Monday, February 23, 2015

The freedom of writing the stories I want to tell

I'm totally posting excerpts of an e-mail to a friend of mine. I like to think our conversations are introspective and deep and philosophical, and if either of us end up famous, then years from now, the other will, also, simply because the electronic trail that binds us is filled with rich, thoughtful words. Well, and beautiful prose such as 'omigosh how did I ever think having kids was a good idea.' and 'do you think these shoes are me?' and 'My husband is driving me freakin' crazy...' One of us will be famous, and the other will be 'the famous author's best friend.' One hundred years from now, and maybe it'd be 'Famous author - best friend... or?' Ha! She'd die.

I read something about writing for those of us who are not published or famous or clever enough to write the next pop culture scandalous thing. The gist of it was that no author is ever really satisfied, that success has its own issues, and there is only one time you are truly free to write the stories you want, only one time to write and play and experiment with your writing, and that is all the time that you are unpublished. Once you become published, the machine kicks in, there are expectations, and you must produce, perform again and again, usually based on the 'thing' that made your book a success: Did you write a clever detective cozy? Great! You better have loved it, because that's what your agent will probably want in your next book. That's not a bad thing, not at all, if that's what you love. I love the Inspector Gamache series, and am glad the author enjoys writing those books! 

It's also why I think it's important to write the type of story you can write again.

But the freedom piece, it's true. It's the one thing I think all aspiring authors should hold on to. Perseverance, time, luck, patience and talent will get you published in the end, but the freedom of an unpublished author is a child playing make-believe. We can be whoever and whatever we want without the rules, expectations, constraint and 'work' of actually being it. 

In an industry where 50 agents is nothing to go through, maybe 100 before you get published, and where 50 Shades of Utterly Poor Writing gets selected over probably several remarkably written books, well, that isn't a resounding mark of confidence in the argument that truly talented writers will get picked up. It is true publishing is a 'for profit' industry, and though no one can say 'what will be hot' next, well, there's more harm in trying to write on trend and for profit than there is in trying to write the story you want to write, the tale you want to tell. If you're talented, and talent and luck are the two requirements, well, you can't go wrong. This is the advice every successful writer passes on - write what you want to write, write for yourself, because that's the best way to succeed.

I love reading Neil Gaiman, he's an inspiration, simply because he gets it... maybe he's got more marketing skillz, more cajones (he lied on his resumes!) and more talent, but at his heart, he's a writer. He writes stories. They sell. It works for him.

I say, as many successful authors say, write what you want to write, write for yourself, because you'll enjoy it more, and because there are far other, easier, ways to make a hell of a lot more money. We all want to be published, us aspiring authors, and we'd all love to be prolific authors. But that's not enough really, for me. I want to be a prolific author of stories I want to tell, not stories I figure will sell.

It's a difficult place to manage, I suppose, for successful authors, and if I ever get there, we'll see how I manage, but tonight, just tonight, just this one night, I believe I will be, simply because I have so many stories to tell. How can it be possible that not one or two or five find their way out into the world?

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