"In these pages many mysteries are hinted at.
What if you come to understand one of them?"

"Words let water from an unseen, infinite ocean
Come into this place as energy for the dying and even the dead."

"Bored onlookers, but with such Light in our eyes!
As we read this book, the jewel-lights intensify."

- Rumi

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Being Brilliant All the Time

My brain hurts, and I'm exhausted all the time.  This is not a complaint.  I love it!  I'm really starting to build some modicum of success from the thing I love most in the world, storytelling.  However, this ever-present brain hurt is a by product of that.

I recently had someone give me a back handed compliment on taking my first steps toward becoming a professional writer. It was the same old thing lots of writers hear.  The intimation being, that for some reason,  writing is not real work.  I had a mixed reaction somewhere between laughing my balls off and wanting to reach the the computer screen ans slap the well-meaning offender.  Rather than go off on some tirade of an unnamed social networking site, I decided to vent my frustrations here.

Here's a list of the stuff I've got going on this week in preparation for the Valhalla Renaissance Faire:

  • Sometime in the next 24 hours, I have to write my column on how people can make their role playing games more engaging by utilizing the tools of crafting compelling fiction.  I have no idea what this week's column is going to be about.  For those of you interested in reading my weekly column "Stranger Than Fiction," it's up at www.dragonsbay.co.
  • Continue to promote the crap out of Knight of the Living Dead and The Dragon Bone Flute.  If you haven't seen my first Kindle eBooks, you should.  Remember that Kindle has a free reader app for nearly any platform: Kindle apps.
  • Figure out which of my short-short stories I want to turn into "Portable Adventures," i.e., stories on pieces of paper that progress as you unfold them.  I also need to decide how many I'm going to test out my first time.  I think I definitely want more than one, but how many more?  I've got a marketing ploy for up to six, but do I want to shell out the expense for that many without testing their marketability first?
  • Been fiddling around with June's Kindle novella, titled "Farmer Hero."  I'm going to get to work on that in Earnest as soon as I...
  • finish work on "First Chosen"  Part One of a serialized novel/epic fantasy series titled, Tears of Rage. I'm massively behind progress on that one, and I'm anticipation a shortage of sleep this week.
  • Come up with insightful and engaging blog posts to post here.
I'm pretty sure that's a comprehensive list of everything I've got on my plate for this week.  Also, keep in mind that doesn't include other things I've got going on like the "day" job, family, reading (a requirement for being a writer), and all the other things I like to waste what little free time I have left.

Let's make one thing perfectly clear:  I'm not complaining about my self-imposed work load. Not in the least.  I'm having a great time, and the amount of projects I have going is kind of intoxicating.  I'm pretty sure I'm not going to get everything done by the first week of Valhalla, but I'm going to try my damnedest. 

Here's what I am bitching about:  People who don't think that what writers do is work, especially at the beginning of their careers.  It's a lot of leg work.  It's a lot of selling.  You gotta be at the keyboard, generating material, and in this internet-based, short-attention-span society we live in, it's gotta be pretty much brilliant all the time.  Second drafts are okay.  When you start getting into third drafts, then  you're talking about some pretty poor time-management stuff.  Fourth draft and beyond, you're wasting time on old stuff, when you could be generating more material.
"Only quantity produces quality.  If you only write a few things, you are doomed." - Ray Bradbury.
"You learn writing by writing, not rewriting," - James Rollins
"Three Rules for Literary Success:  1. Read a lot.  2. Write a lot.  3. Read a lot more, write a lot more." - Robert Silverburg.
I love those quotes.  I have a collection of quotes by writers I respect to help pick me back up and get pounding on the keyboard again when the work threatens to overwhelm me.  Lately, I've really been taking the whole, write something new philosophy of writing to heart.  Anyway, I'm digressing on my original point.

Writers don't have the luxury of taking forever to do draft, after draft, after draft of finely crafted prose before going out into the world with their work.  The world has become too fast paced for that.  Spending too much time between works it career suicide, unless your name happens to be George RR Martin.  But then, we all can't be writing A Song of Ice and Fire now can we?

Here's the next level of that need to be constantly producing new stuff:  Everything you put out has to be at least as brilliant as the thing you put out before.  The society we live in provides too many detractions to things that don't grab us and keep us grabbed.  That's why Jim Butcher is one of my heroes.  Between his Codex series and the Dresden Files, he's been putting out one or more books a year for at least a decade.  I can't vouch for the quality of the Codex books, as I have yet to dive into them.  However, each Dresden book gets better than the last.  Noticeably better.  As in I-want-to-kill-this-man-and-suck-out-his-talent-better.  That's a metaphor.  I don't really want to kill Jim Butcher.  If I did, I'd never get the end of the series.

So, when people intimate, or sometimes flat out tell me, that writing isn't like real work, I have to struggle to keep myself in check.  In most other professions in the world, people can skate by on continuously average performance.  Not the writer, not when even one average day at our office can cost us precious readers, as they wander off to something that will hold their interest with great authority.  We may not be at the beck and call of a traditional schedule, but we work our brains to the point where they are threatening to leak out our ears, just to stay within shouting distance of brilliance.  Then, once we get done with that, those of us struggling at the beginning of our careers have to start being creative all over again, thinking of new ways to get our work out into the public eye.  So yeah, forgive me if I get a bit testy when you talk about how much you wish you had an easy job like mine.

Post Script:

I've been working on this post off and on all day.  In the middle of it, I've set up another online profile to help my writing at www.goodreads.com.  If you haven't been there yet, and really like reading, it's a nice place to get ideas about good books.  I'll be starting a new blog there under my author profile http://www.goodreads.com/mgallowglas.  I hope to see some of you there.  I have no idea what I'm going to do with the blog that comes the author profile.  Anyone have any suggestions or things they'd like me to talk about?

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