Thursday, February 23, 2006

We Interrupt Our Broadcast...

Melly, I'm afraid you're going to have to take a number and stand in line. I will write a post on POD and self-publishing Real Soon, but Arthur A. Levine pre-empts you. Sorry.

I also owe Stationery Queen a rant on Customer Service and everybody a post on The Evils of Present Tense, or I'm a Grumpy, Old-fashioned Bastard. All in good time, folks. But first, this word...

Miss Snark refers us to a post by Arthur A. Levine that contains the text (more or less) of a talk he recently gave to a writer's group in Florida. This is required reading for writers of any and all levels. Herewith, some thoughts inspired by those sage words.

Two of the very biggest considerations for any writer are "Is it true to my vision?" and "Will it sell?". In the best of all possible worlds, there would never be a conflict between these two. In the Real World, however, they often butt heads. Then you face some serious questions:

  • Which is the more important?
  • How much can I compromise one to satisfy the other?
  • Should I compromise at all?
  • How far am I willing to go to make a sale?
Serious questions, indeed, and questions that any writer with hopes of publication has to face and try to answer.

There is a delicate balance between integrity of vision and saleability that is different for every writer. For me, vision and remaining true to myself outweighs sales potential. As I have said before, I am used to being poor. That doesn't mean I particularly like it, but I have discovered that, for me at least, there are other issues in life that are much more important than money. Remaining true to myself is one of those, and I am willing to sacrifice sales to maintain the feeling that I am writing what I need to write and saying what I need to say in a way that I think it needs to be said.

The best writing is the writing that comes from the heart, that expresses your truth, that shows your vision of life and our place in the Universe. Lofty goals? Absolutely. "Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?" (Robert Browning, "Andrea del Sarto"). I couldn't say it better.

The striving for improvement, the dream of the perfect words, the hope that, one day, my story will resonate in someone's heart, that's what I think the life of a writer should be. Perfection is, of course, unattainable, but glory lies in the reaching.

Monday, February 20, 2006


You Are The Emperor

You are an authority figure, and other people look to you for what to do.
You are strong and powerful. Crossing you is not a good idea.
You have worked hard to get to your position, and you're not about to give it up to anyone.
Though you have a warrior heart, you are gentle to those who treat you well.

Your fortune:

In the near future, you need to be willing and able to defend those you love.
This may be the time for you to step up and be the authority figure to those around you.
It is time for you to be independent, to become your own person.
You may need to look at your relationship with your father, or your relationships as a father.

Link from Jean.

While I was there...

Your Stripper Song Is

Toxic by Britney Spears

"With the taste of your lips
I'm on a ride
You're toxic I'm slippin' under"

You may dance for someone - but only to weaken their defenses.

Oh, my! Good thing I have the Emperor thing to fall back on.

Fish or Cut Bait?

It's just more of the same old stuff. Write well, or just get it done? I fight this battle every single day. Part of me wants to get the first draft done, then fix it up. Another part asks "why not do it right the first time?" They're both hardheaded, obstinate bastards (I wonder where they got that from?) who won't give even a little bit. The end result is poor production and frequent blockages.

"Git 'r done!" Larry the Cable Guy and Anne Lamott agree on this. A weird pair, food for thought, there. Just put the words down, get the thoughts out, and fix the prose quality later. This is a very popular outlook, and I can sure see the advantages. Full-time writers don't have the luxury of sweating the petty stuff. Whether they pet the sweaty stuff is their own business. Can you see that I'm easily distracted tonight?

Anyway, back at the ranch...productivity depends on getting words down, work finished, and editing efficiently. That is one of the biggest points in Lynn Viehl's Way of the Cheetah. Let go of the quest for perfection and settle for "as good as I can do it". That's really tough for me to do. That requires an ability to relax that I don't yet have, and a belief in my ability to stay with it that is shaky at best.

I have spent my whole life working on getting it right the first time. Most of the jobs I have worked have had enormous time pressures that required good work immediately with no "do-overs". Those paths are now virtually hard-wired into my brain. When I approach writing, a craft that I am still learning, I have a very hard time allowing myself to make mistakes, to do things badly and fix them later. When I do that, I begin to doubt my ability to write my way out of a brightly-lit room.

Slogging through the crap is one of the hallmarks of a true professional. Obviously, I am not up to that level yet. I climb up, and I slide back. I bitch and moan about my skinned knees and broken fingernails for a while, then start up again. Most of the time, I make a net gain, but it's not very much. Patience is a virtue, but vices are so much more attractive and so addictive.

Well, I have to work on something tonight. Let me see which one of my scabs I can pick at.