Friday, September 20, 2013

Novelists: Fools for Hire

True confession: It's been awhile since I've done any fiction writing  (besides revision). And once my foot heals, I'll be applying for a must-brush-your-teeth before-noon job. That does not mean I will stop writing.

It's tempting.

Maybe I could evict those voices in my head, as Latayne wrote about on Wednesday, or I could apply my hard-won discipline to something that doesn't include rejection letters or heartless (but honest) reviews.

But I know myself better than that. I won't give up writing when I get a job. I'm a storyteller down to my genes. The form is still up for grabs (I'm taking a flash fiction class at the Breathe Writers Conference), but the stories are not.

And all six of the stories on my to-be-written list are a bit silly, close to the edge, very different from what I've written so far. This makes my heart beat faster and my pits sticky.

Ms. Rice is more than correct when she says we must risk making fools of ourselves to write. Whoever thought a story about a wannabe wizard would capture our imaginations, or a story narrated by Death, or any story that begins in the imagination of the writer.

Do you agree with Ms. Rice? Must we risk making fools of ourselves to write a story? What does this mean to you?


Susie Finkbeiner said...

I think that vulnerability comes at the risk of seeming a fool. And that's what we're all about as (honest) fiction writers. Vulnerability. I think some fiction is less vulnerable...and safe. I can't bring myself to write it. So, a sometimes fool I am.

Please, Patti. Pretty please with lots of sugar and cherries and ice cream...don't stop writing. That would be super sad for a lot of readers who love you.

Cherry Odelberg said...

Yes, we risk making fools of ourselves. For those of us lesser known, whose writing no one else may ever read, we risk making fools of ourselves only to ourselves, Kicking ourselves, saying, "Why did I think these silly things from my imagination or my experience were worth wasting time on?"
But, it was not time wasted. I got to know myself better; executed huge steps forward on my personal spiritual journey.

Patti, must you? Must you truly get an outside job? Can you not support yourself modestly (like Goins) on your writing? "Goodness and Mercy" was your best writing yet. You are just now hitting your stride.

That said, I heartily understand the emotional benefit of bills paid on time - also, the throwing of oneself into "whatever your hand finds to do," that diverts time and energy away from writing.

Patti Hill said...

Susie: Writing fiction is one of the bravest things you can do. You must have a spine of iron, that's for sure. My hope is that working outside the home will enhance my fiction, broaden my view, and test my resolve. There is a great book, The War of Art. I read it like a devotional.

Cherry: I've considered doing editing, but I want to get out of the house, too. This extrovert needs regenerating.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

Whose definition of fool are we using? "The fool and his money are soon parted"? "The fool says in his heart there is no God"? Or, "the world doesn't do this"? Or "the world doesn't know this about me"?
The world most certainly thinks that artists are not worth their hire. Art is not valued as it was in other cultures before ours and therefore art is a foolish pursuit where money is involved. Oh well, as you said, it's in the genes. We write because we must and share in whatever way we can. I agree with Cherry about Goodness and Mercy!

Megan Sayer said...

Patti for me getting work outside was the best thing I could have done, because it freed me up to relax about my writing career and not stress about the bills. I went through the feelings of failure, of berating myself for not trying harder, for not working smarter, all of that, but the truth is as soon as I started getting income again I relaxed more and found I could write with more freedom, and my writing was better because of it.
But I feel your pain, and I wish you all the very best with it.

Patti Hill said...

Henrietta: Your questions are insightful. I believe Ms. Rice is referring to the perception that non-artistic types have toward artists, a "persecution" from which we must actually gain strength and determination. But all of your observations are definitely valid. We all have our tipping point that may drive us away from artistic pursuits. My schedule is just changing...and there's so much material out there that I'm missing.

Megan: What a great perspective! Thanks, I'm very encouraged.

Bonnie Grove said...

I'm discovering new ways to make a fool of myself. It's liberating in a sticky pits sort of way.

Putting yourself out there isn't as glamourous as it sounds. Let me rephrase. It's not glamourous at all.

Crispin said...

Actually I think Anne Rice only goes half the distance. Firstly you have to be prepared to make a fool of yourself. Then you have to stop caring what people think of you altogether - if you don't all, the rejections, unhelpful feedback and bad reviews pile up until they become an insurmountable obstacle. I think this may be one of the reasons why novelists improve with age - the ones that last develop a skin thick enough to let them get out there, write and publish the material they believe in rather than what is expected of them.