Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Reward of No Reward

This blog was going to be about layering your characters.  It would have been scintillating, brilliant, Tweet-a-licious!  But between work and Panera’s, my current location, I read something that compared writing to climbing a mountain - a lot of work and no guarantee you’ll get to the top. 
It struck a cord.  What drives me to write?  Why do I ostracize my friends and family to spend time with imaginary people?  Why can’t I overhear a phrase without wanting to incorporate it into a story?  What is wrong with me and the twenty-nine other women in GRRWG? (and thousands of others.)
The rewards aren’t that great, at least monetarily.  While we have a high rate of published authors in our group, each new book is a gamble.  The market is a fickle mistress.  Self-marketing is hard, hard work that takes time away from writing.  Rejection sucks.  Saying no to family makes us look like monsters.  Missing a day (or two or three) of writing casts us as hobbyists.
So why do we do it?  What drives us deeper into the insanity?
Because we can’t not write.  It’s part of the fabric of WHO WE ARE.  It is the browns and oranges and greens and blues woven into the core of our being.  Tell us to give up chocolate for Lent.  We can do that.  Tell us we’ll lose our house.  We’ll move.  Tell us our dog has to be put down.  We’ll drive him to the vet’s.  But never, ever, under any circumstances, tell us we can’t write, because THERE WILL BE BLOOD.
We grumble we don’t have the time/place/resources to write, but you’ll find us scribbling as we wait at the dentist’s, or on the sidelines at soccer practice or anywhere else we can snatch a few minutes.  Our desks are in our laps, in the kitchen, bedroom, hallway or furnace room. (yes, my first desk was next to the furnace.  My children thoughtfully wrote “Redrum” on the concrete wall I faced.  I don’t think it was in homage to Steven King.)      
What reward do we seek?  The standard answer is publication, but when it is always out of reach (“I’m sorry, your work isn’t for us”), we soldier on.  One manuscript after another, we tackle New York editors and agents.  When they don’t pan out, we broaden our range.  And if publication never comes, we still pursue the dream.
Pause a moment in this obsession.  Stop trying to find gratification through others.  Be proud in the passage you’ve written that NO ONE ELSE EVER WILL.  Enjoy the warm tinglies when you solve that incredibly complex plot.  Smile and accept compliments (or criticism) from your critique partner/group.
Don’t accept less than the best from anyone, especially yourself.
Find the reward in no reward.


Jennifer Armintrout said...

This is a good post and you should feel good about it.

Theresa Grant said...

Thanks for articulating the reasons we write!