Today, I want to share a guest post I once penned for Workaday Reads.
Most people are at least passingly familiar with Herman Melville's seafaring tale, Moby-Dick, but very few—a handful, perhaps—are familiar with the tale of mobi-dick.
Nevertheless, much like the beloved classic, mobi-dick isn't a tale about the title character as much as it is a tale about one man's obsession with the title character.
Our story starts where all good stories do: A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, where a young(er) man trapped in a boring existence on a desolate planet dreams of the stars (and flirts with lawsuits, apparently).
But seriously, the tale of mobi-dick begins in the not-too-distant past, in a small town just north of New York City. Within that small town lived a man who hungered for more.
To the outside observer, this man had it all: a beautiful, loving wife, a caring family, a successful corporate career, and, of course, his health... but it wasn't enough. Something was missing.
You see, there was a tale he couldn't get out of his head—a story, started years earlier as a college assignment, with roots embedded deep in his psyche like barbed fishhooks. Most of the time he ignored this tale, but it never went away. Instead, it floated just out of reach, a constant reminder of what might have been.
One dark and stormy night, the man succumbed to the pressure and dug out the dusty old story (actually, he opened the Word document, but that type of splitting hairs has no business here, thank you very much). Reading through it rekindled the creative fire, so the man vowed to complete the novel by year’s end.
With the support of his loving wife, he devoted all his free time to the task. He wrote through nights, weekends, and holidays. He missed vacations. He was always type, type, typing away, like an animal pacing back and forth in a cage, but it was worth it. The book began to grow and take shape. Amorphous ideas coalesced into reality. The words piled up, but the man didn’t stop as the word count grew from 80,000 to 100,000 and ultimately to 150,000 words.
The book was done before the year was out; the labor of love that was the offspring of obsession. The man’s wife was overjoyed. His family and friends were pleased. His coworkers were relieved.
But the man was unhappy. It wasn't enough. He longed to share his creation with the world-at-large, as any loving parent does. After all, what's the point in creating something if your genius isn't going to be celebrated?
So the man embarked on a journey in search of publication. How hard could it be? It always happened instantly in the movies. In fact, the very first agent he pitched requested the novel.
He floated along; satisfied that it had been so easy, as three months went by with no word from the agent.
Then six months.
Nine months later, he finally received word—a rejection in the form of a form letter. The elusive dream laughed from a distance.
Undeterred, the man went on a rampage, sending out hundreds of queries over the following months. Many agents declined, but a few—a very, very few—requested more.
At the request of one agent, the man changed the beginning of the novel. He altered the end for another. He sent 50,000 words out to sea for yet another.
But the ultimate prize still eluded him. The elusive dream mocked him. Potential agents lost interest, left the profession, moved on to another employer. More than a year later, an editor finally shed light on the problem: the novel wasn’t formulaic enough.
The man had never even realized there was a formula. Armed with new coordinates, the man jumped into action… but the story had changed so much that it was no longer recognizable as his.
He was adrift, lost at sea and at the mercy of the elusive dream.
Still, creativity begets creativity (and obsession is unrelenting). Blackened, scarred, and bleeding, the man decided to push the original novel aside and pursue a different path. In a fever, he wrote a new novel; 80,000 words in nineteen days.
He sent it to the helpful editor.
It was close, but not quite ready for prime time.
Two revisions later, though, it was.
The man’s satisfaction was short-lived, however, as reality crashed in. The landscape of the publishing industry had changed while he labored; it was changing by the day.
The helpful editor suggested the man try sailing across the vast, mostly uncharted, waters of self-publishing.
So he did.
The last I saw of the man he was swimming in those turbulent waters, making split-second decisions with little to no time to consider their consequences.
Read or write?
Tweet or blog?
Interview or giveaway?
Pitch bloggers or advertise?
In other words, still chasing that elusive mobi-dick…
You might ask where the story ends. Is it a triumph or a tragedy?
I guess time will tell.
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I hope you enjoyed mobi-dick (for those unfamiliar with mobi… it is the ebook file format used by Amazon.com).