Monday, July 26, 2010

follow-up to yesterday

In a follow-up discussion over on Murderati, regarding my post (below this one), this question was asked by Catherine, and I thought it a great question. Here's her question and my reply:

I have to answer Catherine's question, because I think it's a fair one. You asked, "In reference to Toni's post yesterday...why would you want to create a situation where you suck the joy out of creating?"

And my answer is: Well, it wasn't obvious at the outset that it was goingto suck the joy out of it.

I know in my case, I was trying to do something that I knew I loved doing, and I knew I'd had some success with that genre, and I knew that there were editors who were actively pursuing me for that genre (including a very big-name editor from a different house), and you put all of that together, and you think, "Well, duh. Of course I can do that."

Professionals show up and do their jobs. As a civil contractor, I don't get to say to a client, "Ya know, I just am not 'feeling' the concrete pour today. I poured so much yesterday, I need to recharge, rethink my plans. How do you feel about limestone instead?' " And when you've created expectations (whether it's with your audience or your agent or your editor/publisher), there's a certain element of the fact that this is a business and we don't whine and we show up and get the work done. It really cannot always be about where the muse takes us--because what if we're in the middle of a contracted book and the muse suddenly wants to switch genres? That happens... and the professional writer recognizes it for what it is--a method of procrastinating--and stops that nonsense and gets back to work.

So it's not always easy to look at a path that you're about to go down and realize that there lies the wrong path. We'll often assume that it's procrastination or a short-term feeling of inadequacy masking itself or ennui. Or any of a dozen other things, because we want to make the other professionals around us happy.

It's much much harder, in my opinion, to have an editor actively pursuing you for one genre, someone who is a dream editor, and then saying to yourself, "I can't do that right now, because this other book is burning a hole in me, I have to get it out." That is when you wonder if you've sort of lost your mind--because you could be potentially derailing your own career. Until you start down that path, and realize, no. No, this is exactly what you were supposed to do, because you just learned all kinds of things you wouldn't have learned down that other path. And so when you do go down that other path, you now take these new skills with you that will make that dream editor happy.

At some point, you finally realize that everything is a risk. Staying in the same place can be a risk. Sometimes a bigger one than change would be.

Which is kinda freeing, really.


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