Both pursuits involve risk, but not as much as mining, firefighting, or eating Thanksgiving dinner with more than six blood-relatives. You go in unsure of how things will turn out. You embrace the unknown, which, let’s face it, is better than embracing Aunt Edna when she shows up with that soggy stuffing, another head cold, and countless stories about her bunions. Will you get published? Maybe. Will you get stabbed in the ankle by a surprise counter-attack while an acorn pings you in the temple? Possible. Will you write novels no one reads or be bested by a shockingly athletic nut-hoarding rodent? Not out of the question. If that's ok, go for it.
Both allow for a range of spontaneity and preparation, wherein the most effective outcomes are often found by combining the two. Some authors dive in and just see what emerges. Equally, one can charge at a squirrel, epee swinging, caution thrown to the wind. Chances of success are improved with at least a modicum of planning, a hint of direction, a sense of purpose. Little known fact: squirrels are excellent fencers. Approach with caution.
Both take practice. A polished, structurally sound, engaging novel is likely to require input from those more experienced with the process, also reading about craft, studying the work of other writers, months or years of revision, excessive bemoaning of said revision, and painful excising of elements that seemed so great the first time they hit the page. Similarly, novice squirrel fencers aren’t known for their catalogue of victories. They're more familiar with minor flesh wounds.
Both are aided by teamwork. A novel requires reader input, story editing, line editing, copy editing, cover art, layout work, PR, inspiration, sounding boards for ideas and dilemmas. Fencing with squirrels also improves with allies. I recommend hawks, foxes, or weasels. Keep in mind that weasels have been known to double-cross. Still, they’re quick, they’re ruthless, and they look great in fencing gear.
Both involve coping with rejection. Very few writers bang out a draft, send it off, get an agent, sell that book, and go on to make millions. Most go through dozens or hundreds of rejections. Countless revisions. Agonizing self-doubt. Breaking into the squirrel fencing industry can be equally challenging. If you’re a “debut squirrel fencer” you haven’t proven yourself yet. Gatekeepers may doubt your abilities, especially with thousands of other squirrel fencers vying for their attention. But how does one prove one’s worth without experience, and how does one get experience without proving one’s worth? The age-old dilemma. Does it hurt? Yes. Do the squirrels care? Heck no. They’re callous little bastards. And very few have written novels.
Both require perseverance. Some days picking up that epee will feel like a monumental task. On these same days, someone will probably beam at you, wide-eyed and innocent, and say, “Gosh, you fence squirrels? That sounds like so much fun!” You will want to yank out their intestines and macramé them into hanging plant holders. You should not do this. You should smile back and say, “Sometimes, yes. Other times it’s challenging.” Then push onward. Improve your stance. Tighten your hold. Practice your riposte. Get through the rough patch until the fun emerges again. Similarly, getting a fake person from point A to point B in an engaging and meaningful manner can be hard. The threads of the story fray. The world development needs more detail but bogs down the pace already. The dialogue is stilted. The subplots meander. The ending isn't earned. The dramatic tension flags. Too many characters are running amok and don’t seem integral to the central plot. All of these improve with time and effort.
Both are easier with a solid support network. Trust me on this. If the squirrel wins, you’re going to want a shoulder to cry on, one that isn’t eight inches off the ground with acorn crumbs in its fur. Find friends, kindred spirits, people who are at the same stage of development in their career/artistic pursuits. If you have a partner, tell them to buckle up. You’ll pay back the favor when they start playing volleyball with giraffes. (Spoiler alert, the giraffes will likely win. Your partner will need you.) Find your peeps, your twerps, your drinking buddies, your special someone who will listen and bring you cake when you’re nursing your imposter syndrome or your latest ankle wounds from your resounding defeat at the hands of your chirruping nemesis.
Both are unlikely to be lucrative. Odds are, Netflix will pick up squirrel fencing before they’ll hire Wes Anderson or Guillermo del Toro to direct the film of your current work in progress. Foster the dream, but pursue it because you love the pursuit itself, not because you think it’s a route to franchise ownership and bobble head dolls that look vaguely like the characters you once imagined. You have a story you want to tell or a passata sotto that fills you with joy as your blade ruffles the hair on a bushy tail. If, however, a squirrel has wronged you in the past, vendettas are fair motivation. For optics' sake, consider donating proceeds from any bets placed on your matches to charity. I recommend the Squirrel Scouts of America or Marmots Without Borders.
Both will lead you to absorb a lot of input on how things should be done. Some of this advice is invaluable. Listen to it. Also be willing to forge your own path. Use what works for you but adapt or discard the bits that don’t fit. Where feinting and flunging are concerned, there’s no right answer. Squirrels already know this. They spend precisely zero time debating which repertoire of moves to practice. While you’re busy pondering your options, they’ve moved on to their counter attack. Be open. Take things in. Almost all advice is well meant and worth considering. But some will contradict others. This is where you will be challenged to make up your own mind about how to move forward. Plant your feet. Raise your blade. Pick your moves. Get that little bastard when he isn't looking.
Both pursuits will incite someone, at some point to say, “Wow, you do that? Like, professionally or just as a hobby?” At which point you will swish your blade, adjust your fencing mask, and say, “Have you ever met a hobbyist squirrel fencer? I didn’t think so.”