Thursday, February 28, 2008

Protecting the Writing

Edie's post at Magical Musings got me thinking. She asked, "why do you think we love this business so much?"

My first reaction to that question was to laugh and say that I don't love the business at all. And then I was taken aback, thinking, why in the heck would I love the business?

(I do realize that was just her wording, and she really just meant why do you love writing?)

Anyhow, it made me think of teaching and piano. Both passions and loves. Both have been severely injured by business of it. Severely. There will be, I hope, a day where I can teach piano strictly on scholarship.

Because it doesn't matter what passion or love you turn into a money-making endeavor, it can easily spoil that passion or love. And just as easily completely destroy it. No matter if you dream of getting published every day, once you're making money from it, it's a completely different sport.

And so, as I was lying in bed and surfing blogs on my palm (took me two hours to get up this morning, because I knew I'd have to shovel when I did, LOL), I considered that I don't have any of those screwed-up feelings about writing. And I wondered why I thought of the writing business as a completely separate entity.

Then I realized: separating the business and the writing was the smartest thing I ever did. At home, I do the email stuff, the marketing stuff, the business stuff. I send my stuff. I do the internet thing. I do the next-step plotting and the career planning at home. I do the worrying at home.

But at Borders, I write, only write. And I read.

I realized: that's my protective bubble. That's what it really means to protect the writing. For me, separating the two means I never have to see the pressure of the business while I write. Separating the two means I never have to worry about my career while I write. It even means that I write at the speed of the story and not my pocketbook, which I'm not sure is an entirely good thing, LOL.

People often say to protect the writing from interruptions and distraction, to protect the writing in your schedule and your family's priorities.

But the smartest thing I ever did was to protect the writing from the business.

13 bonus scribbles:

Mark Terry 2/28/2008 02:21:00 PM  

As my post on my own blog today might suggest, I agree with you.

One of the great things about being paid for your fiction is you then have no need to justify actually doing it. It's obvious to everyone.

But I have wondered, from time to time, if I wasn't in some ways happier writing fiction BEFORE I got it published than after, when so much of the fun goes out of it due to contracts and promotion.

I was at a book signing event with a guy who was a reasonably successful self-published espionage writer. Not iUniverse, but he actually formed his own publishing house, hired art, editors, the whole thing. He commented to me that he was thinking of dropping the whole thing and just writing for his own pleasure. "Promotion and marketing take all the fun out of it."

I know what he meant.

spyscribbler 2/28/2008 02:30:00 PM  

Hey, I wonder if I met him. Did he say he wrote his story before the same things he predicted happened in real life? I remember wanting to remember the title, but I forgot it when I got home. I think his publishing company was somewhere in northern Ohio.

So true, Mark. I can't tell you how many times I've gone back and forth on whether I should target NY or start self-publishing my pseudonym. It's such a niche, and my publishers do so little marketing, that I could do as many sales on my own, and keep a greater profit. I could start a site and do even more profit, but then I probably wouldn't have time to write at all.

It always comes down to all the gunk I'd have to do. My pseudonym blogs once in a blue moon. I've tried promoting her, but I get bored.

I will do as much promoting as I can, if I'm ever in a bigger market, but ... I'll protect the writing, first.

Jeremy James 2/28/2008 03:49:00 PM  

Loved this post! Thanks!

spyscribbler 2/28/2008 03:51:00 PM  

Hey, stranger! Glad you liked it. Did I ever send people your way about your promotion series? I meant to. I think I did, but now I'm not sure. :-)

Anyhow, it was fantastic.

Mark Terry 2/28/2008 04:00:00 PM  

I interviewed David Morrell for a profile in the ITW Report a year or so ago (I'm sure you know who he is) and he commented that with publishers doing so little to promote books and self-publishing becoming so easy and affordable, it was getting harder and harder to figure out what writers need publishers for.

I thought that was pretty startling coming from somebody like him.

But I do think it's true. If your sales already suck, what difference would it make?

And if you're huge like Morrell or Stephen King, would it make a difference? If Stephen King started self-publishing just through iUniverse and getting their higher royalty rate, would his income change at all from what it is now? I kind of doubt it.

It's the mid-level authors that would probably get screwed, so you gotta wonder.

spyscribbler 2/28/2008 04:47:00 PM  

Yes, it's true. On one hand, I don't know how I'd ever have started out on my own. Getting one's name out on one's own is like promoting through mud, feet stuck in quicksand.

In truth, though, only a small percentage of my readers, if my statistics are correct, visit my pseudonym's website.

Still, it's a step I might take, one day, if the NY route doesn't work out.

Anissa 2/28/2008 09:23:00 PM  

This is a great post! And a reminder to enjoy the writing every day. I do hope to be published someday, but know that when it happens, time will not be my own. Now I write for me, on my schedule. I would hate to see the business side of things make me lose the love. Good for you on protecting what you cherish.

Bernita 2/29/2008 08:11:00 AM  

Now that's a neat way of making separation, mental compartments supported by separate space.

Edie 2/29/2008 09:40:00 AM  

Spy, I just replied to a comment on my blog by someone who said it comes down to the drive to getting what we write in other people's hands. I don't agree. I know people who write and never send out. They're happy writing for themselves. That's not me, but it works for them.

It's the business part of writing that hooked me up with other writers. Otherwise I wouldn't be blogging or reading other people's blogs. Also, if I didn't write with publication in mind, I probably wouldn't strive so hard to improve my writing. And seeing my writing get better gives me great satisfaction, so I would miss that.

spyscribbler 2/29/2008 10:53:00 AM  

Anissa, I hope you do, too! I worry too much, I think. Or not enough, I'm not sure which.

Bernita, if I didn't compartmentalize my life, I don't know how I'd keep track of it all!

spyscribbler 2/29/2008 11:07:00 AM  

LOL, Edie. I definitely write for readers and for publication, too. I mourn the fact that I have nothing I can query New York with yet.

I think we're talking about apples and oranges, though. Writing friends and readers aren't the business to me. To me, the business is anything to do with a dollar sign.

For example, when I sit down to write, if I'm thinking about the fact that if I don't get this novella done in the next couple days, I will run out of money this month, then I get frozen or I churn out shit.

If I stress about the fact that I'm not making enough money to support my family by writing for my current tiny pubs, then I get freaked out, and feelings of failure creep into my work.

If I stress out about the fact that maybe I should be writing with NY in mind, and risk DH having to go away for the summer because I wrote a book that could pay more, but would pay later and there was no payment at all guaranteed, then when I sit down to write, I'd write a little on my novella, a little on my spy novel.

Then, not only would my novella be too late to pay the bills, but I wouldn't even have the spy novel done.

Even at focusing on my novella, it's easy for the thought to creep in my head: Why rush? You never know if she'll pay you this month or next month, anyway?

But that's just me. I can't turn off that kind of worry. I don't want to spend my life with DH living in another city, and that's more important to me than anything else in the whole world.

So I either need to make a sale to NY that is significantly more than I make now, or I need to start writing at least two novellas a month for my pseudonym, and making ways for them to sell, which means ... dear God, not sleeping at all, LOL.

The business part you refer to, is like the dessert, the icing on the cake. Writing friends are awesome, blogging is fun, and readers are the greatest treasure in the whole world.

Josephine Damian 2/29/2008 11:26:00 AM  

Spy: Lots of self published writers in my group seem to be suffering from "self-published regret."

At least you have the right idea about using a pen name. How about focusing more on learning craft? If you build a better mousetrap...

Interesting point about different spaces for different tasks (I've fibnally created a separate Internet compute/space frojm my creative/writing computer space).

But happens if that store closes? Our local bookstore was closed for a year because it was destroyed by a hurricane.

spyscribbler 2/29/2008 11:46:00 AM  

Do they, Josephine? I'm certainly glad I never went that route. With all my efforts for pseudonym, I really don't think I add more than a couple sales a month to what my publishers do.

I didn't use a pseudonym because I sold to an online publisher; I used one because pseudonym can get kinky, LOL, and I'm a prude. :-)

If I write for pretty-much guaranteed money, I'm writing for a niche market. It CAN'T sell to NY. I have to choose one or the other when I write. That's where I stress out.

I wish it were as simple as "writing better." I'm feeling really good about my craft, at the moment, but believe me, I strive to improve with every word I write and every book I read. That's part of the fun of it, for me.