Falling Down the Rabbit Hole: How to Survive Life as a Writer

June 1, 1998
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"Every dedicated writer gives up–with great regularity."

Falling Down the Rabbit Hole

How to survive life as a writer

By Doris Booth, Editor-in-Chief, Authorlink!

You have that special gift for words, a rare vision that makes you a motley duck in most any pond. Some people whisper you’re eccentric, or multi-layered. Or they chuckle that you’re– uh– slightly different.

Okay. Deviant. Creative people are both blessed and cursed by their talents. But since most of us know the curses of living the creative life, I’d rather examine the blessings.

When Alice In Wonderland fell down the rabbit hole in Lewis G. Carroll’s classic fairy tale, she gave us several clues about living and surviving as creative creatures.

"Oh dear, I’m lost" cried Alice, as she encountered a fork in the tangled pathways of Wonderland. "I don’t know which path to take."

A fat yellow house cat, splayed on a tree limb overhead, grinned down upon the shivering child. “"That all depends on where you’re going."

"But I don’t know."

"Well then, it doesn’t matter which path you take."

Whether by nature or nurture, and for God- only- knows- what reasons, you and I have freely chosen to take the creative path, a less-trodden road. The rocks and chug holes are part of the natural terrain. Recognize this, and the terror will subside. The giant rocks will lose their shadows.

Once when I bemoaned the pitfalls of the writing life to my penniless, dreaming, inventor father, he said, “Well, dear. YOU did it.” Yes, Daddy, I did it. I chose. I threw myself unreservedly at the task of writing , became an editor, and never gave up.

Well, not exactly. Every dedicated writer gives up, with great regularity. The trick lies in getting back on the horse that threw you, and firmly kicking that big clod-hopper in the behind. The creative life is one of uncertainty and frequent falls. Ironically, its dreaded instability also holds the honey we crave–excitement, and adventure.

Alice’s lesson is that she kept searching every crevice for the meaning of Wonderland. And that’s what each of us must do–over and over again. As each scene of our life unfolds, there are new creatures to encounter, new wonders to explore. And new words to express them.

Today, getting published is like playing the lottery with half a ticket. The odds are against us. And only a few may win. But that’s not why we’re here, pecking away at the page. Alice didn’t fall down the rabbit hole to win. She descended there to discover. To explore herself, and all the creatures in her fantasy world—and then come back to tell the tale.

Telling the tale, you see, is the whole point. Your gift of words gives you the ability to express your world as no other eyes have seen it, and as no other words can describe. Revel in your gift. Whether your utterances are seen by a few or many, the essence lies in the fact that you have done it; that the words have poured forth from your soul and onto the paper or screen. If only one other person reads the composition and nods or cries your journey will have been worthwhile. Remember this the next time a rejection letter arrives. For each rejection leads you one step closer to an open door, and to an editor or agent who will say “yes.”

The secret to surviving the writing life is in the very doing of the writing. The magic is to set the words down, page after page. They are your footprints across time. And only you can make them.

Never lament your gift of words. Life breathes through them. With this knowledge and your sense of wonder you can survive the rocks in the road. Until that day when a busy editor stops to peek inside the dog-eared pages of your manuscript, and tumbles– quite unexpectedly– down the rabbit hole.

Doris Booth, an award-winning former newspaper editor, ad agency owner and video producer, is founder and editor of Authorlink! the online information service for editors, literary agents and writers. Her many communications honors include citations from the New York and Chicago Film Festivals. Email: dbooth@authorlink.com

Note: This article will appear in the premiere issue of The Literary Magazine in Italy this July. The title of this piece was inspired by Emily Hanlon and her excellent book, How to Fall Down the Rabbit Hole Without Really Trying.

 

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This post was written by Doris Booth