Doing What We Do

7 08 2011

Blogging, reading and commenting on other folks’ blogs, interviewing and being interviewed, doing podcasts, running contests, participating in challenges, running workshops, responding to emails, Facebook and Twitter.  When does one find time to write?  Studying markets, reading commentaries from agents and editors, scanning publications, crafting stories likely to fit the demand and to ride the trends.  When can one have the chance to write what’s really in one’s heart?

The circus of demands is the new writer’s life.  It’s noisy, busy, sometimes fun, too often a headache.  It’s the writer’s life in the new world of fierce competition, of supplying content, of meeting the new challenges of technology.  It’s a world that moves fast, with windows of opportunity that open and close as quick as a fanning barnacle.  And it takes us writers into swirling eddies far from where we wanted to go.

In my own case, I’ve managed to score a few successes with short stories.  But I’ve stumbled onto my greatest success not with my fiction, but with articles written for the newspaper, observations of life in New Hampshire through a philosophical lens, which start out in one direction but then meander around to tie up with a point.  I’m suddenly in demand, getting paid regularly, getting noticed.  I find the articles fairly easy to write, I’ve no shortage of ideas.  But is this where my heart is?  Not really.

I’m taking on more volunteer work for Broad Universe, and it will necessarily cut into my writing time.  But it’s a great organization that has done a lot for me, and I feel I ought to give something back.  Besides, it gets me out of my shell and in contact with some interesting and influential people in the biz.  It’s that “making connections” thing.  And I’m writing this essay for my website, posting regularly, and checking out what other folks have to say on their websites.  That “generating traffic” thing.  I go to conventions when I can, because it gives me face time with people I enjoy being with, forcing me to push my comfort zone in new directions, trying out new skills.  It’s that “getting your name out there” thing.

But I’d rather be back in the cabin in the woods without electricity or running water, sitting on the porch with my laptop (which I have to take up to the main house once a day to recharge), working on revisions to my novels.  Novels which may or may not ever get published, for which I did absolutely no market research, for which I have no clear target audience, but into which I pour a pure passion for creation.  When I mention my cabin, my isolated retreat, I get a lot of envious comments.

We writers.  We want to do what we do so badly that we do a hundred things that aren’t really what we want to do just on the chance that someday we might be able to do what is in our hearts to do. 

Good luck to all of us.

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6 responses

7 08 2011
Carol

Seems like there’s a period of time where “dues must be paid” in terms of working just to make money and writing what one loves on the side. In a way, having limited time to do what you really love forces you to figure out exactly what that love is.

7 08 2011
justinegraykin

That’s a really good point, Carol. Like being forced to edit down a story to a limited length, you really have to figure out what the good parts are, what you absolutely have to keep.

8 08 2011
Lynda Williams

All too true, Justine. I nearly gave up. Always knew I’d finish my saga because I have people waiting for the ending, but decided I was doomed in the marketing department because the idea of spending hours online coaxing people to vote for me, buy my book, or swap jokes made my soul shrivel up. Then one day it dawned on me I could social network as a writer just by doing what I’ve always loved to do which is to share the joy with like-minded people. I’ve been having fun online since I realized I don’t have to be something I’m not. And I stopped listening to any advice that depressed me. Well, I try to stop listening anyway. 🙂

16 08 2011
Rahima Warren

Oh, I like that – not listening to any advice that depresses me! I’m going to make that my mantra!

8 08 2011
justinegraykin

It’s hard to make that decision to draw the line, especially when you’ve always thought of yourself as a writer, and envisioned yourself sitting on that display of books in the book store or library. The worse part sometimes is resisting the feeling that you have somehow “failed” because you haven’t achieved the kind of mainstream success that the average person associates with a “successful” author. One has to do the hard work of redefining what it means to be successful in terms of your own happiness, your own abilities, your own life. Not the expectations of others.

That being said, there is no reason that “success” can’t suddenly shine its light on you in the course of doing what you love and doing it your own way. In fact, that’s the best way to achieve it.

16 08 2011
Rahima Warren

You’re right, Justine. Redefining success in your own terms is so important these days, with all the clamor and advice out there. I like my friend’s definition:

“Success is not a dream. It’s a moment to moment realization and acceptance of self-worth.” Earlene Gleisner

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