Sunday, July 24, 2016

Inner compass

I've been lucky to have writer friends going through similar experiences at the same time I have. Seeking that first book publication ... launching a first novel ... juggling the writing of a second book with promoting the first ... We rode those roller coasters together. And many of us have also hit a point, a few books into our careers, where we ask ourselves what's still working for us and what isn't. Where we refocus on the writing, and reconnect with whatever spark led us to pick up a pen or tap a keyboard in the first place.

Most people don't start writing because of riches and fame, which are rare in this field and more easily had by pursuing a different career. We start writing because we have something to say. And sharing that writing can be wonderful; it is the natural next step. But along with that comes pressure and worry about what people will think--will they approve, will they condemn, will they ignore, will they pay? What will sell? What will please that one reviewer who pointed out that one flaw? What will please the reader who thought the ending was too sad? What will please the parent who thought the language was too rough? What will please that bookstore buyer who wants more zombies?

I'm not saying that thinking about the audience is wrong, or that we should never take feedback. I'm saying that when we find ourselves lost in projecting and predicting the reactions of others, when their voices (as we imagine them) drown out our inner voice, it might be time to reset the compass. And ask: Where was it I originally wanted to go? What do I need to say?

4 comments:

  1. I've read books that just didn't fit what I was looking for. I'm usually able to recognize the good in them, even if they weren't what I normally prefer to read. :) Even when I give terrible reviews, I do try to point out the good stuff as well.

    I guess what I mean is that there will always be someone who didn't like a book for whatever reason, but maybe that person isn't the audience you're writing for.

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    1. I love that people review books and talk about books and make lists of books. It's important and fun and useful for readers to have those conversations.

      There are times when writers can attend to those conversations, and times when they can't, because of their own need to cultivate the inner voice and balance it against the many sources of feedback. Every writer learns how much he or she can handle ... eventually!

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  2. Ah yes, the time to take stock and figure out if we're still doing what we want to do. I'm there right now. I'm asking if I have more to say and if I can say it the way I want to. Excellent post for me today.

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    1. I'm glad, and I wish you well in answering those questions!

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