The Privilege that is Writing

Morning. Gerry Boyle here, and I’m here with a reminder. For me, and maybe the rest of you.

I know I’m supposed to be sort of cool about all this but I have to say that when galleys for PORT CITY BLACK AND WHITE arrived in the mail yesterday I felt that little jump, that skip of the heartbeat that comes when you see your words in print.

I’ve been doing this for 18 years now and PC B&W, out in September, is my 11th book. No small number, but not up there in the ranks for somebody like the late Robert B. Parker, for example. But you’d think that after nearly a dozen books a bit of the thrill would be gone. No way. I picked up the package at the post office, saw the Down East Books label. I tore it open in the car outside and held the galleys up. Flipped through the pages. Read a passage or two or six. Recalled when all of this was just a few scrawled notes on a legal pad. And it wasn’t all that long ago.

Smiled.

Something there is about the printed word. I got that fix daily when I was a newspaper columnist. Now I get it from Colby magazine, where I write stories. I have to wait a bit longer for the bigger bang, the delayed gratification of an actual book.

The other day my wife Mary remarked that I was very fortunate to have made a career of writing (I must have been griping about something). “For a lot of people, to write for a living—that’s just a dream,” she said. It was a good reminder to savor every step along the way.

When you land an agent. When the book is sold. When you see page proofs for the first time . A cover design. Galleys. Your first good review (Negative ones we dismiss). That first carton of books. Pulling them out and seeing your name on the cover. Opening it up and seeing the words you wrote.

This craft can very quickly become a business. There’s the money side of it. The marketing side. The slog of copy editing (OK, it’s a slog to me, maybe not to everybody). But I always tell myself not to become numb to the pure joy of doing this, the absolute privilege that it is. You invent characters out of your head, draw an imagined place on a blank page, tell a story. And once published, the book has a life of its own. Readers. It’s like a kid who’s grown up and out. That’s very cool.

If you’re a published writer, you know what I mean. If you’re still working toward that goal, let this be an incentive, something to encourage you on one of those dark days. Opening that box—it’s a blast.

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10 Responses to The Privilege that is Writing

  1. Brenda Buchanan says:

    Congrats to you, Gerry. Looking forward to Port City Black and White. And thanks for the encouragement to keep on writing.

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  2. Lea Wait says:

    Well said, Gerry. Amen. And may it continue to be so. Lea

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  3. Kate Flora says:

    Absolutely right, Gerry. It’s a thrill every time a new book arrives. When my tenth book was published, I went a little nutty. I took out all ten hardcover books and I lined them up and took their picture. Then I rearranged them and did it again. I have a whole file of photographs called: Row of Ten.

    Also right, and even more important, is to remember how lucky we are. It’s not a comfort, and can even be terrifying, to know that for each publishing slot that we get, there are probably thousands of writers who could fill it–and who really, really want to. It takes talent and persistence, and a whole lot of luck, to be a guy with 11 books to his credit. So yes, we need to remember to be grateful. And to never slack on writing the best book we possibly can.

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    • MCWriTers says:

      An important point, Kate. Don’t slack off. There’s someone—a thousand someones— out there who would love to take your place.

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  4. Yes, editing copy is and will always be a slog. But the thrill of seeing the galleys never fades. And getting the finished book! I’m lucky, my editor always sends me one of the first copies they receive, usually a couple weeks before I get my author copies. Ripping open the padded mailer, seeing what was once an idea bound in paper and ink and art… to me, it evokes the same feelings I get when seeing one of my children ready for the first day of kindergarten, or in a prom dress, or suited up for an interview. My baby, grown up and ready to take on the world.

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  5. Barb Ross says:

    Great post and so true, Gerry. I keep telling writers who are just a little behind me on the curve, “It’s one of the few things in life that is every bit as much fun as you think it’s going to be. Finish your book.”

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  6. Pj Schott says:

    Thank you for reminding us of the joy at the end of the tunnel.

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  7. Earl Smith says:

    Congratulations Gerry. I can’t wait to hold my first one. North Country Press says The Dam Committee is moving along. Edited ms comes next week. My turn-around will be quick. I’d never have gotten this far without you. Thanks.

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  8. Russell Warnberg says:

    Great points. I just finished making the corrections my editor suggested. It will be a couple more months before I receive the galley. I can’t wait for that feeling you describe.

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