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The Usual for the Usual

Every now and then, I wake up and I wonder if this is the best gig for me. Usually it's because I've had a bad day, heard some news I could do without, realised I need some money for something I don't particularly want to spend money on, that kind of thing.

It's regular shit, though. I mean, the list is specific to me and my situation, but if you remove the details, the generalities are things that happen to everyone. No financial security. Something not going to way you want. Someone taking what you said the wrong way. Finding yourself involved in a project you couldn't give a shit about. When you reduce it to that, you feel a little ripped off, though, because Art--with the capital A--was suppose to take you away from that nine to five shit. But it doesn't. Art, nine to five, whatever: it involves people, and the human condition isn't a hugely varied one when it's stripped back of the details. At least that's my opinion.

Anyhow, this is my way of saying I've had one of those days, recently.

2007 was one of those varied years for this gig for me, and at times it felt like steps forward, steps back, spin in a circle. I'll spare you the list, but as an example, I got a lot more interest in Black Sheep than I expected, and the reviews have been very open and supportive of it. Of course, the other side is that it's simply not being read by a whole lot of people, and those reviews don't add up beyond a handful (though it's more when you add interviews, invites to things, and so forth, so that evens out). Maybe it'll change, but that's a time issue, and whatever it does sell, there's a theoretical roof on what people expect POD to sell, and it's nothing huge. It doesn't get bigger, either, when you hear of people going into stores to buy the book and being told it's not being carried. Now, I got no issue with that whole thing, the reception of the book, the selling of the book, whatever: the situation is what it is, and nothing I do now will change that, so I've just got to work with what there is and try and make it work. Also, in comparison to others, I've done okay, and it pays to remember that.

But, in addition, of late I've had a little thought that makes me wonder if I'm pushing the right publication/areas for what I do. Some of it, yeah, sure. Some of it, I'm not sure. I'm starting to think that I'm just drifting out of what'll be embraced by speculative fiction audiences in that natural progression you make, and that this book I'm writing now, this Red Sun book, is the last real play with the hardcore elements of speculative fiction for me. I'm talking that hard core world building stuff--you know, skies made from red, ash in the air, wind mills that power steam punk cities. It's all fine, but it feels, at the point I'm at, like I don't need to do this again, that I'm done and said. Next I want to write about girls driving to abortion clinics, and after that, a comedy, and maybe a detective novel, and then who knows--that's six years if I follow the pattern of writing a book every two years, and if I sell them, neither of which is assured. That, however, of course brings up a good financial point of looking around and wondering if you're in the right place, because, of course, to go somewhere new is to start from the bottom and work your way through again.

Or, perhaps, it'll just be a thought that passes, and it's nothing but part of a chain.

I don't know how it is for most people in this gig, but when I started out, when I was a kid sitting in my room writing, when I was making it up in my head, there was this purity to what I was doing. That started to get altered when I started publishing, when I started meeting people, and when I started to learn how things went--but again, that's nothing new. Any job, any situation. That's just learning the reality of a situation. But, and I was talking about this a week or so ago, which may have triggered my original melancholic thoughts, but you got to fight to keep that purity in you, if you want to keep it. If you want to keep that simple pleasure it gave you at the start, you got to fight for it. I'm not sure, exactly, how you do that. Me, I do it in my own way, and I'm not feeling real insightful on the topic, so who knows what that is, except that I tend to think people are half the problem, and that writers are the biggest part of that half.

This stuff isn't an issue for me right now, however: the thoughts came and went and I dealt with them, at least for the time being, in part by simply accepting them. There's not much you can do, like I said, and you deal with what you got and you make what you got work for you.

Whatever it is.

Comments

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ex_chrisbil
Jan. 10th, 2008 03:55 pm (UTC)
You remind me a little of Chabon, in that you can have fantastic ideas from an emotional or life perspective which can or cannot be written as speculative fiction. I don't think you need to worry about whether you're writing in that genre or not. Do it if it works, don't if it doesn't. You're more than a speculative fiction writer.

On the plus side, that's probably a bonus for your writing career, if you can get noticed widely.
benpeek
Jan. 10th, 2008 11:45 pm (UTC)
'you're more than a speculative fiction writer'

heh. someone going to crucify you for that, man ;) but thanks for the sentiment.
ex_chrisbil
Jan. 11th, 2008 12:43 am (UTC)
Ha, well they'll be wrong if they do. I mean it in a literal sense, not a derogatory sense, and anyone who knows me will know that. ;) Basically, you can write whatever. It'll be good. Happy days.
switchknitter
Jan. 10th, 2008 06:58 pm (UTC)
I've just started writing again, as you know, and I worry about what will happen if I get published. Do I really want to be writing to a deadline? On the other hand, I seem to do better when I have deadlines, so maybe that's the way to go.

Everybody doubts their position sometimes. You're doing well, you know, and I have great faith in you. *hug* It'll work out. Just keep writing.
benpeek
Jan. 10th, 2008 11:44 pm (UTC)
deadlines aren't too bad. they're nice--the problem is all the stuff that goes with it, i find. the people. the people are the problem, as always.
buymeaclue
Jan. 10th, 2008 07:02 pm (UTC)
>But, and I was talking about this a week or so ago, which may have triggered my original melancholic thoughts, but you got to fight to keep that purity in you, if you want to keep it. If you want to keep that simple pleasure it gave you at the start, you got to fight for it. I'm not sure, exactly, how you do that.

This is almost precisely why I've retreated as much as I have (which, granted, is still less than many people) from the Writing Community(tm), and also why I'm not writing at all these days.

Ain't easy. May you have a better time of it.
benpeek
Jan. 10th, 2008 11:43 pm (UTC)
i do alright with it, mostly. you just have those days, y'know? it's really not a bit thing. i just figured it'd make for a slightly interesting blog post. heh.

and it's not hard for me to step back. just means switching off the net for a while.
catsparx
Jan. 10th, 2008 09:02 pm (UTC)
I am currently experiencing the exact opposite. I feel as though I've gained purity through writing. When I started at it, I was trying to make noise. Trying to *be* someone. Now I'm trying to say some specific things. Making art not noise.
benpeek
Jan. 10th, 2008 11:41 pm (UTC)
yeah, i've been like that. it's a good feel. shame bout the business side of things, really.
lucius_t
Jan. 10th, 2008 09:50 pm (UTC)
Charles Bukowski's tombstone reads, Don't Try.

So quit. :)
benpeek
Jan. 10th, 2008 11:34 pm (UTC)
well, i always did wonder why it'd be like to work in the circus. i could get a job shoveling elephant shit ;)
crrazyjane
Jan. 11th, 2008 03:28 am (UTC)
mmm, yeah. see, writing's a bit accidental for me. I seem to be able to keep my shit straight mostly by not thinking, "I want to write" and instead thinking, "I actually want to be happy to wake up in the morning."

so - I don't really write anything that doesn't make me happy to wake up in the morning.

if nobody wants to publish it, I'll just have to keep eating beans and customer servicing. at least, until I find myself a nice, sweet sugar daddy.

heh.
benpeek
Jan. 11th, 2008 03:32 am (UTC)
see, that's how i am. i write what keeps me happy, but i've had to give up that sugar daddy/mummy dream. it just didn't seem to be working out for me.

probably the cause of all my problems, that dead dream ;)
garykemble
Jan. 12th, 2008 04:05 am (UTC)
Maybe the way to keep the purity is to have a day job and writing is just your hobby. That way you only write what you want to, when you want to.
benpeek
Jan. 12th, 2008 11:04 pm (UTC)
nah, i don't think so. look round this scene, man. for a lot of people that's the deal and i don't know about the purity there.

but either way, you just have days like that. it's not the work, not the grind, it's the people. you get over it.
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