Friday, August 6, 2010

Does It Ever Get Any Easier?

My friends have been asking me this question a lot lately. Now that I have a wonderful, enthusiastic agent (ie. now that I've hit a career milestone), is it any easier?

It's always a blanket question, but I know what they mean. Is it easier to write? To revise? To sit down at your writing desk when so many distractions abound? To have faith in your ability to tell the story you set out to tell?

The answer is no.

(Actually, what I told one friend was, absolutely not, because technically, I'm on submission right now. Knowing that my manuscript is in the hands of complete strangers with the power to publish isn't the most comfortable feeling in the world.)

I wrote about writing demons yesterday (here), those little voices in our heads that try to throw wrench in the creative process.

If you have writing demons, as many of us do, they'll stick with you. Every step of the way. (Of course, it's entirely possible that your internal editor will start to seem like your actual editor - ie. the one at the publishing house - with her face, her voice, and all of her pet peeves.)

It's better to stand and face them as soon as you can, because they don't all magically disappear every time you reach a milestone.

In fact, only one takes a hike forever. I call him...

The What-If Demon

This one stalks you in the middle of the night, keeping you awake and giving voice to your wildest dreams: What if you tried to get published? What if you did land an agent? What if you actually sold your book and saw it on the shelf - your story out into the world for anyone to read?

I always thought of him like Calcifer from Howl's Moving Castle. A helpful sort of demon. The kind that inspires you to action.

He only becomes scary if he's ignored for months, years, or even decades. Then, he becomes a Shoulda-Coulda-Woulda Demon, full of bitterness and rage.

And he starts looking less like Calcifer and more like the Balrog from The Fellowship of the Ring.

Once the agent is signed, and the book is sold, the What If demon packs up. You don't wonder what if, because it's done.

But instead of having one less demon at your writing desk, you get another one - a replacement.

The Oh-No Demon

He's invisible - at least, to me. Probably because I can't fight him.

He makes me worry about all the things that I can't control: Is the cover of my book going to be ugly? Or will it be cute, but not the kind of book that kids automatically pick up? Will I get terrible reviews, so that no library in their right mind wants to carry it? What if the chain bookstores don't carry it? And what if the indie booksellers don't like it and refuse to shelf it also? What if it is shelved but gets lost on the shelf?

(Actually, this is starting to seem a lot like the What If Demon. Maybe it evolves, then. Kind of like in video games.)

Let's face it. This is a scary industry. No matter what stage of the game you've reached, there is always something to worry about it.

And it's not just me.

In this post, Myra McEntire blogs about how as the publication date for your debut novel nears, you can start fretting over whether real people - not just industry readers - will like your book. As Veronica Roth explains in this post, even after you sign your contract for your mega-lead trilogy, you can still sit down at your computer and find an audience of writing demons you don't remember inviting. (Both are awesome posts, by the way. If you haven't read them, go do it.)

Back though, to the original question: Does it ever get any easier?

Forget success, or milestones. Let's say you have a career that measures in decades, not years. Do you ever get to the point where you don't have to battle your writing demons every day?

I'm obviously not there yet, but I'll go out on a limb.

I'll say, yes.

I mean, this article says that people grow happier as they grow older. One theory (ie. my fav) says that after a certain point (your fifties?), you stop worrying about the small things. Why can't that be true for writers too?

At some point, I bet it does get easier.

Hopefully, sooner rather than later, you'll have a system down for dealing with your writing demons. Eventually, you'll have enough practice so your battles feel less like an obstacle and more like routine.

Someday, too, you'll be more content with what you've already accomplished, rather than fretting about the things that can go wrong.

Someday, it'll be enough. You Came. You Saw. You Wrote.

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