Tuesday, April 6, 2010

On being vulnerable

When I was a young newspaper reporter, I used to have weird nightmares about covering something (sometimes a murder, or a basketball game or something late at night on deadline) and I would find myself running frantically, trying to find a phone.

Of course, this was before cell phones. I could never find a damned phone in the dream. Ever. And I just knew that I was going to die. Not be fired. Die. Oh, and sometimes I was naked.


I would wake up from those dreams in a cold sweat, my heart pounding.

Stress can do that to a person sometimes. And being a young, inexperienced reporter at a big-city daily newspaper is stressful. Deadlines were always looming, and editors would scream and yell and call me names, none of them beginning with Terry or ending with Towery.

And then it would pass. And we'd all go out for a beer. Or ten. And then we'd do it all over again the next day.

The word that comes to mind when I think back on those heady early days of my career is vulnerable. That's how I felt. Vulnerable. It didn't matter how good of a writer I was, or how talented I was, or how clever or cute, etc. If I missed the damn deadline, I was -- as my old city editor used to say -- "f---king dead!" God rest his soul, I really do miss that guy. He was blunt, and scary as hell, but he made me a much better reporter than I could have ever been on my own.

Ah, the good old days.

Yes, there's a relevant point to all this. I think. Anyway, in the past twenty-four hours, I have sent out three electronic versions of my manuscript. I just pressed the send button and voila, they were gone.

This afternoon, I spent thirty minutes on the phone with a helpful but not-too-smart young person from the local Kinko's, setting up a massive printing project tomorrow -- 1,670 pages. Four complete manuscripts, printed to my demanding specifications.

Those go to four more beta readers this week. That, my friends, is seven versions of The Devil You Don't Know, sent out all by itself into the big, bad world.

To live or die on its merits.

Last night, I had that dream again -- for the first time in more than twenty years.


  1. I'm laughing. I don't know why. I think because you worry too much. People I know can't STOP me from sending my MS to them. As soon as I find out an email, I'm all 'here ya go! for when you're bored and stuff...' It may stem from my writing publicly for four years before I started to write for just me, so I want to know what others think of it. I send to relatives, friends, co-workers, fellow bloggers who ask, relatives of coworkers, people I don't even like... pretty much everywhere I can so I can test it out a bit. Remember, though - I'm crazy. I'm sure your MS is wonderful. Have faith in yourself. Or I'll have to smack you ;-)

  2. Yes, I worry too much. I never used to be such a damned baby, but now ....

    I think it's the whole "ZOMG, we're all gonna starve and lose everything unless you are, like, crazy successful" thing that goes around and around in my head. All the frigging time.

    Yes. I am also crazy. ;)

  3. I understand the feeling because I've been there myself, but don't worry -- I just sent my comments on the prologue and chapter one... I'm hooked. You're good Terry, really good.

  4. Oh Terry, I'm so glad you're one of us. ;)

    Isn't it exhilarating being new again? Enjoy not knowing, go celebrate and relax. You've hit a milestone here.

    And I'm glad you're crazy, otherwise we might not be pals.

    WORD VERIFICATION: shotgen. Can you use that in a sentence please?

  5. Yes I can, Gina.

    Shotgen is the method by which the father of my wife, Gen, used to, um, "facilitate" our wedding.

    Get it? A "shotgen wedding." ;)

  6. A sign you are feeling vulnerable again, yes, BUT, isn't also exhilarating?
    Now you can go out and have 1 or 10 beers. Full circle.

    Now just wait for the gut check when you get those babies back with red ink on them.

    And then when you query...

    Why do we do this again?

    (oh yeah, it's sometimes fun)

  7. Being vulnerable is just a way of knowing you have a chance to succeed. You can't risk failure unless you're reaching for success.

    FWIW -- my "stressed" dream usually involves spitting out my own teeth when I try to talk. Not pleasant.

  8. It is a bit like slicing yourself open and laying out your guts for everyone to poke at. I'm more hardened than I was in the beginning though. Nice blog you have here.