Yesterday I was talking with students about a story I teach every semester, Joyce’s “Araby,” in which the narrator describes his first love…and first heartbreak. As I always do, I made the point that part of the narrator’s desperate singlemindedness–and his devastation when he realizes how foolish he’s been as a result–comes from his immaturity, literally: he’s a young boy, and thus doesn’t have any perspective with which to work. Asking a thirty year old to wait for a few weeks for a response to a formal request seems reasonable; asking a three year old the same thing doesn’t, both because the three year old doesn’t have the same level of patience and because “a few weeks” is literally a larger chunk of his life.
Time, in short, is a flexible thing. Our perception of it changes depending on our relative positions in life. None of this is revelatory, of course, but it wasn’t until today, teaching “Araby” for the first time since The Third Sign was published, that I felt the power of the message for myself. Authors learn very quickly how slowly this business runs: it takes years to build one’s craft to be good enough to attract the attention of agents and/or publishers, years to land one of same, years to refine one’s work in readiness for publication, months to prepare for the date of publication (getting blurbs, reviews, various bits of interest from various sources), months to see the ARCs, and months to see the actual book hit print. Then months pass while sales numbers are tallied, and…well, you get the idea. This isn’t a speed-oriented industry. I always have the urge to laugh when someone asks me how the “new book” is doing. Seven years with a book makes it lots of things, but certainly not new. And as time drags on and on, weeks and months passing as the next milestone/obstacle/hurdle looms, the sense of helplessness–and the feeling you’d like to “annihilate the tedious intervening days,” to go back to Joyce–gets larger.
Of course the wait–for whatever–isn’t all bad. I’ve been hard at work on Grayshade (my third book) while Icarus is on submission and TTS is out in the published world, and the more things I’ve got ready to go when the next stage arrives the better. I’m certainly not asking for more things to do. 🙂 But I have to admit that I’m looking forward to the moment when time starts to accelerate again and the next steps present themselves. I may not be going to Araby anytime soon, but still…that Joyce guy may have been on to something, you know?