in comparing yourself with others. Just stick to the task and enjoy the pleasure of writing in the way, and with the pace, that you want to.” It was good advice for myself!