Monday, 19 November 2012

A whole lot of stuff

There's nowhere to hide on the page.
Forgive me if I appear a little distracted. It's been a busy time. In the last month I've become the proud parent of two ebooks (one a home delivery) and there's a paperback on the way from the Lightning Source stork. And, as if that isn't enough to keep me occupied, I decided to re-travel The Artist's Way.

It's what some writers long for - an opportunity to talk about your books and, hopefully, generate some sales, amid a whirlwind of social media and marketing activity. Alongside all of that, The Artist's Way is pulling me inwards, giving me a gentle nudge to look at what makes me tick creatively. It's an interesting tug-of-war between the outer and the inner, and I'm starting to see things in a slightly different light.

Firstly, when you write a book and it's published, there's a sense of losing control over it. It's no longer just your book. It's there for all to see and some will take it to their hearts while others will take it to the charity shop (I know that gag doesn't quite work with ebooks, but work with me here). There's no more time for edits and you start to notice those little tweaks and polishes you wish you'd seen - and acted upon - earlier. Little things, like commas or adverb assassination.

Perhaps, most importantly, your book becomes a product. The artistic aspect of the journey is over to all intents and purposes. You'll still talk about the themes and metaphors, of course, but you'll start to judge the book's success by its sales figures. And although you need to be on the ball to show the book in its best light, and network-network-network, what you'll really want to do is find a comfortable space and start writing again.

Add to this, in my case, the voyage of discovery that is Julia Cameron's Artist's Way and you can soon start to feel that it's all one big obligation. 

However, as I've aways said, feelings aren't real. They're a perspective - a take on reality. Not even a map of the territory, more a set of glasses. 

When I step back from it all I realise a number of important things:

1. This is the other side of writing. It's not talked about a great deal because writers can be very private people. And no one wants to be seen to be complaining about the trials of having a book published.

2. Writing and completing a book is an exercise in risk and hope and ambition. There's so much stuff tied up in the act of reaching The End, and then putting it out to public scrutiny, that we underestimate how much it impacts upon us as writers.

3. The notion that there's a divide between the writer when she or he is writing and when they are doing something else (e.g. earning a living) is a construct. We're the same person and that same intensity of thought, and curiosity, is ever present. I'm even watching me type this and wondering what I could do with this experience in a piece of fiction.

4. Creating anything draws upon a whole set of issues and perspectives that may not have anything to do with the created work itself. Writers may wrestle with their self-esteem, ego, competitiveness and even fear. Having the work out there isn't a happy ever after in itself - not always, anyway. And certainly not since Amazon rankings came about!

So I guess what I'm saying is that I'm pleased to have brought some of my writing into being; to have dared, and nurtured it, and edited it (honest), and walked with it every step of the way to the finishing line (whatever they tell you, it's very rarely a sprint). And I've remembered the obvious truth that every writer goes through a version of this. 

Every book we see and laud or lambast, every Harry Potter or Fifty Shades or every shade of literature in between and beyond, they've all come from the fertile mind of some individual who wondered, 'How would this work as a story?' 

And whether I love a piece of work, or hate it, or (that greatest of reader crimes) feel indifferent towards it, I know that someone took the time and effort to make it available for me to read. And for that, writers everywhere, I thank you.  

4 comments:

Sandra Davies said...

Read this, much enjoyed and appreciated it, but not enough time to comment as fully as it deserves. All good things to you for your achievement.

L said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Elequently put

L said...

Eloquently, even!

Thrifty Gal said...

I really like The Artist's Way, think it's worth a regular reread.