I’m mostly a self-driven vehicle, writing out of need to imagine and tell stories, and entertaining myself. Mostly, I energize via reading what I’ve written, editing and revising it and pressing on. Mostly, I write from practice and habit, walking to awaken the muse, giving her a mocha to encourage her engagement, and then shutting off everyone in me except the writer.
But that’s all about the writing side. The damn business side is depressing. The need for accepting rejection, considering advertising campaigns, hunting for copy-editors, beta readers, cover designers, publishing venues, publishers and agents are all depressing.
I’m not nuanced in demographics and specific costs structures, operating margins, etc., of the publishing industry, but I do understand that it’s an involved, expensive business on the traditional side, and it’s a crowded field in the self-publishing and digital publishing arenas. I understand on emotional, physical, intellectual and financial levels about the difficulties with finding representations, publishers, sales and readers.
That doesn’t make me feel any better.
I read fiction and non-fiction to study and absorb others’ ways with ideas, stories, characters, plots, words, settings, beginnings, middles and ends. I read them because I enjoy them. I want to be entertained and I want to escape.
But I read other writers ‘like me’ for true incentive about writing, dealing with rejection, and why it’s difficult to solve the writing, publishing, sales and marketing puzzles. Writers are my tribe; we write because we often feel we must, or we’re addicted to the dream or the process, or we’re using it to therapy to cope with who and what we seem to be.
Several families co-exist in that tribe. One family consists of the writers who have made it – King, Rowling, Chabon, Frantzen, Erdrich, Collins, Lee, Green – how many need be named? We each have our writing heroes.
My family is that other one, the family of writers who write each day, wonder how much writing is enough writing, publish short stories online, the writers who are struggling not to write, but to live and exist as a successfully published writer. I spent much time with their words and blogs online. I take comfort in our shared misery of struggling. It allows me to say, “See, it’s not just me. It’s not just Michael Seidel.”
And that’s a relief. I often think it is just Michael Seidel. I often feel like I’m right on the cusp of making a breakthrough and then the moment is gone. It’s exasperating and debilitating. Yet, I sense other writers live in that same zone by the words they write online.
From them, I get my fuel. Because sometimes, I want to stop. Sometimes the muse asks, “Excuse me, but are we wasting our time here?” Sometimes the internal writer agrees, “Yeah, shouldn’t we just go wash and wax the car and have a beer, or volunteer for some charities, or go find a job? Wouldn’t any one of those things be more productive than the daily rituals we follow?”
But my family of writers and I all answer, “No.” I can elaborate, “You’re not correctly measuring what it means to be productive, that being creative and imaginative is more worthwhile to me than those tasks you ask me to undertake instead.”
We know this. Commercial and critical success is a matter of validation and pride. It’s driven in part by family and friends asking us, “How is the book coming along? When will I be able to read it?” They do not understand the difficulties not just in writing, but in getting published and noticed, of making sales.
Usually, we don’t bother to explain the intricacies their question deserves. Nodding, we just tell them, “It’s coming along.”
Then we add the exchange to our fuel.