One of the things I hate about real life is that it so often intrudes. So I need to be working on the book – every time I have a conversation about the book with a stranger, say a med student in a coffee shop or catch up with my old friend Frankie and he asks about my progress relative to the last draft he’s read, I’m reminded that I have to finish this book. I can feel an anxious, excited, terrified, exhilarated little fire re-light in my stomach. Is it burning fuel so I can get a move on or is it going to burn me up? – and everything happens all at once. I’ve got to reestablish my whole life all at once, all over again. At least that’s how it feels. Nothing cataclysmic – maybe I just need to do the laundry. 🙂
After Toni sent me the link to the online version (ironically, the print version was sitting right beside my computer, demanding to be read), I finally got down to finishing the New Guard interview in Poets & Writers. Had some good laughs at how the interview got even smarter and more honest the longer it went on (and the more wine consumed) and then at the end with the “anonymous answers.” Check it out, definitely worth a concentrated read. It’s inspiring and terrifying. I could literally say something about every sentence and statement, but I think I’ll just mention that early on in the piece, an essential confusion, terror of the writer (as I understand it) was perfectly illustrated.
BARER: You know what? Stop looking around. Focus on your own book. Focus on your own career. It’s not about what everybody else is getting. [I’ve abbreviated this paragraph to the last few lines.]
BARER: I think an ideal client is somebody who is obviously an incredibly gifted writer who also understands that, these days, being a writer is more than just writing a book. A writer who is willing to participate in the publication. Brainstorming. Working with their publicist. Working with their marketing department. Getting themselves out there. Using their connections. It’s hard because I think a lot of writers happen to be introverts who are shy and kind of just want to be left alone to sit at their desks in solitude. I think it’s somewhat unfair that the business has changed so much and that we now rely on them. But we do. And, truthfully, the writers who are the most successful sometimes are the ones who are really willing to be a part of the business aspect of it.
I’m not picking on Julie Barer by selecting these two quotes because I think they very neatly illustrate this issue. It’s about the book and you as a writer and the writing. You’re supposed to focus just on that. BUT. Then, you have to switch gears and focus on sooo much else: audience, marketing, whether you’re likable, what you say, who you know, how your sales will affect what book you write next and whether it’ll ever get published. There’s no point whining about it, so I’m not trying to do that, but I think a lot of us find this difficult because we would like to be introverted and enjoy whatever space we can carve out in our lives to be insulated and listen to the voices in our heads. My experiences so far have been such that I’m a fairly business-minded writer, and I’ve done a lot over the course of my life to become more extroverted and confident (ask anybody who knows me if I’m shy – they say no, I say yes) and I still struggle with this. But I’m learning that I need to get better at shutting all of that off, especially at this stage of my process, so I can hear those voices, so they don’t get drowned out by thoughts about genre, reviews and blurbs, cover art, touring and whether any of this, the good stuff, will even happen.
So I was intrigued by how this was laid out in the piece. Among other things. Read all the way through for the debate about whether the form of the book is archaic and no longer viable. Love the part especially about how editors and publishers will Google a writer, see what they’re online presence is (of course). It brings back to mind (for me) the question of whether I want more people to read this blog or fewer, how personal, how opinionated I can be, should be. This is a venue in which I am lazier about my writing in some contexts and sometimes more careful and concerned. Sometimes indiscriminately, randomly, unfortunately. It’s an outlet, but also a platform. And perhaps that can be dangerous and is probably, at the very least, messy.
For more reading, check out Toni’s latest Muderati blog, it’s a good one. About creating heroes who are worthy of themselves and of their villains.
And if you need to laugh and not think about literary concerns after all of that (and who can blame you?), check out F*ck You, Penguin (not the publisher, the cute animal) which is hysterical and two videos on YouTube that I’m obsessed with at the moment: Katy Perry’s Thinking of You and Beyonce’s If I Were a Boy. (W. says of the first, “She doesn’t even sound like the same person who sang I Kissed a Girl,” and of the second, “She’s so pretty there at the end.”) Oh, and you know what? You have to see Kanye’s Heartless. I forget how much I love videos sometimes, how much they can enrich a song. In all of these three, that is certainly the case.