guardian angels

I have quit writing.

In the past three weeks, I have given it up about seven times. The first time was when my new book contract was rejected by my favorite editor. It was only the second rejection—not the end of the world or the topic by any means. But in this economy, the only books getting bought are by celebrities, fad diet gurus, and reluctant heroes. Those books are rarely good.

Then again, one of my closest friends, Sheri Booker, finally sold her book about the black funeral parlor industry. Nine Years Under will be published by Gotham/Penguin.

Sheri sends me chat messages every few days asking me how my writing is coming. “I quit writing,” I tell her every time.

The first time was right after talking to my agent and promising I would take her advice. She suggested I sell some stories related to the project, and I have dozens in my head, but I am wrestling with the futility of endeavors like these and anguish and fear and all those things that plague writers in the sophomore slump.

After the second time I quit writing, I got a message on Facebook from someone I don’t know and didn’t pay: she “loved, loved, loved” my book, “and so did the 3 friends [she] bought copies for.” Maybe I’d come back, I thought. Nah, I rethought.

Sheri has become my guardian writing angel these days. I think she’s trying to repay me for being hers last year. She had just received constructive criticism from my agent regarding her book proposal, and she wasn’t sure she would bother to pursue the project further. I became her nagging Jewish mother, asking her nearly every time I saw her what progress she’d made, even while I was stuck in the red leather recliner trying to survive.

I am sure she thinks I am the reason she has a book contract now—that I pushed her when she was ready to give up. So when she asks me every other day, she sounds a little desperate to rescue me.

The other day, when Sheri asked me, I told her I was going to spend some time working on large mosaic projects and maybe some photography. I made it sound like I really did have alternate career plans and that I was fine with that. “maybe you do need a small break from writing / but you and i both know that you haven’t quit / you are a true writer.”

Last night, I got another Facebook email from someone saying she got my book as a gift and was prepared to dislike it; who wants to read about cake when you can bake one? she asked.

Well, I would sure rather read than bake. I’d rather write than bake.

Oh, yeah. Except that I quit.

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12 Comments

  1. ODG June 11, 2009 at 10:55 pm #

    As always a good read – have you considered self publishing? If the need is to get "it" out there, whatever that "it" is there are plenty of methods available these days.

    Oh – and update your links – Verbum Sapienti Satis Est isn't around anymore – blog.hellbox.info is (and thank you so much for linking in the first place)

  2. Aunt Teena June 11, 2009 at 11:20 pm #

    Oh, Leslie, you can't quit. You love writing.

    But………you are so good at mosaics and other things, you might get satisfaction from those.

  3. tim June 12, 2009 at 1:54 am #

    Hang in there Leslie. I know how you feel. I think I may quit writing, too. I would say we could be failed writers together, but you have already written one book, so you are one up on me, and it would not be fair. I would always be the Robin to your Batman, the Mary Anne to your Ginger, Agent 99 to your Agent 86. I guess I am going to have to carry on a little longer. I am also going to have to pick up your book! Next week the kids graduate elementary school and my wife and I are going on a little escape, which is sure to include a trip to the local bookstore. I can't wait. I'm dying for something good to read.

  4. Kristi June 12, 2009 at 9:54 am #

    maybe you should quit for awhile, then you'll remember why you love it and come back to it stronger, with more drive and more love for it.

  5. Jenn June 12, 2009 at 9:06 pm #

    I got nothin' wise to say. I'm not a writer, nor do I play one on TV. (that's my new catch phrase, insert profession as needed). I bought your book a few weeks ago from my local bookstore. I've been meaning to let you know I'm enjoying it – I'm reading it slowly to savor it, (as opposed to how I eat cake), it travels around the house with me and when I have a moment I pick it up. I'm loving it. So, the short point of this long comment is you've got another fan of your writing out there, for what it's worth!

  6. richardgilbert June 13, 2009 at 1:19 pm #

    Uh, as this blog shows, you haven't quit writing. Oh! I see: you mean you are not doing MAJOR and BESTSELLING work right now with a BIG TRADE publisher. Even though you just did. Look, the number of writers who can do that consistently is very very small. You may be one. Or you may have to content yourself with the fact that you are an artist–and I know you, so I know that you are an artist in every sense of the word and in every fiber of your being–who will publish big, middling, and smaller things. But while a journalist may quit when he does not have a newspaper outlet, the artist does not quit. Sorry for the tough love, Leslie. But every single creator goes through what you are going through. I identify with it. But also see it as one of the ego's worst flaws. And know that in two hours or two days or two weeks you will feel differently.

  7. jennifer June 13, 2009 at 6:05 pm #

    you know what i love about you? i never really think of you as a writer. i think of you as an artist, in the truest sense of that word. whether you're writing prose or poetry, writing songs, playing guitar, taking pictures, or making mosaics — you're creating, you're beautifying, your're making something new where before there was nothing.

    you haven't quit. you just put one palette down and picked up another.

  8. Dana June 14, 2009 at 11:59 pm #

    No!

  9. jo(e) June 24, 2009 at 1:25 am #

    Joni Mitchell called it crop rotation. She'd stop writing songs for awhile and do something like paint. But then she'd always go back to writing songs ….

  10. deb July 4, 2009 at 11:02 am #

    You quit? Yeah right! I've seen your photo and thought streams. You are too prolific and definitely too passionate to do anything like that!

  11. strawberriesinparis July 27, 2009 at 3:29 pm #

    Leslie! I absolutely loved your book! Great to read about duff and warren (who OMG is so gawsh darn cute I met him in sept…). But I loved reading about the cake cottage, I discovered that place about 2 years ago thanks to my mom and boy is it Baltimore.

  12. Leslie F. Miller July 27, 2009 at 3:30 pm #

    Oh, thank you so much, strawbs–and everyone. Thank you. It means a lot.