Sign Post

No writing is a waste of time … It has done you good. It has stretched your understanding. I know that. Even if I knew for certain that I would never have anything published again, and would never make another cent from it, I would still keep on writing.
–Brenda Ueland
You know what I say? Bully for Brenda, because please note, she arrived at her enlightened philosophy AFTER she was published.
This post is for the rest of us. Don’t get me wrong. I continue to believe with every expectant, hopeful cell of my long-numb fingers that my moment to be published is just around the bend.
With my bulging, Get-Ready-for-Me-World bag well packed, I stand poised on the platform, peer down the long curve of track, check my watch and wait for the train–The Official First Book Train.
Yup, here it comes.
Any day now.
Any minute.
Any second and, yes!
A train, does indeed, arrive. Hooray! Friends and colleagues step forward into their reserved cars. I step forward too, but then the conductor puts a firm hand on my shoulder. “Sorry, Miss.”
The train pulls away. A few familiar hands flutter out the windows in farewell gestures of, “Better luck next time.” And then the train is going, going, gone.
Huh. Really?
Every time it happens, there is a hitch in my heart. But what to do? Stay? Leave? Abandon all hope? Throw myself on the tracks? Because, let’s be honest, why would any sane person continue to tilt at that damnably capricious publishing windmill–Brenda Ueland notwithstanding.
There is only one thing that keeps me going at the moment: A Sign.
What Sign? Truthfully, I can’t afford to be picky, and I suggest that you hold to my low standards. Be on the lookout for any Sign–any small, slim, slender, smidgen of serendipity to sustain you.
For example, my first middle-grade novel included a world of talking ravens. While I worked on the book, every time I spotted a crow or a raven, I took heart.
The latest book is completely different, so of course, the signs are, too.
Case in point. 2013 was a long, tough year of revising this novel for the umpteenth time.
On one particularly Doubt-Full day, I sent my main character, Zellie, off in a new direction. She had evolved from a fairly placid girl into a budding magician. She yearned to perform. She practiced her sleight of hand by rolling a quarter over and around her knuckles. I wrote a brand-new chapter, even as I wondered about the new direction.
(This was also the first time I revised a novel in isolation, without benefit of feedback from others. It was time to trust my own story compass to re-imagine the story from beginning to end.)

Maggie’s dogs: Oliver (l) and O.Henry (r)

But, as I had in the days and weeks and months before, I wondered if I was on the right track. With no clear answer before me, I turned off the computer and took our dogs for a walk.
The sun shone. The breeze warmed. The dogs happily nosed their way along the outfield fences of a nearby ballpark as I dawdled behind, lost in thought and riddled with doubt. Then, as I approached the grassy area around the base of a field light, something winked at me.
I reached down and folded my fingers around an improbable find: a quarter.
A round, real, take-that-to-the-bank quarter.
In the flat of my palm, the quarter stared up at me with a dull gleam and waited for comprehension to dawn. Frankly, I was stunned.
This had to be a sign, right? In the words of all the other slack-jawed sooth sayers, sign-seekers and beleaguered believers: Uh-yup.
The quarter resides beside my computer as a tangible token to hang in there.

My train will arrive. Some day, as long as I keep doing right by my characters and their stories, the locomotive will pull up with a gush of steam. The conductor will take my hand and I’ll be off because I’ve got what it takes and a ticket to ride–a two-bits ticket.

Your ticket, your proof, resides within whatever associations can be found that link your stories with the larger world and invisible energy stream that surrounds us. If you doubt, if you wonder, if you despair, try looking around. 

Pay attention. When you need it most, I hope you get a sign–a sign you can’t miss and one you can bank on.


Maggie Moris is a 2009 graduate of the Hamline University masters program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. She’s been working on the nuts, bolts and business end of writing for fourteen years. She looks forward to reading your stories and knows that some day you’ll read hers, too. In the meantime, she recently launched a very new blog, Where The Horny Toad Lives. Hop on over for a visit to her first posts. No ticket required.