Tell your parents you dream of being a successful writer (or actor, artist, filmmaker, etc.) and, after they hopefully give some encouraging words, you’re bound to hear, “That’s great, but you should have a backup.”
We all know what that means. Few people make a living pursuing a creative career, they’re thinking, so you better have an alternative career path lined up when you inevitably fail.
But I’m here to tell you that you can’t fail at any artistic pursuit. Your first or tenth novel might never see the light of day, but if you keep honing your craft and putting words to the page, you’re allowed to put “writer” on your business cards. That means you don’t need a backup!
Now, I want to be clear, that doesn’t mean you don’t need another job. A backup is something you do after you fail at your first pursuit. A job is something that brings in money and other positive benefits while you’re a writer. (If it doesn’t, you should get a different job!) There’s nothing wrong with that. Many successful writers have held down other jobs. Kurt Vonnegut still worked as a car dealer after publishing his first novel. Philip Glass was a plumber while he composed music. Many successful writers continue to teach. A second job can provide community, inspiration, and interesting characters. It can keep you sane and get you out in the world instead of insolated in your home with your cat and laptop your only friends. Spending 40 hours a week writing is likely to make you crazy. You don’t want to end up like Jack Torrance, do you?
So, when you’re working on a report for your boss, serving up coffee at Starbucks, or suiting up as a professional wrestler instead of working on your next book, embrace your situation. Your job isn’t a backup, it’s a lifestyle choice.
Spring break has come and gone at my house. My writing routine was interrupted by family and travel. I felt frustrated and, at the same time, relieved. I had reached a point where I was struggling through the first draft of my new novel. I didn’t feel inspired. At the same time, I was waiting for comments to come back on Goddess, Book 2. I tried to enjoy my break from writing, but I was afraid that if I didn’t keep working, my creativity would drift away like the ebbing tide.
Now, vacation is over and I’m mostly back to my regular schedule. Yes, it was difficult getting started again. But vacation gave me time to think and feel instead of write. I came up with some new scenes and mulled them over in my mind during break. When I went back to work, I began to write them down. It started out painfully, like getting back to running after a patch of sedentariness. But then my creative muscles began to stretch. I got excited again about the pages I was writing. It felt good to be back in the flow. I learned that ebb and flow are a good thing for a writer.
I need to remember that.
I haven’t shared much recently because I’ve been so busy with my writing (as well as the rest of my life). While waiting to get comments back from my beta readers on Goddess, Book 2, I’ve been hard at work outlining a new novel. Don’t you love that feeling of possibility when you’re starting a new work? I know I’ll eventually run into roadblocks and frustrations. But right now, the world feels ripe with excitement and inspiration, like starting a new relationship.
I’ve been using Snowflake Pro to outline the new book. I’ll post a review of the software soon. Meanwhile, back to work!
Happy writing and reading!
I’m sometimes asked where I got the idea for a book. The answer is, my ideas can come from anywhere: an article I read, an overheard conversation, an interesting person I meet on the El. The important thing is that the idea sticks in my gut, not just my head. Ideas that only exist in my head are usually influenced more by marketing than passion.
Some of my best ideas come when I’m about to fall asleep. A story pops into my head and then, every night, my barely awake conscious adds to it. Sometimes the story dies on the vine, sometimes in flourishes. Either way, my muse rocks me to sleep.
After the election in November, I couldn’t sleep. I’d lie awake every night roiling in fear of what the future held. I’ve always enjoyed reading dystopian fiction. Now I was facing dystopian reality. I was exhausted. I had to do something.
I decided to make up a dystopian novel in my head. Thinking about fiction was safer than thinking about reality. I didn’t have any ideas at first, but I trusted my subconscious. It only took a night for a premise, and then a main character to appear. Every night, I developed them. The setting and story grew. I didn’t write my story down. I didn’t want anything concrete to limit my creativity.
It worked. I was able to sleep again. And now, while I’m waiting for my beta readers to ctitique Goddess, Book 2, I’m further developing the story on paper. My plan is to turn it into a YA novel. I know I’ll return to romance (After all, I have Goddess, Book 3 to write.), but I want to run with my muse for awhile and see where she takes me.