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Writing Anyway

Stephanie Burgis asks (by way of this interview with Sarah Prineas):

"The interviewer asked whether Sarah would keep writing if she knew she would never again be published ...

What do you guys think? If you're writers, how would you answer that question? And if your vocation lies elsewhere, would you give it up if you knew you'd never get a paying job in the field again? I'm really interested to see what you guys think.


I've always maintained I would write anyway.

But differently. Oh, yes, differently! Here's how:

1) I'd never worry about finishing things, unless the end was the thing that inspired me to write (usually it's not, but sometimes it is). So, I'd write the first 20k of dozens of different novels, and write half-born short stories... And I would like it.

2) I'd never rewrite anything. (Almost never. If I did, it would be for items we find in number 3.)

3) I'd probably write more fanfic--but not a whole lot more. (Currently I average 2-3 pieces a year. I'd probably get up to 5-6. Maaaybe 7-10. Depends if I ever found a fandom I felt I could keep up with and enjoy.)

4) I would probably write a lot more id-originated pieces. (Though trust me when I say I already write from my id quite a bit. But I'd write more girl-with-pet-dragon-saves-the-world type things. Oh, yes, I would. Though now that I've said that... I might just write that anyway. Uhm. What was my point? Oh, right. I would probably worry less about clothing for my id. Yeah. There'd be more naked id running around. I try for id-modesty, as a professional.)

So, there you have it: the brutal confession.

All told, I'd prefer to have to clothe my id, rewrite my work, keep my work out of the realm of fanfic, and finish things rather than not get published--the morale boost of being paid for one's work is (for me) much higher than even the validation of a well-received piece of fanfic. (That said, I've never written fic that was tremendously popular, so maybe I'm wrong on that.)

The strictures--having to finish my work, having to rewrite to editorial order--that I would throw off were I never to publish again are not onerous burdens, but they are difficult, and while I don't avoid difficulty as a matter of course, I believe the perceived joy/work ratio is much smaller in rewriting than it is, say, in fooling around with the Orton effect in Photoshop when taking a portrait of my stepdaughter.

What do y'all think?

Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
domynoe
Sep. 18th, 2010 02:01 am (UTC)
I would and, in a way, already am. I'm working on the second book of a trilogy where the first book hasn't sold yet. If these books never get published, I still want to write them: the stories are there in my head, and published or not, there are friends who want to read them. Plus, my world for them is very close to my heart. Gotta write it.
(Deleted comment)
dendrophilous
Sep. 18th, 2010 02:28 am (UTC)
Dropping the "again", yes, I'd keep writing. I started writing because it was fun, not because I wanted to get published. If writing stopped being fun, I would stop doing it, but otherwise I plan to keep doing it forever.

I'm with you on 2) and 4) though, for the most part. Even when I was just daydreaming, before it occurred to me to write things down, I wouldn't let myself leave my id running around naked too much. And if I wanted to share stuff, even just with friends, I'd have to do a bit of rewriting.
asakiyume
Sep. 18th, 2010 02:53 am (UTC)
Oh yes. For me the question would be more, if I ever start to become commercially successful, will I change how I approach writing. And I don't know the answer to that; I'll have to wait and see--if it ever comes up.

queenoftheskies
Sep. 18th, 2010 03:11 am (UTC)
I could never stop writing. I've been writing forever, without any guarantee of publication, and I will always continue to write.
merriehaskell
Sep. 18th, 2010 03:23 am (UTC)
I perceive a rather large difference between "no guarantee of publication" and "no possible hope of publication"--for example, I started my current habits (finishing things, rewriting things, writing ultimately publishable things (i.e., not fanfiction)) with an eye towards the possibility of publication. Does that change anything?
queenoftheskies
Sep. 18th, 2010 03:32 am (UTC)
No.

When I was younger, all I ever wanted to do was write for publication. I was convinced by parents and later by husband that I'd never be good enough, that it was an impossible dream, etc.

I continued to write, though more fanfic, granted.

Six years ago, I determined that I was really going to give it my best shot. I want to be published. I went in knowing it would be a lot of work and I determined I'd do whatever I needed to: learn, work, grow.

I've had my ups and my downs. I still believe I can do it. I still want to be published. I will continue to try to be published.

However, if it doesn't happen, if I find out for sure it'll never happen, I'll still write because I love it that much.
behindpyramids
Sep. 18th, 2010 04:14 am (UTC)
Oh I'd write.
But I wouldn't write short stories and I probably wouldn't write as often.
mrissa
Sep. 18th, 2010 04:44 am (UTC)
When I was graduating college and getting married, my cousin had her attention brought to my writing by the Asimov Award (now called the Dell Magazines Award; whatever). And she was fascinated by it, because she had not paid particular attention to the fact that I wrote before, even though I did it all the time. So one evening she got me alone in the car and needed to know: if this award was my one flirtation with writing success, wouldn't I still be able to be happy?

And I thought about it, and I told her happy, yes, but not content. No. I would still keep trying to publish, to find an audience, a market, a niche.

But if markgritter and I had a nice house, she persisted--and kids in the number we might select, from zero to however many--and perhaps a dog--and if I liked, some job in physics or whatever it was--and we went on nice vacations--and my friends were really lovely people--and we got to see the bits of the family I like often--wouldn't I be content then?

And I thought about it again and said no.

And she asked the same question two or three more ways. And it gradually became clear that what she was asking was, "Show me how this writing thing doesn't make you different from me and from how I thought we both were." And what I had to keep saying was, "No."
merriehaskell
Sep. 18th, 2010 03:30 pm (UTC)
Yes. For me, writing is a given. And I've been doing it pretty hard-core since before puberty, and yeah, so, my brain processes things this way.

It's not even about happy/not happy. It's what I do. The only thing that has to do with the publication puzzle is how I view the completion of a piece.
kvtaylor
Sep. 18th, 2010 03:27 pm (UTC)
the morale boost of being paid for one's work is (for me) much higher than even the validation of a well-received piece of fanfic.

That's a good observation, and really got me thinking about the question from a different angle.

I guess I'll be better prepared to decide which is more validating once I have a proper novel out next year. But you got the blood circulating to my brain anyhow! (No small feat on a Saturday morning.)

I'm sure I would write very differently than I do now though, as you say!
kvtaylor
Sep. 18th, 2010 03:58 pm (UTC)
Yeah, had to do an entry about it and ask my writer pals. Hope you don't mind, linked you and Stephanie Burgis, etc.
ex_camillea
Sep. 18th, 2010 08:06 pm (UTC)
I think this:
) I'd never worry about finishing things, unless the end was the thing that inspired me to write (usually it's not, but sometimes it is). So, I'd write the first 20k of dozens of different novels, and write half-born short stories... And I would like it...

... is definitely the way to go.

_earthshine_
Sep. 19th, 2010 12:34 am (UTC)
The interviewer asked whether Sarah would keep writing if she knew she would never again be published ...

... meaning, like, if she were an independent musician?

;) ;)

Your list is really interesting to me, because i'm actually building a similar one in my head. With the curves i've been thrown after the album release, i've spent a lot of time thinking more about how i plan to do music from here on in.

Things on my list include stuff like:

1) solo-friendly organic work

2) a revisit to electronic and art-music that i can bring to fruition without an ensemble

3) two words: LO FI

4) never pressing physical medium again? quite likely, indeed!

5) perhaps analogous to your #4 and partially redundant to my #2: prepare for the weird stuff

Those are my thoughts at the moment, but we'll see how it all pans out. I so don't totally pretend to be in charge anymore. :)
stakebait
Sep. 20th, 2010 01:21 am (UTC)
I pretty much already write like I'm never going to get published again. That's my problem.

But yeah, of course I'd keep writing as long as I could self-blarf myself onto consenting adults on the internet. Whether I'd keep writing if no one ever was going to read it but me, that's another question. Quite possibly not -- without at least one reader, the cycle does not feel complete.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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