I’m breaking my only-one-post-a-day rule today because it doesn’t break the spirit of the rule: I wanted to only post once a day to leave myself time to contemplate whatever I’d written about, but this one will be about something I’ve already been contemplating for a long time. It doesn’t exactly have to do with spirituality, though in a fringe sort of way it could tie in.
Instead, it concerns writing. And the fact that I haven’t done much this year, intentionally, on the heels of writing like a madman the last dozen years, and this being on the heels of publishing my most recent novel.
Here’s the Up To Now part: I started writing seriously when I was 12 – that’s when I wrote my first novel – inspired by a family member who was an author. There was a five year hiatus (essentially – I did write but not often and not in a disciplined way) while I went back to college and then had a rather stressful living situation for awhile afterwards. But in 2002 I got back into writing in a serious, disciplined way, and since then I’ve generally been working on a novel at least nine months out of the year.
Until this year. I finished the first draft of my latest published book late last December, but aside from lots of editing passes, this blog, and a very small number of other things, I haven’t done any serious writing. Certainly no new novels. A couple of ideas inspired me, and still do, but I haven’t started writing either, or so much as the research they’d need. I have a fantasy novel I could be working on, a sequel to something finished and one I could knock off the top of my head with no research required, but I haven’t started that either.
Between 2002 and this past spring I hadn’t gone longer than three months without working on a novel. I’m up to nine now.
Why? It’s because what I really, truly want from writing has changed in a major way. Despite it being major, though, it’s still a paradigm shift, which is always hard to get used to. I’m still getting used to it. Even when we’re staring each other straight in the face.
For a long time – since I was 12 – I wanted to write full-time. I wasn’t interested in fame, except as it served to keep me well-known enough to be a full-time writer. I wasn’t interested in money, except ditto. I just wanted to be able to do something I love doing that much from morning to evening.
Well, in truth I still do, but the idea of it has been willingly abandoned for awhile now. What I want most is to write good stories. And whatever route allows me to do that, I’ll take.
There’s a long thought process involved with coming to this conclusion that involves my own publishing and marketing experiences, those of others, friends who have been dropped by large publishing houses after one book despite contracts and promises, friends who had long successful writing careers but were dropped by their publishers when they weren’t selling as well as they used to, and my own family member, who published dozens of novels but couldn’t even get his own publisher to do any serious marketing when they reprinted his most famous series. I’m finding that the older I get the less patience and tolerance I have for the frustrations of the writing business, when I’d rather be concentrating on the writing itself.
I’ve been thinking about self-publishing for a long time. I have nothing against it, and nowadays talk of the “stigma” of self-publishing is usually overblown. But I do know that I’m not a great editor of my own work – yet I can’t afford a professional editor, either. A good one is pricey, and worth every penny. Ideally I’d write the book, go through a few drafts with an editor, get some good cover art made, and then put it out on the market. But I always hesitate before committing to the self-publishing route, because I want to be confident that the book is good.
And yet…and yet. I keep thinking about self-publishing. I’m already tired of doing hours upon hours of marketing and promotion. I’m wary based on the experiences of the authors I know who have been pigeon-holed and can’t break out of the uni-mold they’ve made for themselves. I consider Terry Brooks and Piers Anthony as cautionary tales, for instance. I’ve always been big fans of theirs – they were my first introductions to fantasy after David Eddings – but Terry Brooks’ Running with the Demon series -where he tried to break away from Shannara – didn’t do well financially, and nowadays when he tries to break his usual fantasy formula he eventually veers back into it with frustrating results. Piers Anthony’s bread and butter is still Xanth, somewhere in the neighborhood of forty books in, and his other works are typically co-written.
I love writing fantasy, and science fiction, and historical fiction, but I can’t imagine writing nothing else but just one of those genres – especially only one single formula and nothing else – for the rest of my life. I may sacrifice money and renown through the route I’m considering, but I’d be able to keep on writing whatever I want to write.
That’s what it really boils down to. This entry isn’t directly about spirituality, but it is about doing what your heart and instincts tell you is the right thing to do, even if it costs you a lot in the short term. Even if it goes against the grain of what you’ve spent practically your whole life wanting to do, or thinking you wanted to do.
And if that’s not part of spiritual growth, I don’t know what is.