Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The fantasies of lazy souls

OK, authors – show of hands: how many of you have fantasized about your “I have arrived” moment?

Maybe it’s the day you finish your first manuscript. Maybe it’s the day you get an agent. Maybe it’s the day you land a book deal. Maybe it’s the day you hit the New York Times bestseller list and win a Pulitzer Prize in literature but miss the ceremony because you’re busy rescuing an endangered Markhor from a bear trap.

Over the years, I’ve had fantasies about all of those things. In my mind, these were events heralded in by a band of angels singing from on high while copious amounts of money and good wine flowed my way.

But even more important than the money or wine or even the angels would be this: I wouldn’t have to work so hard.

Because let’s face it, I’m lazy. This isn’t a trait I highlight in job interviews, but it’s true. Pythagoras laughs when I say this and insists I’m the least lazy person he knows – that I’m actually just disturbingly efficient. I refuse to wear shoes that don’t slip on because tying is too much work. Call that what you want, but it seems lazy to me.

So in my ideal fantasy world, my “I have arrived” writing moment would also be the day I could kick back and do nothing to further my writing career besides...well, write.

But after eight years of work and finally reaching many of those milestones I mentioned above (minus the Markhor, damn his endangered hide) I know my odds of achieving this fantasy are fairly similar to the odds of George Clooney appearing naked on my doorstep with a tub of butter and a set of jumper cables.

The unfortunate fact of publishing is that authors really don’t get to spend that much time writing. We devote countless hours to studying our genre, researching the subject of our books, querying agents, blogging and tweeting to establish an online presence, working on pitches for editors, seeking blurbs from other authors, and marketing the hell out of our upcoming releases.

Somewhere in the middle of all that, you have to find time to write. And as much as you might wish for it, most of those tasks I just listed don’t go away when you reach your “I have arrived” moment.

I thought of this yesterday when I was chatting with my agent, Michelle Wolfson, about how many books I might hope to sell when my first novel is released in August 2011. She reminded me that much of it depends on me, and how aggressively I market myself and my books. She encouraged me to write down ideas for contests and cross-promotions, book reviewers and virtual book tours. By the end of our email exchange, I was thinking, “holy crap, this is going to be a lot of work.”

And you notice how very little of it involves actual writing?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to be presented with this challenge. But if you’re one of those authors hoping your “I have arrived” moment will include a trusty assistant hand-feeding you bon-bons while you leisurely type up your next bestseller, you might want to consider a more realistic fantasy. Maybe one that involves George Clooney actually riding an endangered Markhor. Naked, of course.

This business isn’t for the faint of heart, nor is it for the lazy. There will never be a point in your writing career where you won’t have to work hard. Never. It may be exhilarating and rewarding and even fun, but it will never, ever be easy.

Now go grab your own bon-bons and get to work.


Patrick Alan said...

I have arrived. That's what I say whenever I enter a room. Even if it is empty. That way I know I have arrived, even if I am only passing through.

Pull my finger.

Linda G. said...

Coincidentally, my writing fantasy involves George Clooney. (Okay, sometimes it's Hugh Jackman. I'm not that picky.) Only in my version, he shows up naked on my doorstep and offers to massage my feet and feed me bonbons while I finish up a difficult scene.

Really, is that so much to ask?

kristina said...

Well, this is a bummer to hear - because I really am lazy when it comes to self-promotion. Sounds like perhaps I should just forgo the book and just have the fantasy and bon-bons. Grr.

Who know writing even some of that hooey-ness that's out there was so dang hard.

But hey, you'll have lots of butter and jumper cables and GC to distract you, so you might not mind too much about the whole "hard work" part. :)

ps. That will only happen if GC isn't too tired. I'll send him over after I'm done with him.

Rhonda said...

Writing is a hard business to be in, no doubt at all. You work hard to produce a product that may be perfect but few will bother to read. You will work hard to promote the product while secretly wondering if it's just so much crap and, if you're lucky, people will read it and like it and want more. Which means that you have to go back to step one and do it all over again.

Sheesh...why do we do this again? Oh, yeah...we're just crazy enough to LIKE it!!

Candyland said...

I prefer my bon bons be made my the hands of my assistant. They must be mixed just right and I'll be far too important and successful to worry about things like chocolate filling consistency.

Oh wait. I told it wrong.

What I meant was, I'm the assistant who makes Nutella sandwiches for my daughter who is far too important and successful (for a 3yo) to worry about things like chocolate filling consistency.

I do it for the same reasons I write: I like to torture myself.


Patrick, Oh I'm totally going to start saying that every time I enter a room. I love it. May I steal your line?

Linda G, I think your expectation is perfectly reasonable. Maybe Hugh could take one foot and George the other?

Kristina, hope that post wasn't too discouraging. It really is ENJOYABLE hard work. Much better than shoveling cow dung (though there are occasional similarities).

Rhonda, you hit the nail on the head -- authors do it because we love it. We sure as hell aren't doing it for fame or money! :)

Candyland, somewhere between your bon-bon fantasy and those Nutella sandwiches lies the perfect scenario, I'm sure!


alittlesincerity said...

I'm always fantasizing about those arriving days, then end up thinking about how much self-promotion I'm attempting to do now even before a book release. Woo! No rest for the creative.

Jade Winters said...

Hey! Back up off of MY George!!!!

Jeffe Kennedy said...

*blink blink*

oh, did you write something after "George Clooney" and "tub of butter?"

I suspect the "I have arrived moment" is far closer to the "holy shit -- they're paying me to do this!" moment.

Melanie Sherman said...

I think my new fantasy will be that George Clooney arrives to promote my book for me. Naked, of course.

Patrick Alan said...

I have arrived! Here at your blog.

Of course you can use it. I hear there's a 1 year old who has thier own variation of it.


Anonymous said...

Oh. It's a good thing I don't have an 'I have arrived' moment then. I want my MS to get published so it can kickstart my career as an author!

I revel in the sales and marketing aspect of book publishing. Which probably has to do with my copywriting job and working history in the PR department.

If my MS does get published I would relish all the promotional work involved with getting my book to sell! And the time I'd get to spend writing new novels would be a fun distraction from the marketing aspect of making sure people buy my books because they like what they read :)


alittlesincerity, I know, remember the days when we thought becoming a published author was all about writing books? I miss those days.

Jade, George says he's not scheduled to visit you until next week. He tells me he's looking forward to it, though he's enjoying his time with me immensely.

Jeffe, I have those "holy shit -- they're paying me to do this!" moments all the time. Sadly, I don't have the George Clooney/butter moments very often.

Patrick, I definitely need to start combining the TADA with the "I have arrived" upon entering a room!

Xuxana, the sales and marketing stuff can definitely be fun, though I sometimes wonder if I'll feel resentful someday when I have a deadline looming but can't find time to write because I'm too busy with the networking stuff? Dunno, I'm nowhere near that yet, so I'm just enjoying everthing as it comes!

Thanks for reading, guys!


susan said...

I have to hit myself to snap out of ridiculous fantasies. I am a lazy person - you are one of the least lazy people I know - such a go- getter. So to be a writer, you actually have to write? I've wondered why I wasn't successful. You've cleared up a lot for me.