Please note that this series is written in fun. If you don’t like hints of sarcasm and hyperbole don’t read this. If you find the title offensive, don’t read this. However, if you understand that this is a great time to be a writer of fiction and feel like a lone happy person in a tsunami of fear, read on.
Are you sitting on the fence about an idea you want to pursue? Then this post is for you.
I recently had a conversation with a fellow writer that went something like this:
“Hey Dara, I’ve got a great idea for a new book.” (Precedes to tell me the idea)
“Wonderful,” I say knowing that ideas, like dust, are everywhere. “Get started.”
“I can’t. There’s a problem.”
“What? Is your system down? Then use a pen and paper or talk into a recorder or…”
“No, it’s not that. It’s so different from what I usually write.”
“So?” I say. “Write it anyway.”
“I’m under contract to write my usual work.”
“Write it on the side.”
“I’m not sure my agent will like it. She says that I should focus on writing (current trend).”
I sigh. “Your agent doesn’t have to like it. Write it first, then worry about it later.”
“But what if I write it and then can’t sell it?”
By now I’m trying not to grit my teeth. “Why are you worrying about something that hasn’t even happened yet?”
“But it could happen…”
At this point I lose my patience so I’ll save you from my less than polite reply. The point is that this conversation and conversations like it both irritate and scare me. Why?
Crazy Lesson #3
Because most visual artists never ask permission. They create what they want to and then market it. However, most writers for some awful reason think of themselves as factory workers. They think of the market first then create. That’s backwards! Talk about a creativity killer.
You don’t need permission to create.
You don’t need permission to grow.
You don’t need permission to experiment.
I remember sending a proposal to an editor who passed on the premise. I’m still going to write the book because I WANT TO. I, the creative artist, like the idea and believe others will too (I never think of whether or not a large audience will agree with me, that’s not my problem or focus).
In publishing, editors and agents act as managers. They like to keep the status quo. They like to use what has sold in the past to help predict what they believe will sell in the future. When it comes to a new release they care about making the biggest splash possible (there’s no long term planning in publishing). So if your book is ‘too unique’ or your audience ‘too small’ they’re not interested. Or they’ll kindly encourage you to water your text down to make it more mainstream. That’s they’re job, not yours. If you, as a writer, put their ‘marketing limitations’ in your mind good luck staying true to yourself and writing stories that will resonate with your particular audience.
At times I can be a bit wild with my descriptions and my editor does a great job of reining me in for my Harlequin audience. No problem! I know that’s her job. But her suggestions do not stop me from writing with a wild abandon each time I start a new book because I never let ‘outside’ voices intrude into my creative process.
How to Regain Your Sanity
Don’t Ask Permission. Ever. If you want to write something, write it. Nothing is every wasted.
Know That True Artists are Game Changers. They don’t follow, they lead. They create first then worry about who their art will serve. If you want to be compliant (rewrite until your voice is gone, write what someone else tells you) that’s fine (sad, but fine). You’ll never stand out and your unique voice will be unnecessarily smothered. And the joy I like to talk about will quickly disappear.
Understand that Storytellers Rule. Storytellers are at their most powerful when they’re courageous enough to tell the stories in their hearts. They may not make a big splash in the beginning, but they will eventually get noticed by those they’re meant to serve. Star Trek didn’t gain its rabid following until it was in re-runs. It’s A Wonderful Life wasn’t a hit until decades after its release. The Great Gatsby, Their Eyes Were Watching God and other notable titles were put out of print when their authors were alive, but were later ‘rediscovered.’ If they hadn’t created these works we wouldn’t be talking about them.
Take Risks. You won’t destroy your career; instead you’ll become better at your craft.
You’ll learn more about yourself and about your world.
Write, create, submit and repeat: Fire as many new, wonderful stories that you can. You may fail, you may succeed. That’s the point. You’re a working writer–that’s what we do.
© 2011 Dara Girard