Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Passion or Paycheck?

I was having a conversation yesterday with a fellow writer. She asked how the writing was going. And I indicated that things were rough. There is a certain amount of pressure to meet some deadlines if A) the books are to be considered and B) the books are contracted for publishing for certain projects.

Then my friend asked if I was writing because I had a passion to write? Or was I writing to fill a personal quota? And that stopped me in my tracks. At what point had my passionate enjoyment of writing turned to a drudgery filled job just to make a deadline? This required some self examination. Why was I working on a project that didn't have my whole-hearted support?

There are perfectly good reasons for deadlines. After all, the publishing business runs on well defined schedules. There are release dates that require a whole series of little mini-schedules. Within that framework, I can work pretty well. At that point, my book has been written. The creative spark is not at work because technical expertise is at work once the book has been contracted.

But before then... Before the book has been submitted that creative work (for me) cannot be harnessed by something as mundane as a schedule. Forcing the story willy-nilly just doesn't work. Oh, I can sit and type until my fingers are numb, but the end result--while technically perfect--will not have any soul or heart. There is no passion, no humor, no adventure, no satisfying ending.

So when my friend asks if I am writing from passion or just to have another book under my belt, she demonstrates a knowledge about my writing that compels me to stop and consider what the answer is for myself. I have a book scheduled for release in July. And oddly enough for me, there are no others. I have one contracted with no release date. And I have a possibility for one for the winter holidays.

Perhaps--perhaps the problem is that I had unrealistic expectations, expectations for myself that I cannot possibly meet. But looking at it from the outside, I must admit that the writing I do because I feel like I must have another book (silly idea now that I really look at it)--that writing is flat, lifeless, and meaningless.

Over the years I have often encountered a book by one of my favorite authors that was just that way. I suspect that that writer, too, faced the same dilemma. Write for the sake of writing? And forever have your name on a book that you wrote not because your heart was in it, but because you wanted another book with your name on it. So I think not.

I once asked my editor what project she recommended that I work on next. I actually sent her quite an ambitious list. And she sent me back a brief e-mail. "Write what you burn to write." I had forgotten that sage piece of advice. It seems for me at least, passion must triumph over the possibility of just another book for sale.



  1. Wise words as always Anny. We have to stop every so often and ask ourselves 'what the bloody hell am I doing?' You strike me as a true writer at heart. I have no doubt whatever you write will be fabulous but slow down and give yourself a break. It's not a contest

  2. Great advice from you, Amarinda and Anny, you are EXACTLY RIGHT. Sigh...I'm struggling with the same thing. Keep thinking the MORE I have out there, the better and I'm putting all this pressure on myself to run up the numbers. It's exhausting me. It really IS!

  3. Helen said that? I forget how wise she is sometimes. I should know better by now.

    Hope your fire is burning sweetie.

  4. Thank you! Given the conversation I had yesterday, defending my writing efforts, I now have more ammo the next time it comes up:)

  5. I wrote for a deadline once. Very fortunately for me it was a story already fully formed in my mind. Even so, I'm never doing that again. It took the joy out of it for me and if I don't have that there's no point in writing.

  6. Very insightful, Anny. Enjoy your passion.

  7. I've only written two stories with an externally imposed deadline. Both times I was writing up to the wire. But if I'm just letting it go it will take it's own pace and I don't feel stressed. Sometimes that means a year or more to finish a story, sometimes it's done in two or three weeks. It's all about letting the character talk. That's when it's fun.