One day the great sculptor Michelangelo was carving a statue in a courtyard and a small boy asked him why he was hitting at that rock. He answered: “Because there is an angel inside and it wants to come out.”
I don’t remember how many times I have heard and read the following advice, “write what you know,” or, “as a writer, your finest work will emerge when you free the angels and the dragons that exist within you.”
Write what you know. Write what you feel!
To be honest I am the happiest when I try to write from my heart. From that vulnerable place at the very core of my being, using feelings that may have been experienced long ago but that resonate in my life even now.
I used to get angry and sad every time I thought about my experiences of the civil war in Lebanon decades ago. But then I realized that those events that have occurred have prepared me to write best about certain types of emotional responses. I have used those emotions and experiences to write my first book “The Lost I”
Since it was my first time writing a book and I was not confident enough to send it first to a publisher, I sent my manuscript to a Manhattan firm to be evaluated. Here’s how they responded:
“There is a nice element of mystique in “The Lost I”; the narrator does not fall into the common trap of giving away too much future action and over-expressing the motivations and emotions of the characters. There is a very subtle incorporation of small details and aspects of life within the context of the novel’s reality. Also, the characters are three dimensional and realistic, and as such will engage both the interest and sympathy of the reader.
“The Lost I” is a compelling read. It is a very exciting story. Overall, the plot and the conceptual uniqueness of “The Lost I” will recommend it for publishing.”
Excited and happy by such positive response I started my search for publishers. After searching for a while I realized that almost all publishers don’t accept unsolicited material, so I started searching for agents. Most of the responses I got were just a simple no of course. But to my surprise two different agents responded in the exact the same way. Here’s what they wrote:
“Thank you very much for sending your query and for offering me the chance to review your material. I’m sorry to state that I will not be asking to represent your manuscript. It is crucial to find an agent who will represent you to the best of his or her ability, and your project did not seem like a good fit for me.
Please understand that this is a subjective industry, and what does not work for one agent or publisher may in fact work well for another. Although I cannot recommend someone specific, I encourage you to continue seeking out representation elsewhere.”
I got this response from two different agents in two separate emails. They “cannot recommend someone specific.” Sigh!
What am I supposed to understand from the above reviews? That even though my story is compelling no agent can help me find a publisher because it won’t sell?
What do I do then? Do I continue to write from the folds of my soul and expect no one to publish my material? Or do I just write something, anything, with the market in mind and be dishonest to myself and to the readers?