Author Reality Checks
Three Author Myths Needing Instant Destruction:
- 1. The idealised Author – the Romantic Version.
We see him hunched over a polished mahogany desk furiously scribbling as classical music gently plays in the background. The master of prose leans into his high-backed leather chair. He ponders for a moment. Struck by a brilliant thought he returns to his page, and effortlessly pours out the literary genius that is completed in two weeks. He scoops up his parchment and trots off to the printers where the hard-bound beauty bounces into his open hands, and goes absolutely viral at every book store. He pockets a pretty penny, has drinks with friends and churns out yet another bestseller.
Modern day authors are busy, social networking,
and it takes a long time to write a book – six months to a few years.
The reality is that authors are juggling writing with day time jobs, family life and professional development. And there is more – the social networking, blogging, keeping up to date with publishing trends, the never-ending editing and rewriting of manuscripts, sending hundreds of query letters to publishers and agents… all this really impinges on time spent at the desk, serenaded by Mozart, whipping up bestsellers.
It can be a frazzling experience for many authors. We just want to write stories. Good ones of course, not airport trash. Instead, many authors produce bottom draw fodder that never reaches the dizzying heights of the vile airport stands. Bottom draw fodder is not equivalent to wretched failure. Consider it practice. Every author has stuff tucked away before they were published.
Hitting the typewriter for hours of uninterrupted creative genius is a fantasy that only a few enjoy. Many authors rush in after work, throw dinner on, yell at the kids, scoff food, help with homework, squeeze in a little social networking and offset sleep to pound the keyboard before bed.
The difficulties of striking a balance between writing demands, family responsibilities, work commitments and then having a life, is difficult. So many authors turn into Sir Tweet-A-lot on one long blogothon, pandering to literary agents and mass-marketing to the world. Who then lose the will, lack the energy and run out of time to write an actual novel. Be ruthless in your social media, smart in your marketing and give yourself time to write your story.
- 2. Inspiration, Creativity and The Muse.
These three make the whole process fun and easy, but they are so unreliable. Real authors don’t rely on them and their collective arbitrary work ethic. Being a successful author necessitates whipping these three into line and not being beholden to their whims and fancies. I often hear authors lamenting unfinished manuscripts because their Muse was on holiday, or conversely, rapturous exclamations of, “I was so inspired writing this chapter. It was a spiritual experience. The Muse guided my every word.”
The myth that authors can only create when inspiration strikes, creativity hits and when the Muse arrives needs to be shattered.
Why You Need To Murder Your Muse
Here are many reasons to kill your Muse:
- She cares about what others think and she’ll fill your head with excuses not to write.
- She is fearful. She has good intentions but she is afraid of what you’ll produce and the success.
- She’s distracted. You need to actively focus on your writing. Your Muse can jolly well flit around the place but you need sit in that chair and pound the keyboard.
- She is a perfectionist. She doesn’t understand that there will be days when ‘it is not happening’, what you produce is mediocre, and writing is a frustrating experience. Also she doesn’t like editing and revising. She knows that editing is a necessary process, which improves writing but she lacks patience and finds it boring. Your Muse is unable to push through the tough times, instead this whimsical and erratic creature likes to do things when she feels like it.
- She lacks understanding about the realities of writing. Marathon runners pace themselves and understand that there is a long haul ahead. They experience the wall of pain about three-quarters through the ‘race’. Unable to breathe, lungs burning, muscles fatigued and every body part protesting in pain… does the wall of pain prevent? No. Marathon runners don’t have a Sports Muse whispering encouragement into their ears to inspire them. The Marathon runner motivates himself. He actively pushes through the tough times to triumphantly complete the race. When writing times get tough, the Muse deserts you and flops into a bed of marigolds.
If you kill off your Muse, who will replace her?
Your talent and hard work.
There will be days when being an author has to be forced.
It can be unpleasant and monotonous – especially the editing stages.
Being an author is not a spiritual experience.
Some days inspiration needs to be forced, creativity needs to be created and the Muse needs a slap in the head if she is not doing her job.
So writing is still work. We all experience highs and lows. Every job has good days and bad days.
- 3. Success is around the corner and instant fame awaits you.
It takes years to learn the craft of writing. Then a few more years of writing a couple of manuscripts to inhabit the bottom draw before writing the acceptable one fit for publishing. Building an authorial empire is a slow process, one literary brick by literary brick. Read any author’s biography – writers spend years learning the ropes and perfecting their personal art form before they became successful.
Being an author involves hard work & it can be a long process.
Hitting the big time and scoring instant fame sounds like fun. It’s rare and highly unlikely. The reality of writing involves refining the work and slowly building a readership.
Extinguish the dream of instant success and the delusion of fame early. When months turn into years and the rejections come out swinging – with the absence of recognition, the lack of instant success won’t depress you.
It’s all part of the job for any hard working author.
If you are not suitably depressed from the reality checks
and ringing the local cinema about that popcorn job,
we’ll get started on more Author Basics next week.