Saturday, September 13, 2008

Where are you looking?

Barry Eisler once said something that stuck with me. I'm going to paraphrase it badly because y'all know how my memory is. He said that if you want to get to the top of the mountain, there's a point in your journey where it becomes detrimental to keep looking at the top of the mountain, because you'll trip over the stones and branches at your feet.

Once you plan your journey, once you know where you want to go, it's more effective to look at your next step.

Last night, I was watching a football game (one of my students is field commander), and there was this player who could NOT get past the other's team's defense. What struck me, is that he was looking right at the blocker (henceforth my official term for that position, LOL), nothing else.

He couldn't get past the blocker, and his eyes were GLUED to the blocker.

The player who did manage to burst past their blockers had their eyes looking for a path, while keeping the blocker in their peripheral vision.

It struck me as interesting.

And this morning, it struck me as amusing that I can obsess about which path to take next in my career all I want. I can agonize about writing what I write instead of writing something for NY.

What's funny is it makes no difference: the next morning, there I am writing. Without any thought. Just there I am.

It's like me writing is a completely different entity from me trying to work out a career, from me trying to (for lack of a better word) coach myself.

Sorta makes me wonder why I bother worrying about it. I should just see what the girl who sits down at the desk every day writes, and then my other half can worry about selling it.

It's like I'm two people. The one worries, nags, agonizes, obsesses, plots the path, sees the pitfalls, etc. She frets like you wouldn't believe! (Well, you read this blog, so I guess you would believe.)

And then the other me just sits down every day and writes, completely unperturbed, unfazed, and unconcerned.

It sort of blows my mind.

Do you have two people in you? A writer and a career-plotter? And where do you look? The next step or the top of the mountain? The obstacle or the path?

37 bonus scribbles:

Robin 9/13/2008 01:19:00 PM  

My weird dichotomy is with my work persona and my home persona. At work I'm calm and competent, and can handle tragedy and emergency. At home I'm my goofy self. Sometimes I think about things I've said to my kids and I'm shocked that I haven't lost my child psychiatry license! Good thing their are no videos of my home life. Sheesh.

Mark Terry 9/13/2008 01:23:00 PM  

Interesting. I'll have to think about that. What he's saying can be boiled down to: focus on the goal, not the obstacles.

Probably a good idea.

Caryn Caldwell 9/13/2008 03:06:00 PM  

What a great analogy! And, yes, I do write for myself, but then I revise for an audience.

spyscribbler 9/13/2008 05:54:00 PM  

Robin, I understand that! LOL. With the students, I'm a totally different person. In fact, I'm different, student to student. Sometimes I think they have this magical ability to transform me into what they most need.

spyscribbler 9/13/2008 05:55:00 PM  

Mark, I think so. And maybe, focus on the next step, rather than the end result.

spyscribbler 9/13/2008 05:56:00 PM  

Caryn, wow, I never thought of it that way! That's cool, a cool way to write.

Edie 9/13/2008 07:20:00 PM  

I love what Caryn says too. I'm always going forward to my goal, but I concentrate on my project. If I looked at all the obstacles in my way, I'd be paralyzed. Instead I have to believe in myself, that I can plow right past them.

Eric Mayer,  9/13/2008 08:09:00 PM  

In almost any endeavor it is best to think about the process rather than the outcome but very hard to do.

I try not to think about the publishing industry when I write. When I think about publishers I can't write.

Stewart Sternberg 9/13/2008 10:34:00 PM  

I had two people in me, but I had to kill one of them. Oh sure, I know, there have been inquiries. I promise you, it was self-defense. And speaking about obstacles, I think a career goal is a necessity. Whatever it is. In whatever career. Without a compass, without some idea where you want to be, you will always be somewhere else. Milo?

Aimless Writer 9/14/2008 12:27:00 AM  

When competing in karate the best advice I ever got was to keep moving forward. Some of my friends fought full contact (I was too much of a pacifist) but the ones who won were the ones who didn't move back. They pushed forward, always on the offensive. One step back, one move into the defense instead of being the one in control of the offense and the match was lost. Offense; half skill, half mind-set.
Good advice for life?

spyscribbler 9/14/2008 03:12:00 PM  

That's perfect, Edie. Balanced. I love it. :-)

spyscribbler 9/14/2008 03:14:00 PM  

Ohmigosh, Eric, it's funny to hear you say that, because I think the biggest problem with trying to get my spy thriller out of me has been I'm constantly second-guessing myself about "the market."

Whereas with pseudo's stuff, it seems they don't mind what I try. So far. Knock on wood.

With her stuff, I worry about being creative and making it different.

Wow, those are two totally different processes. Maybe you found my problem, Eric! It would be cool if it were that. :-)

spyscribbler 9/14/2008 03:18:00 PM  

ROFL, Stewart! You never fail to crack me up. I love it. And, gosh, it's so true! It would totally be self-defense!

Compasses are good. It seems I've got an inner one that's pretty focused and driven, but it's not cluing me in on the direction it's going, LOL.

spyscribbler 9/14/2008 03:19:00 PM  

Aimless, that's way cool. I love the martial arts. I am TERRIBLE at the fighting, though. I love the forms. As far as sparring, I'm more afraid of hurting someone than being hurt myself.

This is an ongoing problem in my life, LOL.

LaDonna 9/14/2008 07:15:00 PM  

Love this post, Spy! And I think writers probably have more than two sides to us. lol. I always write for me, and when I deal with professionals that's what I bring to the table. But 80, 90 % of me is that gal just clicking away at her desk, and involved with family. I'm all about what works best for me, and that's what I eye on the horizon.

Bernita 9/15/2008 07:26:00 AM  

I suppose if one concentrates on the obstacles one risks seeing them as insurmountable; on the other hand if all you see is the goal in the distance you risk falling into a chasm on the path.

StarvingWriteNow 9/15/2008 08:31:00 AM  

Sorry I missed you on Saturday, but I did get some homework done! Joy! Rapture!

Oh, and yes, I do have a work personality and a home personality. Just ask son who the Meanest Mom In North Olmsted is... : )

writtenwyrdd 9/15/2008 09:44:00 AM  

I have a village in me. Or a Greek chorus. Natter, natter natter all the time goes my chorus.

As far as blocker watching goes, I have to agree that if you focus on the "problem" or short-term goal, you tend to run into problems either getting past the immediate problem/blocker in your life or in being established properly to deal with the next problem that comes along. As the advertisers call it: positioning. It's all about the proper positioning at the proper time.

Anonymous,  9/15/2008 09:53:00 AM  

I demoted the career plotter a few months back and wrote what I wanted to write. I can't tell you how much it's changed my excitement for my stories for the better. While I still want to write for NY, that career path doesn't dictate what I choose to write about. I write for me first and foremost. Everyone else has to an afterthought or my writing will be paralyzed. That can't happen.

Virginia Lady 9/15/2008 01:58:00 PM  

I can't write if I'm trying to write what I think someone else wants. But I do have several different aspects to myself. Fortunately, they all seem to get along, well, most of the time so no murders here. At least not any I'm admitting to.

There is such a thing as being too focused. Seeing the forest but not the trees can be just as bad as seeing the trees but not the forest. Periodically, one must change perspective and make sure that you're still on the path you want to be on, or change paths as you realize the path you thought you wanted isn't really what you do want.

Melanie Avila 9/15/2008 04:24:00 PM  

I love this post! What a great way to look at things.

I think I'm pretty consistent in every situation. I may tone things down a bit, but don't seem to change.

Melanie Avila 9/15/2008 04:25:00 PM  

Well great. How do I delete duplicate posts?

Barrie 9/16/2008 01:37:00 AM  

Some days feel like one big juggling act, and I can't figure out who I am! With kids and their sports and the schools and music lessons and my writing....

Angie 9/16/2008 04:48:00 AM  

I do both too. [nod] I'm writing gay romance and erotica right now, which is cool 'cause I do love it and I read it and all. But I also read mainstream SF and Fantasy and would love to be published in one or both of those genres. And I'll probably get back to het romance eventually, which means another chunk of the market. And all three have strong New York components. Right now there's really no New York market for gay romance (heck, New York doesn't believe that gay romance exists, or that any readers want it [eyeroll]) but I really hope that'll change.

I'm happy with my current publisher, but I'd love to have actual paper books in bookstores, and to sell 100K copies and whatever all else. So I'm torn between writing what I want to write at this point in time, and what I know I can sell, versus diving back into the deeper NY pool and putting energy into trying to sell there. And yeah, it's frustrating. :/


spyscribbler 9/16/2008 12:25:00 PM  

Ladonna, that's funny you should put it that way. Isn't that sort of weird, when you think of it? That we show one aspect of ourselves to some people, others to others. We have to.

Yeah, I like 80 - 90%. I think that's so true.

spyscribbler 9/16/2008 12:25:00 PM  

Bernita, you put things in such a lovely way. You make me wish I had said it like that!

It's a balance, I suppose. :-)

spyscribbler 9/16/2008 12:26:00 PM  

LOL, Writenow. I think we all do. And sorry to have missed you, too, but homework is more important! :-) I think it's awesome, what you're doing.

spyscribbler 9/16/2008 12:28:00 PM  

Writtenwyrrd, how fascinating. Positioning. I really like that. I think of that, sometimes.

And boy, I have a Greek chorus, too!

spyscribbler 9/16/2008 12:29:00 PM  

Marcia, I get that! I've put my career plotter on notice, too. We've had several discussions, and it's certainly not looking like he's going to get a promotion any time soon. :-)

spyscribbler 9/16/2008 12:30:00 PM  

Changing perspective is good advice, Virginia. It always helps me. But this get-along thing! Your voices get along? I envy you! What's your secret?


spyscribbler 9/16/2008 12:31:00 PM  

That's awesome, Melanie. And I deleted it for you. There's a little trashcan underneath, if you ever want to delete. :-)

spyscribbler 9/16/2008 12:32:00 PM  

Barrie, YES! Ohmigawd! I don't know which part of me to focus on, sometimes! Sometimes they all need attention and I feel so pulled in so many different directions!

spyscribbler 9/16/2008 12:33:00 PM  

Oh, Angie, I know that problem well. So well. Very well. It's SO difficult. I really don't have any answers, yet.

Just trying my best to navigate my path, I guess. :-)

Angie 9/16/2008 12:43:00 PM  

I think I know, logically, that it's a time management issue. If I were that organized and that disciplined [cough] I could decide that I'm going to write for, say, a minumum of twenty hours a week, and set aside, say, four of those hours to work on pieces which would sell to New York publishers, or to mainstream periodicals like Analog or Asimov's or F&SF. The shorts for the mags wouldn't take all that long each, and even with a novel, at four hours a week I could probably finish one in, what, a couple of years or so, being fairly realistic?

I could do that, and work on both sides of my ambition -- the Sell Right Now side and the Sell Big side -- at once. Although I'd realistically have to decide which NY genre I wanted to get back to tackling first. [laugh/flail]

But I'm seriously not that disciplined, and I know that it's hurting me, so far as building a career goes. [sigh] And right now I'm coming off of a nine-month dry spell so far as writing goes, so at the moment I'm delighted to be writing anything, and finishing a couple of things. I'll ramp the businesslike seriousness back up later, once I'm sure my muses and mojo are here to stay. :P


spyscribbler 9/16/2008 12:47:00 PM  

LOL, yeah, I get all that, Angie. As far as the discipline thing, I don't know. I've considered that plan. My problem is that I need "imagination time."

When I'm working on a story, I need the time to let it stew and flourish in my imagination, while in the shower, going to sleep, cleaning, whatever.

This is embarrassing, but my imagination is quite undisciplined. It pretty much sticks in my current genre, LOL.

If I can get it out, LOL, then I'm sure I can write a NY novel.

Angie 9/16/2008 12:54:00 PM  

I tend to have bunches of stories going at once, though, even if I haven't worked on some of them in quite a while. If I run into a dead spot on one of them, I can let it lie fallow for a bit and work on something else. (Unless I'm on a deadline. [cough])

I do know some other writers who can only work on one thing at a time, though, so I guess I'm lucky that way. [nod]