The Risk of Success
I’ve been very navel-gazey lately; I apologize. It just so happens that, unlike my usual life, I’ve been experiencing a lot of things pertinent to the theme of this blog, which is my writing career and the speculative fiction world at large. Here is the latest:
I have, for the second time, been nominated a finalist in the Writers of the Future Contest.
This comes on the heels of a bunch of other bits of good writing news – I’ve got a couple stories out, more coming, the Really Big Deal I Can’t Discuss Yet, and so on. I don’t have any reason to expect to win the contest this time around, but then again, part of me feels like I just might. Things just keep turning up roses for me lately, so why shouldn’t the trend continue? I mean, besides the complete lack of compelling evidence that any such thing as a ‘trend’ exists when we are discussing mostly isolated incidents that are as much decided by idiosyncratic taste and luck as my actual skill. Right.
Anyway, for the first time in my writing career, I’ve permitted myself to actually ponder the implications of actually becoming what I’ve always intended to become – a professional author. Yeah, sure, I’ve spent long hours daydreaming about movies being made out of my books or what it would be like to have hundreds (or even thousands) of fans clamoring to read my next book, but that stuff is just idle fantasy. I am now thinking about the realistic kind of success – the kind that actually happens to a fair number of people, not the miracles that are JK Rowling or Stephen King (note: no disrespect to them intended, but I’m sure they’d be the first to admit that the dump-trucks full of money their books made was as much due to serendipity as talent).
A couple things I am learning to accept:
#1: I am (Probably) Never Going to Be Able to Quit My Day Job
Writing and writers – even reasonably successful ones – do not make tons of money. I mean they can make reasonable money, sure, but not “I wrote a book and now I can retire” money. I’ve got two kids, a mortgage, a car payment and the rest of it; unless I can guarantee myself an annual salary from writing equal to or greater than what I make as a college professor, I’m going to be grading papers for a looong time. Now, granted, this is within the realm of possibility (it isn’t as though they’re paying me an absurd quantity to teach in the first place), but teaching, unlike writing, is a stable and long-term career. My writing is going to have to learn to coexist with it unless it really starts showering me with funds.
#2: There Will Be Setbacks as Well as Victories
You don’t just get yourself one book deal and then relax on easy street for the rest of your career. There are going to be significant challenges along the way. Turns in the road, bridges burned, betrayal, and mayhem (well, hopefully not those last two). You’re going to have to learn how to deal with it. This isn’t a race with a finish line – it’s a race to get into another race. You better like running.
#3: Don’t Be Afraid of Success
So, say you sell a novel (or several). You are then faced with an actual deadline by which you need to finish the book. Me, I like deadlines – allows me to manage my time better. Still, the prospect of having a drop-dead date for a book is a little intimidating. Without a book deal (or even real interest), your novel can be fiddled with, edited, and reworked as long as you want. Spend fifteen years on the thing if you want – who’s to care? To have that writing model (just me and my computer) removed from the equation is equal parts terrifying and exhilarating. Despite your trepidations, you’ve got to jump in, anyway. Regret what you have done and not what you haven’t and all that jazz.
Anyway, I hope more good news will be coming the way of this blog soon. In the meantime, I’ll keep writing commentary on whatever in the spec-fic world catches my fancy as well as keep posting information about my fantasy world, Alandar. That last part, of course, is just for funsies. Honest. There’s no other reason to do that…