Lightbulb moments, now with clever clip-art, by Deb Katie

I’ve always been a big reader, and that means there have been a lot of books that made a difference in my life. On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, was the first chapter book I ever read. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver, changed the way I thought about food and eating. On Writing, by Stephen King, propelled me into finishing my book.

But there was one book, more than any other, that changed the propulsion of my life as a writer: The Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published.

As books about publishing go, it’s a fair one. It’s a fun read, laid out in a friendly manner, with lots of little clip-arty snippets along the side of the page and lots of “insidery” toned anecdotes. These days, you can find any of that stuff on the internet (probably back then, too, but that was before the heyday of Miss Snark and the other blogging agents).

So, no, it wasn’t the book itself or its content that changed my life.

It’s the fact that it was given to me as a gift by my husband.

(And giving someone a book with the term “For Dummies” or “Idiot’s Guide” in the title can be risky. When done without the utmost delicacy, it can result in some narrowed eyes and raised eyebrows… trust me, I know.)

He’d seen me working on a few book projects. He knew that I was at a crossroads in my career and in my own personal sense of direction. And so, for a birthday or anniversary or Christmas or something, he gave me The Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published. Because he, unlike me at that point, believed I had it in me to write a book and sell it. He believed that I had what it takes to get an actual book on the shelf.

Prior to this, it had never seriously occurred to me that I could even finish a book, much less one that was good, and much much MUCH less actually sell it.

But sometimes when someone else believes in us, we come to believe in ourselves. Amazing how that works.

So if you’re the loved one of an aspiring author, please know that every bit of encouragement is appreciated. (Especially as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) winds down and bazillions of writers everywhere are passed out on the floor next to their desks with spacebar-shaped indents on their thumbs… maybe brew up a pot of coffee and a tub of chicken soup or something.)

When Bad Girls Don’t Die was out on submission, and one or two publishing houses had politely passed, I was starting to feel the crushing doubt that all writers experience in waves throughout their careers.

“But what if nobody wants it?” I wailed. “What if nobody likes it at all? What if it never goes anywhere? What do I do then?”

My darling unflappable husband, in the breezy manner of a man who buys his wife a book written for idiots, just shrugged and looked slightly puzzled by my lack of comprehension. “Then… you write another book,” he said.

~ Deb Katie Alender

PS – My bad, I looked up the actual title of the book and it’s “The COMPLETE Idiot’s Guide,” not just “The Idiot’s Guide.” LOL.

18 Replies to “Lightbulb moments, now with clever clip-art, by Deb Katie”

  1. I know it’s a cliche, and so many writers say when they stand up to accept an award that it would not have happened without the support of their family–but it’s TRUE! Writers are so full of doubt, and to have someone tell you that you can do it is so important. So, thanks again Katie’s husband…

  2. I’m applauding Katie’s husband, and my husband is much the same. He would absolutely have said that line about “so you write another book” and in fact, he probably has. Many times I’ve felt I couldn’t do it, but he never doubted me, not once. (He’s using his same old reassurances for me now when I panic no one’s going to buy my book.)

    It’s funny, Katie, I bought ON WRITING by Stephen King the first day after quitting my “day job” to spend more time with my baby. (By the way, that baby turns six today!) Stephen King told me to buy Writer’s Market and I was off and running from there. I don’t think I wanted to admit to myself I was going to try and be an author, then, though down deep I knew I was going to try it.

    I know writers who do not have such supportive families and I’m in awe of them for carrying on, even so.

  3. Judy, hurray for husbands! Who knew they could come in handy every once in a while? 😉

    Meredith, that’s true. There are several other family members and even friends who were really behind me when I was writing Bad Girls. You know, the people who ask, “How’s the book coming?” and act like it’s your job, in a way… those people definitely made me plunk myself down and get some writing done.

    Kristina, maybe women authors are all attracted to the same type of man–deadpan and matter of fact! And I’m starting to think “On Writing” needs its own theme week here.

  4. Oh, COMPLETE Idiot, that makes it so much more marketable, ’cause nobody is just a little bitty part idiot…it is all or nothing in the idiot department.

  5. Eve, maybe so! But so far we haven’t had a theme for “husbands who changed our lives.” 😉 I’d have so many to choose from! Just kidding.

    Eve’s Mom, absolutely… only the direst idiot can read this book. If you’re just a little idiot, you have to go online and look up everything yourself.

    Marsha, yay for your husband, but now how do we get you believing in yourself? Very important!

  6. To have your husband love and believe in you = priceless! Dare I suggest he “completes” you, Katie? [Just couldn’t resist that. ;)]

    And to all the Debs: I’ve just come from Amazon after Pre-ordering your books!

  7. That is sooo funny, Katie, that you should write this particular article. The book that really helped me get my thoughts on the page was, in fact, also from the “Idiot’s guide” series, except it was on writing YA fiction. Yes, it may be cookie-cutter, but it sure helped get the ball rolling. Except I actually bought it for myself; no wife helped at all. Thanks a lot wife… 😉

    And I’m definitely going to check out “On Writing” too. Thanks. 🙂

  8. Ah, its’ those darn “odd bits” that cause all the problems…I must have more “odd bits” then regular bits…oh my.

  9. Jason, that’s so funny! I didn’t know there was an Idiot’s Guide for YA fiction. Now I’m curious… I want to know if I’m doing anything wrong. 😉 Definitely x 100 get “On Writing.” There’s just something about that book. It sort of makes you go, “Wait, I can DO this!”

    Eve’s Mom, the odd bits are the most lovable bits, so no worries.

  10. Like others, I think many writers would give up if not for someone (be it spouse, family, friend or teacher) who reminds us when we doubt that we CAN do it. It reminds me to encourage other people in their dreams (be it writing or something else).

  11. I have some of those “Complete Idiots Guide” books somewhere, and I must admit, they do come in handy. At the very least, you are rudimentarily introduced to a subject matter that may have at one point seemed distant and incomprehensible.

    It sure is nice to have some one who encourages you to push forward in the face of doubt. Kudos to the hubby!

  12. Eileen, that’s so nice of you! I have always found you very encouraging. 🙂

    Tom, you’re right about the books. In fact, I bought one for research for my next book. And the hubby’ kudos are well-deserved! Thank you.

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