Sometimes, Being a Writer Sucks
This is a post I never really planned to write. But the lovely Brie, Arundel’s marketing person, wants me to start blogging more, and I figure the only way to do it, really, is to tell the truth.
I have a lot of writer friends on social media, and they all seem to be having a swell time. Writing, and kvetching about writing, their books being “blurbed” by major players and being nominated for awards, and they themselves posting selfies while being flown to book conferences all over the globe with their equally exuberant friends of letters. Usually, they are also raising half a dozen children, coaching Little League, and visiting their offspring at Ivy League schools when they’re on break. They also write posts about how they used to only be able to write 30,000 words a day, but now, thanks to wonderful secret algorithms, they’re up to 50,000.
If they’re traditionally published, they lunch with all their well-known peers in NYC; or, if they are now self-published after a successful run in traditional publishing, they’re pulling in hundreds of times their former take because now they get to keep the dough for themselves.
They often also appear on Good Morning, America or jet off to Italy on vacation.
In case people look at the glossy finish of social media and think my writing life is anything like that, I’d like to set the record straight.
Sometimes, being a writer sucks.
The first problem is, I’m never as good as I want to be. There’s a paradigm in my head of the story I’m telling, the book I’m writing, and as hard as I try, I seldom achieve it. I am also writing this post at the particular moment in time because we’re inching towards the finish line on the next Eden thriller, and it’s 85 percent there. Which is a depressing number. The lifeblood and brilliance and paths of engagement with the reader are in that last 15 percent, and, as of now, I don’t know how to get there.
The good news is, it isn’t just this book. It happens in every single novel I write. So I know it is possible to make that last climb, if not to the 100% mark, at least into the 90s. It often has to do with knowledgeable editors showing you which strings to pull to tighten everything into line.
But right now, I’m thinking, even if the plot is pulled into line, I’m not happy with the writing, the characters, the vocabulary, the process. I should know better by now. I should be better by now.
[Famous graph on the creative process:
1. This is awesome
2. This is tricky
3. This is sh**
4. I am sh**
5. This might be Okay
6. This is awesome. ]
So maybe I’m just transitioning between numbers three and four of the above chart (which was posted on FB by the inimitable composer Skip Kennon) at the moment.
Maybe I’m still sloughing off a surprising and very unprofessional bout with a formerly trusted editor who sort of had a meltdown that had nothing to do with us or our book but was still weird and hurtful and required getting past. Honestly, this happens to everyone in the arts. What many people don’t know is that, no matter how many times you’re published or produced, you are acutely vulnerable when it comes to your art. This is true for artists who give it their all in the quiet of their rooms, and no one ever sees their work, as it is for those who publish constantly.
Then, there is the fact that you’re never truly “off.” I wake up at 4 a.m. and know I should spend the awake time figuring out what’s going on in my latest project. And I drive my husband to the bus at 5:30 a.m. and know I need to come home to write. I’m trying hard to learn how to complete deadlines and not feel guilty for missing time with my family and friends. I am learning to enjoy the precious time with them, even if I hear the tick tick tick of deadlines, like Captain Hook’s crocodile, behind me.
You’d think I’d have this all figured out by now.
You’d think I’d figure out how to have time left over to clean my house.
But, even writing this, I know how truly lucky I am.
I have the world’s best co-authors and editors and publishing pros and marketing folks around me. Some of the coolest people in the world (and I’m counting YOU) have read some of my books and enjoyed them.
Cause, when it comes right down to it, what I love is the work of writing. It’s hard and irritating, but I get to spend months and years with characters I love going to places all around the world (at least in my mind) and learning all kinds of cool stuff I’d never ever know otherwise. I know how many stories there are at the Eiffel Tower and truly bizarre stuff about wine making. I can describe, in detail, vineyards in China, discuss inheritance laws in France, and parks and cafes in Argentina. I know how to get up to the top of the bell tower of Cadet Chapel at West Point (okay, I’d probably know that anyway).
In any case, I can’t leave Jaime and Yani and Mark Shepard at 85%. Can’t do it. Will fight through this one more time and make it out the other side. You’ll have to decide for yourself if we made it into the 90s or not.
But just so you know, when you read chipper posts about new Audio books (way cool) and and blog tours and book signings–well, it isn’t all a heady rush of achievement. In fact, it hardly ever is. But we often pretend for the lovely folks in marketing. So, Brie, this one’s for you.