I re-read last week’s blog, and there is an undertone when I talk about writing that I thought I’d explore this week. I wrote: “I seem to have tricked my brain into working so long as I’ll be done in a minute.” As though it’s so difficult to write. I was listening to a podcast this week (You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes, Aziz Ansari, Feb 4 2013) and they were talking about building a career in the arts. Specifically, how it takes many years to build a following, and how only those with passion for their work can overcome the struggle of the early years.
While I’ve been writing junk since I was 15, and I lived off freelance writing for a time, I’m only about a year and a half into trying to build a career as a science fiction writer. I enjoy listening to those who built a career brick by brick, as I see it as the only path to a sustainable career in the long term. The insight of people who lived through the ‘working a full-time job while trying to grow their career as a side gig,’ is often tainted through a lens in that they only talk about it once they are a success. It’s one of the reasons I write this blog actually and try to give my unfiltered experience as I go because it will (hopefully) track that journey in real-time.
What does it mean to have passion for your work? I mean, it seems like it should be obvious right? If I wasn’t thinking about building a writing career, I wouldn’t be doing what I am now. I’d still be filling notebooks with 40,000 words and then throwing them in the bin because they didn’t work (I really did this, I still feel stupid). I am writing the short fiction for two reasons. To hone my craft and become a better writer, but also to build an audience. I enjoy learning about craft and building my own, so I am following my passion, right? But also I don’t enjoy that I have to learn so much more that isn’t craft – website management, email auto-responders, publishing, marketing, etc. So I’m not following my passion?
I’m 32 and life has given me a few scars for the lessons I’ve learnt. But one of the lessons is that you shouldn’t let the perfect get in the way of the good. As I’ve researched the publishing industry, I’ve found that whether you are trad or indy published the marketing in the modern world relies on the audience that you can gather. Trad publishing is more money upfront (‘upfront’ might be the wrong word), but you lose a lot of rights when you sign over a book. Trad publishing can produce a better product without out of pocket from the writer, but it can also take years to publish, and publishing houses can fail.
After all my research, I don’t know which is better. What I do know is that I can’t just write a novel and hope that it’ll be picked up. While I don’t have control over the market, some practices have a higher chance of success, and that means that I can’t always do the thing that is the most exciting, sometimes I have to do the work.
For a long time, I would only write when the muse inspired me. Writing when the muse is having a day off isn’t easy, but the more you do it, the more like she’ll check in on you. It is the same with all the non-writing part of building a career in the arts, it’s not easy, but occasionally you get a good response.
I do my best to be honest on this blog, and the truth is when I get home from work, I’m tired. The truth also is that if I don’t start, I’ll never finish. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second-best time to plant a tree is today.