April 19th, 2006


Updatery by moonlight

Important safety tip. Bounce tripping from a major Con to the office in Omaha ain't so good. Slept about six hours last night, woke up a little after 4 am, finally got up and went for a long walk. It didn't help that I overslept wildly the night before, or ate too much (of the wrong food) last night, with the obvious sorts of consequences.

As a result I'm awake and alert at a ridiculous hour, so when I'm done with this post, I'm going to put some more time into Mainspring.

Still noodling the "career" question. What defines a writing career? Wordcount? Bibliography? Readership? Critical acclaim? Awards? Economic viability? To belabor the obvious, the answer to this is different for everyone.

For me, because I have specific life commitments, I'm not looking to writing as a sole source of income during my pre-retirement working life. Post-retirement, it might be nice. So that pretty much takes economic viability off the table for me as a defining parameter. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to sell big. I've got an ego, after all. I just don't plan my future around the possibility.

Awards are a funny thing, too. They're essentially capricious, and out of the writer's control. I've got an ego there, too, and love the strokes, but I wrote long before I was nominated for (or won) anything, and I'll keep writing whether or not I'm ever on a final ballot or shortlist again. So they're mostly a lagniappe. Pretty much ditto for critical acclaim.

I can't really control readership, either. All I can do is write the best quality, most interesting fiction I have within me, and work with the marketplace to get it published. The Night Shade Books release of Trial of Flowers will likely reach a lot more people than Rocket Science did. The Tor release of Mainspring will likely reach a lot more people than Night Shade will. I am growing my readership, and they are helping me grow. Here I find myself with what I consider a measure of career success.

But the one thing I can control is wordcount, and to some degree, bibliography. I can write, and I can mail.

Anent ego, I was observing to bibliothec recently that much like surgeons or pilots, writers have to have enormous egos. Committing words to paper in the belief others will want to read them is a very difficult act. Once we get used to doing it, it doesn't feel that way any more, and many of us writers are oddballs, with all kinds of strange emotional fences. But at the bottom, it's a lot like picking up a scalpel. Certainly the potential consequences of failure aren't in scope with a surgeon or a pilot, but I think the underlying belief in oneself is analogous. Being as how she does what she does, bibliothec drew a similar parallel to litigators and criminal defense attorneys. As she pointed out, arguing in court involves being told constantly, in great detail, how badly wrong you are by the other side, and you'd better believe in yourself and your case.

Bonus Question: How do you define a writing "career"? What makes/would make you feel successful?


Like sdn, I know too many people having a hard time right now. I may be briefly joining them, as the day's ick seems to be sliding toward the three-day flu (or whatever it is) which has been running around. Had an early dinner with garyomaha and M tonight, tomorrow night is the Omaha Beach Party if I'm up for it (literally or figuratively). Not focused enough to work on Mainspring tonight, so I'm going for early zzzzs in the hope of beating the crud. Laters.