I have been interviewed by Chris Jane over at Jane Friedman’s site. Yay!
I have been interviewed by Chris Jane over at Jane Friedman’s site. Yay!
The officially official release date is meant to be October 1, but for all intents and purposes it is available.
You might be asking why I’m bouncing around like a kid with a serious sugar buzz. Mostly I am just really excited for my friend. And, uh, I edited it. Which is also cool.
She also put my name on the cover which is a huge honor. I am proud to be tangentially a part of this collection, and excited to say, CONGRATULATIONS, DEVON!
So, I had a vacation from ye olde daye job recently during which I, of course, overbooked myself. I also had an awesome time and I have to admit it was really painful to go back to work after spending most of my week with other writer/book folk.
I went to my first writer’s retreat, an event organized and hosted by Penn Jersey Women Writers. It was, to use an overused word, awesome. I fear I may now be addicted to these sorts of events, but you know, time and money factor in and after some figuring, I realized I won’t be able to attend something like this again until spring. (Which maybe accounts for some of the difficulty in returning to ye olde daye job.)
One of the most important aspects of attending an event like this is hang time with other folks who are going through the same, or similar things, that you are as a writer. Most of the time I am sitting on my mountain working on stuff alone, and sometimes this is great, but other times it helps to be reminded that I’m not alone, that there are other folks struggling with the same things in regards to the art, or who have struggled with the same thing, came out the other side and who now have wisdom to impart. Perhaps that’s just a really long way of saying that attending events by and for writers reminds you (okay, me) that you are connected to something beyond yourself. Plus, there is always more to learn. Writer-brain likes learning.
The first speaker at the conference, Megan Hart, was really energetic at an early hour, which, for me was perfect after a long, early morning drive to the event. She spoke about productivity, which reminds me of this article that’s been floating around writerly internet this past week.
So, here’s the thing. I am committed to writing four books a year. Of course, when I say that, what it means is that I am writing four first drafts in a year, it does not mean that I am also publishing four books a year. It goes, first draft, let it sit while I work on the next thing, then I finish the next thing and circle back to the first thing for first round edits. Then the first thing goes out for feedback. Then I work on the third thing and circle back to the second thing and so on. That’s just how I do it. A publishing schedule is a totally separate animal from the actual act of writing. I think what pokes me the most about the article is that it appears to conflate the two things. Anything more I could say about this has already been said by Chuck Wendig’s post responding the article. I’m with him. There are so many different ways to approach this thing that we do, and no one person has the answers. While essays like that Huffo-po piece certainly provide food for thought, and stuff to consider, nothing anyone tells you about writing is gospel. Some advice will work well for you, some of it will be useless. Take what works and throw out the rest.
So, back to vacation. I got to visit my old stomping grounds and dropped off copies of Aliens in the Soda Machine and Other Strange Tales at Webster’s Bookstore in State College, PA and Café Lemont in Lemont. You know what that means, right? IT MEANS I DRANK ALL OF THE COFFEE IN THE LAND!
Of course, here’s where what happened to my time also gets a little bit hazy…
Kayne Milhomme is a historical mystery author who is part of the same critique group that I occasionally yammer on about in this corner of the internet, though we’ve never met in person. His debut novel, Grace and Disgrace, promises intrigue and adventure in a hunt for the Templar Diamond. He’s graciously agreed to answer a bunch of questions about his journey here.
Without further preamble, here’s the interview!
1) What draws you to the historical mystery genre?
I suppose there is a ‘double’ draw when it comes to the historical mystery genre, because both history and mystery are compelling genres for me.
History: I believe that history holds all kinds of hidden gems when it comes to storytelling. They say truth is stranger than fiction, and that makes for some good content. Not only in terms of entertainment, but in terms of gaining a frame of reference and perspective for certain events and ways of life that existed before our time. To be immersed in the past can be a very meaningful experience for a reader, and the same is true for me as a writer. So in short, history is a great device for building a story from components that are not only entertaining, but relevant to the study of who we are, and how we became that.
Mystery: This is a more straightforward answer. I love to embed my stories with puzzles, riddles, misdirection—even when I am writing in other genres, I cannot help adding twists and turns into the story. When I write mystery, those are expected—which makes the challenge of writing them even more fun.
Putting the two together truly creates something that is greater than the sum of its parts—historical mysteries are alive with the elegance, the brutality, and enigmatic nature of the past, and that’s a perfect atmosphere to set a well-crafted mystery in.
2) You’ve spoken about having been an agented writer, and then choosing to self-publish. What kind of adjustments did you have to make in order to do so? What would you say to other authors in similar situations who are considering the same?
As a debut author, the main adjustment was accepting the fact that my novel would not be picked up by a major publisher without an agent. It was basically losing a credible connection to the traditional publishing world, and accepting the fact that I would be tackling the problem in a different way than I had originally planned. I also had to adjust my schedule to allow for time to market the novel, which shouldered its way into writing time. These were all challenging adjustments to make, especially for a debut (i.e. unknown) author.
But there are so many tools available to the self-publisher, and a wonderful indie community that is very supportive—the experience has been invaluable.
It’s hard to give advice on this topic, because each author-agent situation is different, and a decision to self-publish is based on many factors. Mine was based on the fact that my agent represented the first version of my novel, and that version was not picked up by the major publishing houses. When I completed my second version (which is much better, by the way!), my agent believed I would have a better chance getting the manuscript with a new agent rather than having her resend the manuscript around again. That was the point when I knew I was going to take matters into my own hands and really try to understand the industry, and get experience on the marketing and publishing side. But that choice was based on my circumstances, which is why the only advice I would give is for authors, whether agented or not, to get to know the industry. Yes, as writers we should be focused on writing—but I don’t think we should ignore the fact that it is not only an art, but also a business.
3) When did you first know you wanted to be a fiction writer?
Very early on—I’d say the first tangible proof was in the third grade when I wrote a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ type short story for a class assignment. This particular story had the reader navigating a sailboat on a mysterious scientific mission in the deep ocean when a massive gale strikes, and depending on the reader’s choices, ending in several unpleasant manners: under a crashing wave, in a fatal confrontation with a sea monster, or landing on a deserted island, to name a few. I loved writing the story, creating the scenes, introducing the tension and the danger. I read it over and over, even though it was only a dozen pages, imagining stories within the story. It was certainly my favorite assignment all year. And I continued from there, simply writing stories whenever I got the chance—and of course reading voraciously. Lots and lots of reading!
4) What do you think is the main role of a fiction writer?
That’s a great question, and one I have never truly pondered before. I can really only speak for myself, and use that as a representative answer that may hold some truth for other fiction writers. For me, the goal is to produce an entertaining and meaningful experience for the reader that stimulates both an emotional response and leads to critical thinking.
5) As a first time author/publisher what surprises you the most? What was harder or easier than you expected? What is the biggest challenge, or the greatest joy you’ve experienced so far?
The amount of work to market a book. Even though it should not have surprised me (I had been warned), it did.
To be fair, I had just completed writing, editing, revising, reviewing, revising, reviewing, editing, revising, editing, setting aside, revising, editing, and publishing the novel (maybe not in that exact order), and (justifiably so, Ibelieve) felt as if I had completed a herculean task. As such, I thought it was going to be downhill from there.
But it wasn’t. Marketing is an entirely different kind of challenge to writing (for me, at least), and to someone who is not versed in the intricacies of how to market, the amount of time and commitment necessary to get the novel exposure was certainly a surprise. It felt like completing a marathon, and then discovering that the marathon was just a warm up.
All of that said, it has been an amazing experience. It is a tremendous feeling to get responses from readers (whether in person, email, or in a review on Amazon) about my writing, which makes it worth it and more.
Connecting with readers is a unique and very special experience, and is what it is all about for me. The fact that my writing has reached readers and that they have responded the way they have has been by far my greatest joy.
6) Would you describe yourself as a plot-driven writer or a character-driven writer?
The characters are what speak to me, and in essence, truly write the book. As soon as I become intimate with them, I feel as if it is no longer ‘me’ writing the book, but the characters sharing their experiences through me and my typewriter (ok, laptop—that just didn’t sound as elegant). In that way, it is almost as if I am the first reader of the novel, rather than the writer. However, even with that rich character-driven experience, the plot is a critical element. Without it, I can have a grand old time with the characters as they write their experiences through me, but at the end of the day, all I’ve done is captured ‘a day in the life’ without any true purpose. The conflict, the suspense, the tension, the mystery, the big reveals—all of those elements require plotting for me to get it just right. Therefore, I create the setting and the important plot points ahead of time, and then allow the characters to take me along the journey. I would liken it to a hike through the hillside without a path, but with certain necessary waypoints along the way—perhaps the winding river in the valley below, and then onto the thicket in the distance. The characters choose how to get there and therefore create the experience of the journey, but there are preordained destination points along the way that act as their beacons, assuring they stay on track.
7) When in various stages of draft how important is peer to peer feedback to your process? What advice would you give to anyone thinking about joining a critique group for the first time?
Peer to peer feedback is absolutely essential. I cannot stress how important it is to collect comments during the writing process. I may be somewhat unique in the fact that I seek out feedback both during the ‘live’ creation of the novel—each chapter gets an external review as I write—and then the completed manuscript (and revisions thereof) gets reviewed in turn.
My advice regarding critique groups would be foremost—join one! Second, find a group that is passionate about participating in the craft (and not getting together just to chat about the craft), and who can give objective, truthful feedback in a constructive manner. Pats on the back may be nice for a boost once and while, but if it’s not a true reflection of the writing, the critique is not worthwhile. Also, when being critiqued, I recommend refraining from responding with justifications or explanations to constructive criticism—you won’t have a chance to do that with your readers, so why do it with your reviewers? That said, open discussion and probing about a reader’s comments for a fuller understanding is fine—just don’t be defensive about it. Also, when you are acting in the role of reviewer, be honest and respectful to the author.
8) Once you’ve started writing a project, what keeps you motivated to finish?
The story itself. Once a story has formed in the early chapters and taken a life of its own, I become captivated by it—even if it’s no good. At a fundamental level, I need to know what’s going to happen next—I literally need to answer the questions posed by my own imagination. Yes, as the author I have (or should have) a roadmap of where the story is headed ahead of time (the outline of the plot), but in actuality I can’t be sure that the roadmap is exactly how everything will ultimately go; and even if the roadmap is followed, the journey is a complete mystery until I experience it. That mystery, and the excitement of experiencing how it is revealed, is what keeps me motivated. And to heighten the focus every so slightly, it is truly the characters themselves that I get attached to, so when I say that I become captivated by the story once it has taken on a life of its own, I mean their story—the characters themselves.
9) When writing Grace and Disgrace what was the most fun you had writing a scene? What was the hardest part to get right?
It’s hard to choose just one scene! In general, my favorite scenes to write were the character-driven scenes, which are the ones that explore the multiple layers and dimensions of the characters, as opposed to those that move the plot forward. That said, there were scenes focused on certain plot points that were also very enjoyable to write, especially those where certain clues or events critical to the mystery were introduced or solved. But to choose one scene that was truly the most fun to write—I’ll have to say it was the scene where Tuohay got his first experience riding in a new contraption known as an “automobile”. You’ll have to read it the novel to find out why!
10) Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how do you handle it? If not, why not?
Not really. That doesn’t mean that I don’t experience the writing doldrums, though. But my interpretation of those experiences is more akin to what a runner may endure on a day-to-day basis while training for a marathon: some training days are better than others, and the reason behind that is sometimes clear, and other times a mystery. But the bottom line is that practice makes perfect, and in a craft such as writing, no matter how accomplished a writer may be, writing is always practice—even the finished product. So I simply keep at it.
Rune Skelley is the name of co-authors and marriage partners Jen and Kent. They write amazing genre fiction together and run a critique group that has been instrumental in my own growth as a writer. They are experts in the fine art of collaboration, which they go into in detail over at the Skelleyverse. But they’ve also graciously agreed to answer questions here.
1) As collaborative authors, what would you say is the key ingredient to a productive creative collaboration?
Kent: Trust. If you don’t have that, nothing works. Your own ideas won’t get voiced if you don’t trust your partner not to dismiss or attack them, and you won’t be able to compromise, to surrender a share of control, to a partner you don’t trust. (There are lots of other things you need, too. We did a couple of posts about some of them, way back when we started our blog.)
Jen: Trust is big, but I think that even bigger is the desire to work together. Writing together entails a lot of compromise, and compromise isn’t always an easy thing. A fruitful collaboration requires both partners to be fully invested in the process, not just the outcome.
2) When did you each first know that you wanted to write? When did you first decide to write together?
Kent: I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t writing. I had teachers early on who encouraged me and built up my confidence, and teachers later on who pushed me and helped me check my ego (an ongoing project…). Role-playing games gave me a lot of training as a storyteller, too. Come to think of it, D&D is a form of collaboration — the DM and the other players are all making it up as they go. The game provides rules and structure, but it still all comes down to people being able to invent a fun narrative as a team.
As far as writing together, the way Kent remembers it: I would write shorts now and then, and I had a novel that I kept adding to, which was eventually going to require the entire known universe for hard-drive space. I thought of writing as “my” thing, because arrogance I suppose. Meanwhile Jen was part of the gaming group, and she wrote a story that I really liked and which she’d asked for my input on. So we had a good sense that we could cooperate well on creative projects. I remember she was the one who got inspired with the image that launched us into our first novel, which was the first writing project that I ever really took seriously.
Jen: I’ve always been a writer, too. I still have some stuff that I wrote in elementary school, like an odd little story about a lion who solves a mystery with his animal friends. Only this lion has 3 eyes. Not for any plot reasons. Apparently I just thought it would be cool.
How we started writing together, the Jen version: I enjoyed the RPG stuff, but always wanted to explore the non-combat parts more than a campaign would allow. So I basically shanghaied Kent into writing stories with me.
3) What comes first? Character or plot?
Kent: Both. (Heh.) Either one can serve as a seed crystal, and we talk about the possibilities and match up a plot and a character that resonate. From my perspective, I feel like I usually start with plot and Jen usually starts with character. We both feel it’s crucial that the end product be character-driven, so if the plot demands certain events that means we must compellingly set up our characters so they’ll do the things that cause those events. (Events which then impact the characters, and the wheel turns on.)
Jen: Around the writing cave, Kent is infamous for coming up with story “ideas” that are more like concepts or pretenses. It’s like, “Hey, babe, I just thought of a great story idea! It’s like the world is the same as this one, only all the molecules are rotated a quarter turn counterclockwise!” And my reply is, “So what happens?” And he rarely has an answer to that. So it’s sort of up to me to find a way into his concepts, and that way is through a character.
4) What, to you, is the most important role that fiction plays in modern life?
Kent: Wow. Escape is important, even though there’s a pejorative connotation to “escapist entertainment.” Life’s hard, and we all need a vacation now and then. I also think fiction can educate, showing us the mistakes of others that we might learn from them in safety. Fiction encompasses filmic media, but written fiction, specifically, serves a vital role of preserving literacy. The ability to synthesize images and feelings that have been encoded as marks on a page or screen protects us from mental atrophy. So, it’s very important. (Plus, it gives our tribal consciousness something cohere to, a set of shared myths that provide a basis of common understanding among humanity.)
Jen: What he said, only less pompous.
5) When did your love of speculative fiction begin?
Kent: On the first page of the first Roger Zelazny book I held in my hand. I read Zelazny without first reading any “hard” SF or “high” fantasy, and so I internalized and fell in love with his seamless blending of tropes before I knew how post-modern-adjacent it all was.
Jen: When I was little I was really into reading about UFOs and other creepy topics, trying to figure out if I believed in any of it. That’s probably where it started for me.
6) Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it? If not, why?
Kent: Um, yes, it’s real. I feel like I’m way out at the lean end of the bell curve for it, that I’ve been fortunate to seldom suffer it, but it’s certainly not a myth. As we’ve posted on our blog, our partnership and process both help to buffer us from blockages. I really like having my work cut out for me, in the original sense of that saying. I like when all the materials are prepped and stacked up within easy reach, when I know how many shoes I must make and what they’re supposed to look like. I guess it’s my belief that writer’s block is 90% lack of preparation, that it has almost nothing to do with whether or not you’re a creative or talented person.
Jen: I think every writer has experienced minor instances of it. I’m lucky enough to have never been bogged down for more than a day or two. I have experienced lack of motivation, which I don’t think is the same thing. Our projects are so complicated that there’s always something besides prose composition to work on. When the words won’t come there’s always editing or other tasks to turn to. That keeps me engaged with the project while my subconscious gets its shit together.
7) Out of the novels you have completed, are there any characters you would love to meet, or run away from?
Kent: I’d run away from most of them. Seriously, even the nice ones, because we give them so many reasons to hate us. (However, I have major crushes on most of the females and would probably make very foolish choices in their presence.) If I had pick someone from our books to travel cross-country with, it’d probably be either James or Bishop. We would find lots to talk about, I’m not confused by my feelings for them, and they seem the least inclined to vengeance. For just hanging out, I gotta say Vesuvius.
Jen: You’re name-dropping characters nobody knows yet!
There are plenty of characters I would avoid. There are some that I would enjoy having a conversation with. And there are one or two that I would chase after if I wasn’t married. And if they didn’t know that I was responsible for all the bad shit in their lives.
8) For someone new to collaborating, what would you say they should look for in a potential writing partner?
Kent: The magic word here is “sympatico.” It’s not going to be enough to be tolerant of one another’s tastes and interests; you have to feel passion for the same things. It’s not that you need a clone of yourself, just that the Venn diagram’s region of overlap must contain the stuff you will be writing about, mostly. You should both be immersed in the project, both kind of obsessed with building *that* world and animating *those* characters. The partnership is bigger than either one of you alone, though. Don’t throw away the stuff in the other parts of the diagram — use it! Teach each other. Trust each other.
Jen: Make sure it’s someone that you really, really enjoy talking to. You’re going to have a ton of conversations, so make sure your partner is someone you like to spend time with. And you have to respect each other.
9) What’s next in the creative life of Rune Skelley?
Kent: We’re about two-thirds of the way through our current first draft. So, working on that for the foreseeable future.
Jen: We are also talking about the next book, which will be a sequel to the Science Novel. Right now we have a ton of ideas, and most of them are incompatible.
Kent: Those conversations are still in the big-bang stage, coming up with more and more possibilities, after which we’ll see what starts to coalesce. We take notes about these ideas, but I find that the natural filtering process of reviewing things from memory really helps. You don’t like the thought of losing anything, but what you really want is to be able to focus on the very best, which means you have to put aside the other stuff.
Yesterday, I responded to Peter Buckland about the writing life. Pete comes to everything he does with passion and a sort of infectious joy, even when he’s tackling difficult problems, from death metal guitar riffs to poetry and fiction and then again to politics. Soon, a book of his poems will be released into the wild and currently he’s working on fiction.
For the beginning of the conversation, here’s Pete’s post.
His very gracious response to the barrage of questions I fired off is below.
Those responses were great. Thanks for sharing them. Before I answer your questions, I want to reflect on something you said. You wrote, “Nothing comes from any of it without showing up at the page every day and teasing out the story that’s there. You can’t access all of that good stuff without applying pragmatic discipline, also.” That’s something every author, poet, essayist, composer and practicing musician I’ve ever talked to (and is worth a lick) has said to me. You have to meet the page and/or your instrument(s) basically every day. It’s clear you have taken it to heart.
I’ll take your questions this way. I’ll start with the transition out of poetry and back to fiction. Then I’ll talk about my goals with fiction, how my life influences it and what I think/feel about the role of a writer.
Poetry came to me because of difficult circumstances, my growing love of my relationship with nature and my desire to evoke things in myself and others. Poetry evokes. It tugs at something inside of us and makes something small into something else. Poems create worlds of feelings and relationships from very simple means that take little time. (Usually in smaller spaces. I’m ignoring the long poems of Robinson Jeffers for example.) But I use the small form to draw something out. But with fiction, I think I end up doing much more complicated things.
When I write fiction I think I am really looking to understand this world and move it around. Poems, for me, don’t usually reorder the world as I want it to be or not. In fiction, I think my desire for a better world or an honest exploration of experience takes shape. This happens because I become other people who aren’t me. I’m not saying I don’t invoke other positions in my poetry. One need only read the eponymous poem from Heartwood when it comes back and you’ll see I do or even my attempt at what being a heron is in my poem “Herons.”
But I’m not trying to convince someone of something. The rhetoric is different. While I probably subconsciously see a rhetoric of poetry, I don’t think about it (except right now). I very consciously see fiction’s rhetoric. It probably comes from my years writing essays, polemics and writing research. The narrative experience matters and I use it to reshape my experience and—I hope—my readers. How do I do that?
I use my own life, my imagination of course and I’m guided by a maxim. The first two of those: There are things from my life that I draw on, things that I read about, snippets from here or there and things that I just have little idea of where they came from. And I use these materials to connect. Characters in my new project tentatively called So It Rises, there are people in the story who very much come from my life. There are four or five characters that are based on people I could see today. There’s a section that’s practically ripped out of emails I’ve gotten. And there are characters that I have completely made up. For example, there’s an astronaut who’s just landed in the ocean with a hurricane bearing down on him. That’s a challenge.
The maxim: In my life, Barry Commoner’s First Law of Ecology rings true: “Everything is connected to everything else.” Things probably just proceed from there.
There are two ways I think I create connections. You wrote about empathy. J.K. Rowling and memoirist Beth Kephart and many others have extolled empathy and compassion (which means to suffer with) as a virtue. I agree. So not only do I invite you to a different experience, I hope to expand your emotional perspective. And I want to push that beyond people and into the world. As you know, I love forests and fields, damselflies and assassin bugs, creeks and mires. The web of connections that holds these things together are the accumulated, aggregated and accreted connections between and among the things themselves. I love them. Revere them. As the Senagalese farmer Baba Dioum said, “In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” Fiction is a way to educate people to know, to see others—all others—as thou. I don’t mean educate like instruct. I mean educate as “educe” or draw out as Derrick Jensen writes.
But when I start to write, I don’t think, “How am I going to make someone connect to nature?” Stories are not political speeches. I observe or ride my bike and let my brain wander and find things and then I sit down and just start (usually) typing. Things just happen as a story and characters and places take shape. As I go along, I’ll find themes and threads and pick up a lot of them and throw most of them away. I may have an arc or may not. But in the end, I am connecting myself to the woman who sees a doe shot and struggling and dying in the mountain laurel. That’s how I see myself as a writer—I’m a connector.
This gets to purposes and roles, the writer’s role. I’m not sure enough of myself to think that I know what “a writer’s role” ought to be. Perhaps I can say what I think an author’s role is not.
We are not here to solve problems. Quite the contrary. My friend Richard Kahn (Antioch University) gave this great speech in Oslo a few years ago on what climate change calls on educators to do. Look it up. He acknowledges that there is a lot of problem-solving to be done. At least as importantly he pushed the audience to do education that poses problems. That is what fiction does. Really great authors pose us with problems and they don’t always get a solution in the technical sense. Rather, they are resolved through the course of living and life. The resolution may involve a technical solution, but usually not. The boy in The Painted Bird, Ged from The Wizard of Earthsea nor Gatsby solve problems in the technical sense. They provide us with windows.
That’s the role of the writer: to show us who we are, who we could have been and who we might be.
The curs of the day come and torment him
At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that head,
The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.
The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those
That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.
~Robinson Jeffers, “Hurt Hawks”
I’m over at Peter is in the Forest today!
Tomorrow, Peter sends his response which will be posted here.
Oh my. It seems to be going around. I got hit with it this week. You know, that thing that happens when you wonder what the point of doing this work is. Despair. The only thing you can really do is wait until that giant wave of mutilation recedes back.
I was lucky this time. It only lasted a day. Sometime around the middle of a bout of writerly despair there’s this stage where I start to panic about how much time I wasted and what on earth am I going to do NOW?
Then you calm down, if you are lucky, and eventually the sense of despair (which comes in may forms, for many reasons) goes away. (In my case, the despair was brought on by how far behind I am on projects because of a week and half of computer issues. Holy crap, you guys, I am MONTHS behind. But you know, I’m the boss, so maybe I am being a bit of an asshole.) Of course you keep writing because really, if you are a writer (and I think this is true for other artists) what else IS there?
But I wonder if this cycle happens for non-fiction writers, too?
I wonder if this happens in other kinds of work, and maybe, we just don’t see it because it manifests differently, or for different reasons, or people in other careers just don’t talk as much about their Astrophysicisterly Despair. Is there an anhedonia particular to, for example, parking attendants? It sounds silly, but I’m being perfectly sincere about this.
I wonder about this because while it seems obvious to us that some careers would naturally have serious moments of darkness and despair, we don’t think about whether other types of jobs have those same moments.
I am fairly certain that those of us with day jobs in the service industry experience career-related cycles of despair daily. Probably once about every five minutes.
What do you guys think?
I have been TAGGED! Lillian Csernica invited me to participate in the Love/Hate Blog Challenge. She wrote about what she loves/hates about being creative here. The challenge is to write a list of top ten things you love/hate about a thing. I HERETOFORE ISSUE THE CHALLENGE TO Emma Leigh and Devon Miller!
1) Even if I have a slow writing day, I can at least feel like I have done something productive.
2) Paychecks are good. They pay bills.
3) The day job provides structure, which forces focus and sticking to a writing schedule which, in my case, usually helps with productivity.
4) Retail enables you to witness all kinds of mundane and bizarre behavior and forces you into conversations with folks, both lovely and awful, you might not speak to otherwise. This can be great for the writer-brain.
5) You learn weird stuff. Writer-brain loves learning weird stuff.
6) Unlike the act of writing, in the day job you are not alone in terms of making stuff happen.
7) That feeling when you finally get to clock out for the day and you can’t wait to get back to the writing.
8) As an introverted writer-person, there is a very real possibility that without someplace I am obligated to be I would isolate a little too much. Human beings are wired for contact with other human beings no matter our level of introversion. It helps the brain stay relatively healthy.
9) When you work for someone else there’s a certain amount of control about what you are going to do with your day that you, necessarily, give up. Sometimes (not often) that can be a relief.
10) It forces much needed distance between me and the work. When I come back to the writing project, sometimes I find that the forced distance was exactly what I needed to move forward.
1) OMG! I’M HAVING ALL OF THE BEST IDEAS RIGHT NOW BUT ALL I CAN ACTUALLY DO IS STEAM THIS EFFING SHRIMP!
2) GAAAA!!! If I didn’t have to pay bills I could be writing instead!
3) Sometimes the schedule changes and writer-brain cannot always adapt quickly, which causes frustration.
4) Sometimes you’d just rather not interact with the public for the very same reasons that you like to interact with the public.
5) When a shift is busy/arduous enough that by the end of it, you don’t have the energy or focus to write, like you planned to do.
6) In the day job you are not alone in terms of making stuff happen. (Oh, where is my sweet, sweet solitude!)
7) When a shift is too slow and you feel like, except for the money, you are wasting time that could be more productively spent writing.
8) *grumble grumble* Obligations. *grumble grumble* People wanting things.
9) When you work for someone else there’s a certain amount of control about what you are going to do with your day that you, necessarily, give up.
10) It forces much needed distance between me and the work. When I come back to the writing project, sometimes I find that the forced distance makes it harder to recapture what I was trying to accomplish.
So in recent days there have been a lot of authors chased off the internet and out of genres due to an increase of internet hostilities to creative folks. It’s sad and disappointing. It has always been true that the second you do anything in public you open yourself up to criticism, but there’s a kind of cruelty about it that is disheartening. It’s particularly disheartening for those of us who have yet to garner enough attention to make bank on our books. We use the internet, partly, to get the word out about our work. It is necessary, not just for authors and creators, but all businesses to engage in some sort of internet signal boosting activity.
Folks are not getting chased offline for advertising their wares.
They are getting chased offline for having conversations.
Self-imposed rules about what is okay to talk about online, personally, won’t save you.
Having a lot of friends online in your corner won’t save you.
I don’t know what the answer is to keep this kind of thing from happening. I do know that without some of those bolder authors willing to have earnest conversations about serious issues, the quality of my online reading is lessened. Most of the time, I like to be silly, or talk about writing (which is serious but doesn’t seem to be as rife with conflict). But when other folks are working to unpack serious topics I pay attention. I sit on the sidelines a lot, taking it all in. It’s part of my personality to observe and assess and take the time to gather my own thoughts before weighing in on something. Sometimes, what I see prevents me from saying anything at all. Caveat, if I am honest, serious conversations are something I would rather do in person, not in front of a blinking screen. That isn’t new to me either.
But it might be new to some other folks whose first instinct is to dive into the fray. This bothers me, because I gain from their discourse. I think we all do, if we absorb it thoughtfully.
As an author, I have yet to reach a level where I have a ton of strangers paying attention to what I’m doing. I’ve been lucky, not faced with the hostility or melodrama that some of my friends have had to deal with in the online sphere. I hear stories that verify it makes no difference what level you are at in terms of making your creative work public.
It’s making me think about how to go forward with what I’m doing online. I probably won’t change too much. Silliness and writerly check-ins, book-talk and enthusiasm about music shall continue. But I do think about when that will change. If it will have to.
But I’m not sure there’s a way to prepare. As knowledgeable as story tellers are about the power of words, I’m not sure there’s a tried and true strategy to use against the hurtful ones.
Some of this, for me, comes back to the whole etiquette of gift-giving. When someone whose work you love is willing to engage in this sphere as openly and earnestly as some of the authors who have been targeted, that is a gift. These are busy people, some of them do not have to do this.
And there are some folks who like to poop on gifts.
Pooping on gifts = gross.
Thank you, that is all…
I write to point telescopes at the world.
Co-founder and accordion player for the Pogues, the Low and Sweet Orchestra, Cranky George and now James Fearnley and the Walker Roaders.
(Somewhat) Daily News from the World of Literary Nonfiction
just an observer
None of it is real