Thursday, July 16, 2009

It's Me or Them...Or Maybe Both


Quote of the Day:
Nobody will stop you from creating. Do it tonight. Do it tomorrow. That is the way to make your soul grow - whether there is a market for it or not! The kick of creation is the act of creating, not anything that happens afterward. I would tell all of you watching this screen: Before you go to bed, write a four line poem. Make it as good as you can. Don't show it to anybody. Put it where nobody will find it. And you will discover that you have your reward.
~Kurt Vonnegut


I know I've probably done posts on this before...it's something my friends and I discuss frequently - especially when those rejections are rolling in and we start questioning why, oh why, do we torture ourselves in this hard and sometimes cruel industry.

We've all said that we write because we love it, because we have to, to calm the voices in our heads. All of my friends have said that they'll never give up writing (despite moments of weakness), even if they should never be published, because it's something they love too much, something they just have to do, and no amount of rejection is going to change that.

And I feel the same way. I was lucky enough to get an agent for my non-fiction. And I'm thrilled. But I am fully aware the same thing may not happen for my fiction. And while I enjoy writing non-fiction, it is the fiction I truly love. It's those fantasy worlds and situations that my head swims in all day, those make-believe stories that I can't get out of my head....that multiply so quickly that for every one story I get out, ten more ideas replace it.

I am very well aware of the odds stacked against me...I queried my first novel for two years before shelving it....getting so close so many times....but never once (again, aside from my few moments of sheer despairing insanity) did I consider giving up writing. I've been doing it in some form or another my whole life. And, whether my work ever ends up on a store's bookshelf or not, I'll continue to do it until my fingers can no longer type and my voice can no longer dictate. I'm seriously holding out hope that some incredible genius will invent a device that I can hook up to my head that will just record everything going on in there and spit out a fully written novel in a matter of minutes :D Oooo good story idea ;-D

Which is why, when I came across the above quote I thought, "YES!! EXACTLY!!" Who cares if there is a market for my work? There is nothing like the feeling of getting totally sucked into a story...of seeing the images in my head recreated on paper...of getting the emails and phone calls from my "fans" (thanks mom and sis!) begging me for more chapters...of seeing something that was once only a dream (often literally) sitting in front of me in a big, beautiful stack on my desk...that rush you feel when you type The End...it's incredible - even if no one will ever see it but me...the things I can create when I pick up that pen or lay my fingers on the keyboard are reward enough. They can put a smile on my face years after I write them, even if I'm the only one who has ever laid eyes on them.

And then I thought, well, wait a minute. I do kind of care about markets and possible audiences, and the agents and publishers to whom I will try to sell my book. I mean, if I didn’t care about them, if I was only "creating" for myself and myself alone I wouldn’t bother querying, right? I would just write anything that came into my head instead of trying to pick the story that has the best chance of commercial success.

It’s a fine line, I think. I think you do have to write for yourself. Because if your heart and soul aren’t in your work, it’s lifeless, flat. And, something I discovered while revising my first book, if you focus too much on who will be reading your work, you may start editing yourself and edit the life right out of your story. My first book was a romance, and I kept thinking “My mom is going to read this! I can’t have them kissing like that!!” Yeah…that book was in constant need of help until I stopped worrying so much about what people might think about the book and just WROTE.

But, I think it is wise to be conscious of markets and trends and potential audiences – though not to the point that you start second-guessing yourself and your work. Write for yourself, create something just to create it, write like no one but yourself will ever see it, and if that’s good enough for you or for that project, then great. It really is a truly awesome reward to hold your creation in your hands, whether anyone else will ever lay eyes on it or not.

However, when it comes time to edit…if you decide you do want to aim for that publishing dream…I think it is wise to turn your thoughts a little more outward. Stay true to yourself, to your story, to your voice…but be open to suggestions, to the “rules,” and be willing to make the necessary changes.

I have poems and stories that no one else will ever see. I wrote them for me and me alone. But the books I want to get published…as much as it hurts to “murder my darlings,” I am all for it if it will get me that one step closer. Axing entire chapters and characters may hurt like I’m loping off an appendage, but by golly I’ll do it! :D

9 comments:

Corey Schwartz said...

Terrific post, Michelle! You totally captured the struggle we all go through as writers.

christinefonseca said...

You'll definitely get there - for your fiction AND your nonfiction stuff!!!
I think this is one of those the journey is more important (or at least as important) as the destination.

Annie Louden said...

I think it's very important to write for yourself first. Obv. most of us want to be published, and it's okay to work really hard on that, but hopefully you'll have a book finished that you poured your heart into before querying.

And, I think it's okay to "murder your darlings" because that's what's best for your story, not what's best for the market.

Cole Gibsen said...

Excellent post! Love your layout btw :)

B.J. Anderson said...

I hear you, Michelle. And what an inspiring post! You said it perfectly. :)

Kat Harris said...

You know, you couldn't have found a better picture to put at the top of this post.

You nailed it. Keep your head high, girl, and keep writing.

Amanda J. said...

Fantastic post! Thanks a bunch for putting into words what we all feel.

Lille Diane said...

"will invent a device that I can hook up to my head that will just record everything going on in there and spit out a fully written novel in a matter of minutes"

Get out of my head, Michelle. Oh wouldn't it be grand....and then again no. This was a timely piece for me to read. Thank you for a brilliant post.

Sliding on the Edge said...

Yep. There's a lot of great stuff that won't be on the shelves in book stores and a lot not so great stuff that will. The important thing is that you keep writing.

You go, girl.