Value Beyond Gold

Louisa Leontiades On Writing-General

Lord Percy after a hard day of alcheming...

Lord Percy, after a hard day of alcheming…

Oh, Edmund… can it be true? That I hold here, in my mortal hand, a nugget of purest Green?

 

– Lord Percy Percy, Blackadder II

Lord Percy believed in the value of the Green he made. He believed in the story he was telling himself. That his Green was worthy of admiration, that it was priceless. Blackadder mocked him for his effort and the audience laughed. Yet he continued unabashed, convinced that he could change the world through his own small and often thankless efforts.

As an author I often feel like Lord Percy Percy… (given name Percival of the House of Percy, son of apparent sadists).

Today I hold in my mortal hands my own nugget of green. A priceless treasure in my eyes. It’s the film option on my first published book, The Husband Swap and I’m still shellshocked by its very existence. This agreement has been almost two years in the making which, if you’re getting paid by the hour, day, or even month, is negligible. We’ve gone back and forth over rights on related material; music, sequels, graphic novels, computer games and even merchandise. I’m suffering from legal fatigue and it’s work that no one will ever see or acknowledge. I cannot measure its worth in gold… or even ‘Green’.

In the grand scheme of things, two years is a short time. I started writing what became The Husband Swap in 2008, never thinking to publish the outpourings of what was a scream of pain from the harshest lesson of growth I’ve been through–and in my life, there have been some corkers. And yet here I am, eight years later with a published book, a signed film option, a sequel coming out in a few short months and a self-published prequel (my first ever written–and thus most immature–work). Is it now that I am allowed to call myself an author? What does being an author mean?

Authors were once part of a revered, hallowed profession. In the times where education and literacy were scarce, being an author stood for something. It was a sign of prestige, a sign of dedication, a sign of creativity.

Just this morning Facebook showed me a sponsored ad for a plugin that created a book out of a website and promised minimal expenditure of skill and effort. No doubt it will sell well. Recognition from the world for authorship is no longer a given and ubiquitous content on the web has only contributed to the growing number of people who dismiss such effort under the impression that time is their only limiting factor.

Maybe so.

But that time is more than the formatting of swathes of text in a document. That time is years spent studying structure, phrasing, and words. That time is spent learning and creating the beats of a scene… action, reaction, and reflection. That time is spent agonizing over the awfulness of the first draft and having the courage and drive to go over and over and over it until you grow to hate the sight of the damn thing. But still, you must continue. That time means knowing that changing one word in a sentence is the thing that will propel your reader forward and add an entirely different dimension to a paragraph. It’s having to face those one-star reviews with aplomb and dignity, knowing that if you knew then what you knew then (but weren’t aware of), you would have written it differently and knowing that no matter how much you’ve progressed, it will be the same for every subsequent work. Being an author means having to let it go even if you weep for the hatred reviewers pour upon your literary baby and sometimes even you.

Authors write. They also plot. Plan. Dream. Re-order. Edit. Craft. Most suffer rejection, time and again. Sometimes, just sometimes, they receive encouragement that their stories may be well received. That their life and work as an author is not wasted. Today was one of those days. Seventeen pages of signed and initialed legal jargon mean I feel as Neil Armstrong might have felt when he stepped out of Apollo 11.

It’s a new world. And that feeling has a value beyond gold.