Adrift in The Artist's Studio

Adrift in The Artist's Studio
"More Color! More Color!"

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Power to Move Forward

Let's face it. When you're working on a writing project, it isn't all fun and games. Not all the time. True, there is often a tremendous rush involved: during my first draft, for instance, I was many times transported by my writing. There existed only the screen in front of me, the typing of my fingers, the music in my headphones. Why? Because I was so involved in the story. I lived, at least temporarily, in the respective minds of my characters. That is what makes writing so addictive, when it's so full of disappointments.

But it isn't always like that. Every writer must also weather the storm of naysayers, experts, doubters, haters and salespeople who swarm all over the business of writing like flies on fresh roadkill. Because that's what it is, folks. When you write and put yourself out there, you scent the air with your blood, and it swirls in the water. There are always bigger sharks than you.

Scary times. Sleepless nights. The roller-coaster ride we know so well, that takes us from delusions of grandeur to the pits of black despair, and back again. It makes me want more cotton candy every time.

Why? Deadlines, for those of us lucky enough to be hooked into agents, publishers and editors, and for those who sell their articles and have to keep to a tight schedule. That's one reason for the stress. Another? When you're nobody ... trying to be somebody. In such a case, the novelist is always writing on spec, in the hopes that the industry (which Kafka would have wet his pants over) might deign to give her or him a momentary glance of recognition.

Unfortunately, I have no answers. How could I? If I did, I could be one of those motivational speakers and make my living that way. One of the reasons I write these blog posts is to buck myself up: when it inspires some of you, that's great too, but it's gravy. I need this.

But if I did have an answer, it would be something along the lines of: Believe in Yourself. Follow Your Heart. You want to be a writer? You want to wake up, morning after morning, year after year, essentially alone with your need to create written works? If so, you have to find some way of believing in yourself, and I'm not just talking about belief in your abilities, formidable as they may be.

Nothing fancy here. It may be a simple mantra: "I can do this" or "Write Every Day"

But then you gotta do it. Don't get it right, get it written, as my old professor used to say. There comes a time when a writer has to show her or his stuff and sling the words down on the page. What separates the writers from the wannabes is this: the writers take what they've got, and rework it (or scrap it), and keep trying, and work on craft, and submit, and learn, and read (very important), and write some more, in a continuing process. The wannabes sit back and talk the talk, or else quit ... and often both.

So where does that leave you? Do you feel lost in this (as I often do), yet unwilling to give up? I'm not one of those motivational speakers, as I've said, because if I were I'd be raking in the cash doing that, instead of playing with imaginary fictional characters on paper, doing structural edits, soliciting feedback, and the like.

Look to your heart. Keep trying. Be true to yourself and your art, and don't try to second-guess a fickle marketplace that not even its careerists comprehend. Believe in yourself, do the legwork, and be tough. Stand tall and keep your pencil sharp.

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