For just over one hundred years, two wonderful pink-marble lions have guarded the main entrance of the New York Public Library. They've been unusually popular. From the moment they were erected in 1911, people gave them names and decorated them with flowers, baseball caps, and other symbols of whatever was going on in New York at the time. In the 1930s, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia officially named them Patience and
Fortitude, for the qualities he felt New Yorkers would need to survive
the economic depression.
New York did survive the Great Depression, so evidently the lions did their job. Patience still guards the south side of the Library's steps and
Fortitude sits unwaveringly to the north.
I've always loved them, as you might expect. I'm a cat person and a member of Lions International, so of course I love them. . .
But not just because they're cats, and not because I'm worried about the economy. As a writer, I see them as symbols of the author's craft. And what better place could there be for them than in front of the country's greatest library?
If you are a writer, you need PATIENCE:
- when you are waiting for your own personal muse to find the answer to a vexing writing problem.
- when it feels like the end is completely out of sight.
- when your friends don't understand what you do as a writer.
- when your editor has been working on your manuscript for weeks.
- when your graphic designer can't find the image you need for your cover.
- when you have sent off a query letter to an agent or publisher.
- when an agent says, "We'll have better luck finding a publisher in the fall."
- when that agent or publisher says, "Our evaluation may take several months."
- when you are told that your book is in a queue because the press is overloaded.
- when you're waiting to see the finished product.
- when it takes weeks for the book to appear on bookshelves or online catalogs.
- when sales are sluggish or non-existent.
- when you are waiting for that first big review.
- when you've entered a book contest.
- when the royalty check is overdue.
And if you are a writer, you need FORTITUDE (defined as courage in the face of adversity)
- when you discover that there are already five other books with the exact title you have chosen for your work.
- when you learn that an internationally known author has just published a book on your exact subject.
- when someone points out a major error that will require a re-write of several chapters.
- when you have almost enough rejection letters from agents or publishers to redecorate your office.
- when your editor quits and her replacement hates everything she liked.
- when your publisher goes out of business.
- when the book finally arrives and you find a huge typo on the cover.
- when your local bookstore displays your new book in a dark corner, on a bottom shelf, and behind a potted plant.
- when you arrive for your first book-signing and no one comes.
- when people do come to your book talk but want to argue with what you've said.
- when a reviewer returns your book unopened, saying that it sounds boring and uninteresting.
- when your first review appears and it is viciously bad.
- when you meet your first heckler or internet troll.
- when people who have read your book tell you how much they liked it but refuse to write a review.
- when Amazon threatens to ban you for a violation of their terms that was not your fault.
So, thank you, New York Library Lions, for standing guard over some of our most precious creations and for reminding us of the qualities that will help us survive the publishing games.