Did you ever try to catch a lizard when you were a kid? I did. It’s not easy. They’re incredibly quick, and they don’t often get too far from safety. Meet Roxy – Lizard Hunter. She’ll spend hours prowling around rock walls and rip-rap piles, sniffing in the cracks and looking for lizards. She’s had little success, but the occasional lizard sighting or scent is enough to keep her hunting.
I was thinking today that a career as a writer is a little like lizard hunting. Someone said eighty-one percent of people surveyed wanted to write a book. I have to wonder why, because another survey said only seventy-two percent actually read even part of a book last year, but that’s a topic for another day. The point is there are a lot more people writing than there are publishing slots to fill.
Sending out queries to agents, hoping to catch their interest, is a little like sniffing around the rock pile. Just as Roxy occasionally spots a lizard, occasionally an agent will ask to read all or part of the manuscript, but more often than not, that ends in a polite rejection, or in Roxy’s case, a vanishing lizard.
So you write another story. And then the big day comes. An agent actually likes the manuscript and wants to represent you. Hurray! Now you’ve got the lizard by the tail. But as Roxy discovered, sometimes those tails are detachable. Sometimes, even though the agent loved the manuscript, she can’t sell it.
So you write another one. And another. Don’t give up now. Catching that lizard tail only spurred Roxy on to greater enthusiasm, and eventually, she caught a lizard. And, if you’re very, very lucky, eventually your agent finds an editor who recognizes your brilliance, and you become a published author.
Of course, that's just the beginning. Every new book you write will be a challenge. As a writer, you must prove yourself over and over.
So why do it? I think Roxy’s wagging tail as she sniffs along the rock wall answers that question. She hunts because she’s a hunter. That’s what she was born to do. Writers write. Whether or not they’re ever published, they create stories. It’s what they were born to do.