An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2007-10-17 04:42
Subject: [personal|process] Still here in scenic Omaha, processing
Security: Public
Music:my typing
Tags:personal, process, writing
As you might guess, I had something of a bad night of it last night. Lay awake thinking about all the things that are wrong with my writing, with my literary career, and with me in general. When I finally fell asleep, the phrase "It's a bias-ply world, and I'm setting it on fire one tire at a time" kept running through my dreams. Whatever that means. If I had fortune cookie in my .sig these days, I might use it.

I have a lot of ambitions. I'd like to collect at least one each of the major awards, thank you. I'd like to win Hugos for both editing and writing someday. I'd like to be an instructor at one of the Clarions, at Viable Paradise (props to scalzi on that, btw), at Odyssey. I'd like to see one of my books become a gaming system, a decent comic, even a movie.

Guess what? I don't control any of those. That's why they're ambitions, not goals. I can't even control my next sale. I can influence them by writing well and steadily. So last night I balled up as much of my anger and frustration and adrenaline hangover as I could and set it aside in the cloakroom of ideas. Because by God, if I couldn't win a Hugo yesterday, or even have a decent day, I can damn well get a story out of the moil of emotions.

One of my several great gifts in life is being an emotional Weeble with a fairly positive groud state. I feel much better this morning, on no more cure than a few hours' fitful sleep. And pretty soon I'll write a very angry story. If I do a good job, you'll be angry, too.
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Brian Dolton
User: tchernabyelo
Date: 2007-10-17 12:03 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Hey, it's trite comment time here in tchernabyeloworld (the world's least pronouncable theme park, and one without, uh, a theme)!

When you're looking ahead at where you want to be, and it seems difficult to get to from where you are, then take a deep breath, turn round, and look back to where you were when you wanted to be where you are now (hey, it's not just trite, it's tortured!).

You got from there to here. You can get from here to the other there. No, you can't control it. But you can influence it. I know some people who are far better writers than I am, possibly far better writers than I will ever be, but who haven't been published because they don't push. They don't work at it. And I look at the people who are where I want to get to, and I figure the simplest way of getting where they are now, and it's this.

Write the stories. Submit the stories. Repeat. And repeat, and repeat, and repeat.

Oh, and my dream-phrase from last night was "the friction coefficient of Ireland". No, I have no idea.
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User: manmela
Date: 2007-10-17 13:36 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Ambitions are good. And I appreciate your honesty on them.

It's interesting seeing your aims. They are both similar yet different to mine, and a product of you having traded up to a better set of problems.

I want to win a Hugo, have done so since I was a kid when everyone else was dreaming of Oscars, BUT FIRST I want to get a short story published. It's frustrating as I know what I'm turning out is good, but maybe just not good enough to make an editor pick me over an established writer. All I can do is keep on trying.

I want to ATTEND Clarion (I'd love to go next year when Gaiman is teaching, but if not, I think your name as an instructor would be one that would get me excited) but I doubt that will ever happen.

I want someone to grab me by the scruff of the neck and mentor me from a good writer into a great writer.

But above all I want to write stories that make people laugh, cry and smile; that dazzle people with both their prose and their plot; that are loved and cherished.

I might not have control of most of the things on that list, but by god, I'm trying for the last... and even if I find one person who loves one of my stories, that's good enough for now.
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User: scarlettina
Date: 2007-10-17 13:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Wow, babe. Hope it's a better day. ::hug::
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User: bram452
Date: 2007-10-17 13:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It's good to know what your ambitions are. I haven't worked mine through yet either. (I don't, for instance, care much about awards or publishing things under my own name, but I can't say *why* I don't.) I'd recommend putting "Have a pleasant day-to-day life" in the mix, just to see where it falls out.

And I also suffer odd hypnagogic bits of text floating up. The most recent (and one of my favorites so far) was a name for my punk band if I ever get one of those: Bad Minton and the Shuttle Cocks.

It you're head. It's there to amuse you.
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User: supaluv
Date: 2007-10-17 16:30 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Hundreds of short stories published, plus a multi-book contract from Tor. Success for any writer. Not good enough. Let's have more. Hugos and Nebulas. Win every award in the field. Not good enough. Aim for the mainstream--get books in airport bookstores, interviews on morning talk shows. Oprah's Book Club. Interview on Oprah. Multi-movie deal--series is bigger than LotR. Not good enough. Glass ceiling of genre--break out into literature. Win all new awards. Novels are required reading in lit classes across the country. Norton fills every anthology with your short stories. Nobel prize in literature. Every university awards honorary doctorates. Not good enough. Politics next. Elected president for sheer genius. "Books for Guns" program a huge success. Elected president of the planet. Peace breaks out over the world as your novels--now translated into every human language, and pre-emptively translated into invented alien languages--make people too content to fight. Scientists around the world gather to concert their efforts into making you live forever to protect the future against the inevitable regression that would surely follow your death. Immortal, sitting on a mountain of adulation, you type into your blog (which is now broadcasted on every channel, interrupting sitcoms and hurricane warnings), "Being president of the world is great, but I'd really like to be president of the universe."

It's great and all to aim for the stars, but don't complain to earthlings about crash-landing on the moon. :| --D

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Mark Finn
User: finnswake
Date: 2007-10-17 16:42 (UTC)
Subject: Moil?
Isn't that who you call when you want to bris?
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bram452: Shadow
User: bram452
Date: 2007-10-17 17:03 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
There's a lesson to be taken from it, though. Just be aware that as you achieve the goals and pass the milestones along your writing career -- selling the first short story, then the novel; getting the good reviews and then the awards -- it isn't actually going to bring you peace or contentment.

Writing is like anorexia that way. Anorexia isn't about reaching a particular weight and then being happy; it's about *thinner*. Writing isn't about reaching a particular point and being fulfilled. It will never bring you a lasting peace. Never. If you want to be happy, understand that that's something you do in addition to writing.

Not trying to be a downer; you can be a happy contented writer by being a happy, contented person who writes. All I'm saying is that trying to become happy by being a writer has never worked. Every mark that you set your sites as being the thing that will finally bring you that sense of accomplishment turns out not to be enough once you've reached it. Always and forever, amen. :) Don't go Riddley Walker's path. Drop John's riding on his back.

Still, I wouldn't have no other.
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User: supaluv
Date: 2007-10-17 17:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I love that anorexia analogy. Well said.
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User: ullikummis
Date: 2007-10-17 20:28 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
So that's why my fingers are getting thinner...
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2007-10-18 02:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Thank you for that.
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Elf M. Sternberg
User: elfs
Date: 2007-10-17 17:52 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"It's a bias-ply world, and I'm setting it on fire one tire at a time." Set and Osiris, Jay, that sounds like the kind of thing some poor schmuck in your Apocalypse Clowns universe would say. You've definitely got it in you, more than I do, and I'm still stuck between writing stories and writing code. Your ambitions are good, as is your writing (I'm working my way through American Sorrows right now).
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2007-10-17 20:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Luckily, I have no wish to win a Hugo or a Nebula, so there are two potential sources of frustration gone *poof* in an instant.

But I think you and I might be psychically joined, Jay, since I was having the same kind of night.

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User: caryn71
Date: 2007-10-17 21:52 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Someone told me once that the best writers are the ones that worry most about their writing.

I don't know if it's true, but it sure sounded good when I needed to hear it.

I understand where you are coming from with all of this. It's so difficult to rely on art, because art is subjective.

A personal note here: This is the reason why I am now having to go back to college, because I don't think I can rely on my talent for success. I have no guarantee that anyone will like my work. I need something that I can rely on, rather than people's opinions of my art. So I will still write, I just won't putt all my eggs in that basket any longer.

You are very talented. You wouldn't know this, but I am very opinionated when it comes to the written word. So I don't just throw that around. Unfortunately I'm not on the staff of who decides who wins the awards. Maybe someday....
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User: jeffsoesbe
Date: 2007-10-17 22:14 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Steven Gould talked about this subject at Viable Paradise in his "Writer's Life" talk. Summary was: "Control what you can control, let go of the things you can't control." You nailed a lot of the things Steven said one can't control. In the end, you control your writing and that's pretty much it.

BTW, I think you'd make an excellent VP (or Clarion or Odyssey) instructor. I suggested you to the staff as someone to consider for next year since Cory wasn't coming back (and I felt they needed an instructor very currently involved with short fiction). They said "well, we have something going". Now I realized they'd probably already extended the invite to Mr. Scalzi.

- yeff
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2007-10-19 15:06 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Last year I was very close to having a children's book of mine nominated for an Edgar Award. I shouldn't have known anything about the possibility, but due to odd and unforeseen circumstances, I was made aware. It was the worst thing I could every have known. I waited three months for the nominations to be posted, all along telling myself that I really don't care and that none of this really matters at all. The night before they were posted, I didn't sleep. I logged on before sunrise and checked the list. My heart was beating fast, I was nervous, uncomfortable, edgy. I scrolled down to the five nominations for best juvenile novel. My name wasn't there. I was unhappy for a few days.

Now I'm not sure why. What did I really want? The recognition? I convinced myself that wasn't the reason. What I said aloud to my agent et al was that it would make future sales of new msps so much easier. It would open doors. Sure, that's true. But that wasn't really why I wanted the nomination so badly. It was really about validation, self-validaton, and pride, things that I try so hard to deny the need to fulfill.

Writing is a lonely profession. It's even a lonely hobby. And we loose perspective so easily due to so many different factors. JeffV, you talked about a friend who recently turned his/her back on writing due to frustration etc. But there's such a disconnect between the art of writing and everything else that comes afterward. They're really two different professions, and if you want to avoid depression and not remain unfulfilled eternally, it seems that you have to either not care at all about the profession of writing, or care enough to maintain two professions and be good at both.


Gary Wassner
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