Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Raison d'Etre

Today I've been thinking about what motivates people to write.  To take up their pens, sit at their computers, gather their thoughts and transform them into words on a page.   Thousands of years ago when whomever (whoever?) came up with cuneiform writing, did they do so out of necessity or the great strain of all that oral history and tradition weighing them down?

Another blog that I frequent posed the question about whether or not writers would keep writing if someone told them basically that they had no chance of ever being published.  It seemed the overwhelming response was that those who write, do so out of a desire to get their version or point of view or creative force out of their heads and someplace else, whatever that canvas might look like.  

I'm revising a particularly problematic chapter and received some excellent help with that last night.  But it occurred to me that critiques are not necessarily for the faint-hearted, which I am not--faint-hearted that is.  So, while I try always to see criticism as constructive, even if someone says something that's not particularly helpful, I wonder if others feel the same.  

I should also post the caveat that I have to shop for new pants and I'd rather stick needles in my eyes than shop, so that might explain the bleak mood today.  I promise to be suitably silly and less pensive at a near date in the future.


Jessa Slade said...

PK, having just sold my first urban fantasy romance (you posted a note on swivet that you thought my story sounded like a page-turner -- woo-hoo!) after ((number redacted)) years and almost a million final draft words, I can tell you bleak & pensive are my bestest friends.

If somebody told me I'd never be published, would I have kept writing? Let me be honest... Hell, no! Do I look like an idiot who adores being chained to an uncomfortable chair in front of the radiation-spewing eye of doom (aka my computer monitor)? Like any real writer, though, I never believed anything anybody told me about how poor my chances were.

Because for all the dangerous voices telling you 'no' -- the well-meaning critique partner, the relative who asks when you'll get a salaried job, the editor who rejected your query or even the editor in your head -- I think there is one last voice that cannot be silenced. It is the Voice of Arrogance, and it whispers, unstoppably, I WILL BE THE ONE.

Sure, I try not to let the Voice of Arrogance out at parties (she'll bust in not wearing any pants at all and act like everybody else is behind the trend) but she's my flaming sword when the doubts come creepin' around.

So take what you can from advice and workshops and whatever else, and all the time keep inside you YOU WILL BE THE ONE.

Pamala Knight said...

Hi Jessa! First, CONGRATULATIONS GIRL, on your sale. I will be anxiously awaiting the book drop for that awesome story of yours. Second, THANKS for the pep talk and virtual hug--I needed it and it helped me to deal with the pants shopping much better, lol.

I agree, that we all need that inner voice and I'll try to bear your words in mind, the next time I am besieged with the dangerous outer voices, particularly at editing time.

I'm glad you stopped by.

Marilyn Brant said...

I loved this post, Pamala...and I think Jessa is onto something, too. That bordering-on-arrogant certainty that we'll be the one to beat the odds trumps the not-so-silent fear that pummels us as we work on those little details necessary to turn an average or okay scene into one that sparkles. That internal battle between these two sides (for me, anyway) hasn't gone away, publishing contract or not.

You hear the voices of doubt, sure, but you just commit to keep going anyway...polishing one sentence, one paragraph at a time... Eventually, you'll outlast anyone who tells you "this doesn't work"--because, if you take only the criticism that rings true for you, you'll MAKE it work.

BTW, I thought you did GREAT job last night. Keep at it, please.

P.S. I SO sympathize with the pants shopping!

freakyfrites said...

Hi Pamala,

It's F.F. here from the tennis world. Just wanted to say that I really like your blog - and that surprise, surprise, I'm also editing my (first) novel right now. And boy does it feel like slogging through a river of mud. So I understand your sometimes bleak (in my case, I'd call it HOPELESS) state of mind.

Anyways, I think Jessa stated my opinions better than I could myself (especially the uncomfortable chair and radiation-spewing eye of doom part), which is probably why she's sold a book and I haven't :)

Go Roger!

Pamala Knight said...

Yay, FF in the house!!! That's so cool that you're writing too! Well, we can share our tennis obsessions and efforts to polish manuscripts. Good luck with yours and I'll see you on your excellent blog.