Jan. 28th, 2009

ljdaly: (Default)
Magazines are closing. Despair abounds -- and reasonably so.

On the other hand, a couple of weeks ago I was chatting with an agent. (Stonecoast brings an agent in to talk to the graduating students. I'm not graduating until July, but I found myself sitting with her at lunch one day with a couple of other students, and we had a nice conversation.) One of the things we talked about was the shrinking market. So I asked her, point blank, "Can somebody still make a living at this? Is it still possible at all, assuming one's writing good books?" And I tell you, her eyes lit up. She said, "Absolutely." It wasn't the answer so much as her clear enthusiasm--and not forced enthusiasm, or enthusiasm tinged with regret or hesitation. She loves her job. She believes in it.

Sure, the whole thing is a pipedream. You have to write good books that are the right books at the right time. You have to write enough of them that you develop some momentum. Those are all factors. Are we worse off than people dreaming this dream a hundred years ago? Sure -- but the measurement is "snowball's chance" versus "even smaller snowball's chance." And what's the point in dreaming that you're going to write not-good books, or the wrong books at the wrong time?

I think I'll continue to dream big. Frankly, it doesn't affect the day-to-day one whit. I'll stlil get up at 3 or 4 and work very hard every day at trying to get better. Right now, I'm doing that with short fiction. Whether it sells or not, at some point in the future, I'll make the decision that I have more to learn by switching back to novels. Whether those sell or not, I'll continue to get up early and examine what I'd like to do better and figure out methods that will help me get there, and I'll work at them. Because the goal is to write better (more entertaining/more interesting/more thought-provoking/more resonant) stories.

The work has nothing to do with the dreaming. The dreaming is just a little sugar, just an idea that makes 3 AM a little more bearable. But even without the dreaming, I'd be doing the work, because the work is the thing. It's valuable and self-contained and has nothing to do with the outcome. It's taken me a long time to get here.

So I'll dream a little, even when magazines are closing left and right. But usually, I'll do the dreaming later in the day, after my fingers are finished with the keys.

June 2009

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