Sixteen Tons

Sixteen years of sending out submissions! Setting this figure down on (virtual) paper turns out to have been a very dangerous accounting to have engaged in.

Not because acknowledging how hard publication is will turn off the thousands of people with publishing power trolling the ‘net for their next meal ticket the way Hollywood discovered starlets at Schwab’s lunch counter back in the day. Not because admitting how hard publication can be cracks the head-to-toe veneer of positive spin the business of writing now requires from each and every writer — although by airing this bit of dirty laundry I probably have doomed myself to booklessness evermore.

Rather — it was dangerous more because only the foolhardy add up how many years they’ve spent on any avocation, and only the quixotic look at that final sum and think it’s a good idea to keep on keeping on.

This past weekend, I thought off and on about that number. Sixteen years! In that amount of time you could create offspring almost old enough to vote. You could build a house from scratch. Using tinkertoys. Hell, in that amount of time Manifest Destiny populated the entire western half of the country, exterminating everything in its path.

Sixteen years! If you like, you can hum “Sixteen Tons” while you read the rest of this:

You load sixteen tons, and what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter, don’t you call me, ’cause I can’t go;
I owe my soul to the company store…

This past weekend I mulled this figure over. I added and subtracted (years since I wrote my first “book”: 35. Years I could deduct through creative accounting and because of childrearing sabbatical: five?) until I came up with what momentarily seemed like a profound insight.

You know, I said to The Husband, it’s a waste of time to ask myself whether or not I should hang it all up. When it’s time to hang it all up, it’ll just happen. People just don’t keep doing things they don’t get any satisfaction from.

This is what passes for profound thought in our house, where it’s considered calm when we’re eating a hastily-thrown-together Sunday lunch of peanut butter sandwiches and cherry tomatoes with two people under four feet tall, one of whom is busily shoving crusts of bread into a glass of milk teetering on the edge of the table, the other of whom is singing a Hannah Montana (who is she? I am getting close to despising her) song so violently she can hardly keep her rear end in her chair.

The Husband looked gravely at me. Katherine, he said. People keep doing things they don’t get any satisfaction from ALL THE TIME.

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