Monday, November 29, 2010

In the Time it Takes

I've often referred to myself as an accidental tourist to this planet. I've stumbled upon careers, backed into higher education, tripped over motherhood, and fell down the rabbit hole of happily married.

And I've lost some things along the way, too. Some of those things I grievously wish I could have back. With others it took years to notice they were gone, and that I had been lugging ghosts around for most of the time, thinking they were real.

That brings us to writing. To me being a writer and doing writerly things such as writing, being published, flying to places where other writers gather and talking about writing. My stark confession is that all of it was as accidental as the rest of my life.

Let's be clear - by accidental I do not mean effortless. I didn't breeze in the doors of publication dreamland. I've worked hard to get where I am (wherever that may be), and to be as good a writer as I am at the moment (to whatever degree that may be). I can't think of a job I have held where I've worked as hard as I do being a writer.

But still, I never intended to be an author. I've always written - a hobby I acquired in my early teens. But being a writer? Isn't the job title preceded with the word "starving"? Happily, I was published quickly (relatively speaking), and found I was well received in certain writing circles. But those successes have led to challenges. Changes. More hard work.

I found that success in publication can often throw an author onto a treadmill of producing a book a year. This is a comfortable pace for some writers, even a bit slow for others who are able to toss off a couple of books a year. I'm not one of these writers. I'm not entirely sure why, though as I've examined the possibilities over the years, I keep coming to the conclusion that I may be in the back of the class when it comes to zippy-fast writing. I've found, no matter how hard I try to let the words fly, I cannot. My words don't fly. They drip. They dribble. They wane, surge, retreat.

Can I write a book a year? Should I try? Why wouldn't I?
It's a challenge I've been pondering.
A friend of mine has asked me to consider signing up for the challenge - 10 years, 10 novels.
I'm weighing it against the reality of who I am, how I write, and my need to write dense novels.
Another friend of mine, upon reading a short excerpt from my work-in-progress asked, "How do you pack so much into few words?"
And my answer is, "Slowly."
I can't compromise quality for speed. I mean, I CAN, I'm capable (I think?), but I can't do it.
I haven't stepped off the treadmill entirely - there have been many changes in the past year that I hope to be able to share with you soon. When the time is right.
The New Year is coming, and I'm thinking about what in my life I should resolve. And one of those things is my resolve to commit to the art of fiction writing.
Art for art's sake.
And all the rest?
That takes faith.

I bid you good writing.


Jan Cline said...

For me, writing a book a year would depend on what other things I am willing to give up to make that happen. Sometimes life happens and the book doesnt! Lots to think about - good post.

Steve G said...

It is amazing that one can be an accidental tourist for years! I think it is cool that one can be going along one's way in life and get totally sidetracked. I do it in much shorter time frames but... squirrel!

I love this post. I think it also indicates you are moving from the accidental tourist into the "I love this place so I think I will move here and settle down".

Nikole Hahn said...

I'd say write one every two years. This way your words can dribble and drip and the stress doesn't coexist with your dribble and dripping.