Thursday, February 16, 2012

What's Not To Hate?

Writers love to write about writing. I think it's a defense against the Sisyphus Syndrome, the feeling that you are forever rolling a giant rock uphill and accomplishing nothing. And we love the romantic image of the author and do our best to present that image where possible. But let's stop for a minute and celebrate things we hate about writing. Really hate.

1) Hours of Lonely Toil 
Yep. That's romantic. Sitting at the computer, trying not to get sucked into the distractions of all the cool stuff online, and realizing that while I am struggling to make something happen, the world is having "the-best-time-ever!!!" just outside my window.
2) Rejection and Critique
Who doesn't love getting rejection letters? And if the impersonal rejection isn't enough for you, how about those critique sessions in a writers' group. What? Some of you are in groups where people pat you on the back and tell you how extraordinary you are? I've heard those exist, but...
3) Money!
Yeah, I know. We all wanna be Stephen King. I wrote a short story and sold it for fifty bucks. That may not seem like a lot, but hey. So, if I spent twelve total hours on the story writing and re-writing, then I made 4.16 cents an hour. That's below minimum wage. And if I average into that amount all the other stories I've worked on and never sold, then I figure I end up owing about ten thousand dollars to Barnes and Noble, just for the privilege of dreaming of being on a shelf somewhere.
4) The Disposable World
Alas, memories are short. If you published once, you better publish again. And just because they loved you Monday, it doesn't mean they'll love you Tuesday. The marketplace changes. You better keep your ear to the ground and listen for the sound of advancing change. If your book is on a shelf somewhere, and if you were published by a small press, then the chances of that book lasting on that shelf more than a month or two before the book store sends it back to the publisher is slim. Hey! What have you done for me lately!
5)The Illusion of Fame
So, you're published, and maybe you get a handful of reviews that are favorable. Maybe on Amazon, or Goodreads. Maybe someone will say something nice about you on a blog. In the end, it's you and the keyboard. You're not a baseball player hearing the crowd roar over a home run. You're not a rock star with groupies beating the crap out of one another to touch your sweaty brow. You're not a crazy politician with a fanatical following who scream your name as a form of argument.  You're---you. Just you. And even if you realize some of your major goals, you'll pretty much just be lucky to occasionally be invited to a few things and have some fans say a few nice things about you.

3 comments:

Aric said...

Sounds like you need one of these... http://www.philosophersguild.com/Sisyphus-Watch.html

I hate being confronted with how difficult it is to make my "great idea" into something that conveys half of what I intended to a reader.

Charles Gramlich said...

I agree with you everywhere except on the hours of lonely toil. I kind like that. Honestly.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Thanks Aric. Your comment reminds me of things I've read about creativity; that creativity is about hard work, and that solutions don't come without problem solving. Sometimes communication involves the same complicated process.

Charles, I like my alone time too. But sometimes I worry my skin is becoming pasty, and the empty potato chip bags are piling up.