Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tip O'Day #343 - "Road Rules"

Guest blogger Laura Solomon on the writing life.

The writer treads a treacherous road.

The publishing industry is a fickle and capricious beast. Who knows when and why doors will mysteriously open or mysteriously close. The writer does his or her best - writes part-time and works full or part-time. They exhaust themselves for years, getting nowhere, and then suddenly, inexplicably, gets somewhere.

Katoshi, or death from overwork, could be a potential risk. Many writers suffer breakdowns and spend time in mental institutions or hospitals for one reason or another. As Maggie Gee would say, it’s feast or famine.

The dream can become a nightmare – the nightmare, a dream. There are dark sides to the industry, which is, as A.L.Kennedy would say, full of opportunities for the unscrupulous to exploit you. Not many writers that I know would fancy ending up as tabloid fodder, a literary Middleton. Sudden success can bring unexpected side effects. Many a young artist has found too much fame too quickly and wound up a drug and booze addled wreck.

Yes, there are pitfalls galore. The publishing industry is probably after young, beautiful men and women whom it can exploit, but what does the writer want? Writers are shot at, spat at, verbally abused, threatened with rape and death – especially, funnily enough, the female ones.

In reality, as you get older, you realize that, as with any industry, an apprenticeship is served, a ladder is climbed and it is the people above you in the hierarchy who make decisions about when to let you in or shut you out. To be fair to antipodeans, it is more difficult for them to understand the social rules of the British Upper Classes and to fit in within that society than somebody who was born into that class, just as it would be difficult for a British Upper Class person to fit in if placed in a Kiwi Freezing Works – unless of course they could successfully master the Kiwi twang and be willing to don the appropriate overalls.

A young writer plays on the jungle gym, minds the P’s and Q’s and hopes to one day be allowed into the big kids’ playground. Unless, of course, being a guppy, the writer is happy in the fish bowl and don’t want to go into the shark pit for fear of being eaten alive.

Personality, of course, must also be taken into consideration. Person X might love the limelight and relish media attention. Person Y might hate the spotlight and choose to live a quiet small town life, tinkering on their books and making few, if any, public appearances. Who wants what and from whom? Who is a giver, who a taker? At any given moment in time, friends could become enemies, or enemies, friends. Innocence lost turns to bitter cynicism.

A young writer might have a lot of talent, but be lacking in the diplomacy and social skills that come with a bit more life experience. Person A might have been exploited by Publisher A and therefore be reluctant to deal with Publisher B. There are the J.D. Salingers, who have one hit and then become recluses, there are the Atwoods, who don’t seem to mind the limelight, and the in-betweens, who do some but not a lot of publicity.

It’s a difficult but exciting road – full of risks and rewards, highs and lows. A journey that some of us feel compelled to undertake.

Dixon says: Thanks to Laura Solomon for her thought-provoking comments on the writing journey. As part of my journey, I've got a big birthday celebration this week, and my Kindle THE ASSASSINS CLUB will be free this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at http://tinyurl.com/7fav44l - come celebrate with me!

1 comment:

  1. Laura, thanks for a great post. It's all so true! I think the healthiest thing to do as a writer is to determine exactly who you are and how much 'promotion' you can withstand before it starts to erode who you are.