Um . . . You’re the Crazy Ones

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God bless my friends and family who’ve said I should proud of the accomplishment of completing and publishing The Silent PartnerTragically, they have no idea what they’re talking about.

“You should reflect and be proud of yourself.” “It’s such an accomplishment, you should rest awhile.” “You should be so proud of that review!” “Bask in the glory and be proud.” Glory? . . . REST?? . . . Pride? . . . Are you friggin’ kidding me? I’m behind! I’ve got to promote the novel somehow while I conceive my next work! There are more rules to learn, more writers to meet, more stories to tell . . . all while the clock ticks and the publishing world continues to evolve into a new universe while the economy doesn’t get off its ass. It’s madness!

Of course, I’m surrounded by good intentions with spirits around me that are pragmatic, thoughtful, and grounded. In some cases, very loving. However I, like many artists, can be creative, emotionally charged, searching, and inspired. I try to manifest all the aforementioned characteristics, well, most of them . . . and while I don’t know how I’m always doing with this bombardment of conflicts, paradoxes, and mixed emotions, I know when I’m focused on something, it will happen.

I knew once I started the book, I’d finish it. I knew I’d publish it. No matter what. To me, this isn’t amazing at all. I said, “This is what I’m going to do,” and I did it.

You’re already working on your next book? What’s wrong with you?” Some people think that a writer who submerges his or herself into a writing project for YEARS has a serious problem with reality. I think skydiving or racing a car from zero to 60 in 5 seconds is crazy. Coming from a family with 4 siblings, having that many children is crazy.

I’m fortunate to have an amazing array of wonderful people in my life. They’re just the ones who’ve lost their minds. Clearly.

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A Book Trailer’s Greatest Limitation

Book trailers didn’t exist in my world until last October, when my editor had suggested I consider doing one. She knew of my background in filmmaking and–even more relevant–my visual outlook of the world. Colorful, distinguishable characters navigate through the plot-driven narrative of the manuscript through action, and she thought a book trailer could very well illustrate the strengths of the story behind the writing. (While description and internal conflict thrive in detail in The Silent Partner, as one of my sisters said, I don’t “go on for three pages about the color of the grass”.)

A lot is at risk for the new, unproven author. Bookstores are closing, publishers are running shorter production runs, and literary agents are taking on less new clients. Self-publishing is on the rise, for good or bad. Publish on Demand is gaining traction (and is, upon consideration, a business model I wonder wasn’t practiced by publishing houses decades ago). The Internet continues to provide writers many more outlets, which means publishing gatekeepers can’t keep unpublishable voices from screaming from the mountaintops. It’s the ambitious writer who pursues the validation of the literary industry with work that has the capacity to engage the public personally and is marketable. It makes sense that a well-produced book trailer could illustrate possible commercial viability, though it may say more about the filmmaker than the writer. (Many well-produced theatrical movie trailers have promoted disappointing films, am I right?)

Through all of the preparation I’ve been doing for the trailer for The Silent Partner, I’ve still been revising the manuscript itself to its best potential. If there are extensions of a book–such as produced work like a book trailer–they are merely the grand entrance to the party. The conversation–or the voice of the work–has to sustain the energy of such an entrance . . . or the crowd will turn their heads to the next voice they hear, interesting or not.

So “final” revisions of the manuscript continue. I write, therefore I re-write.

 

Staying Motivated

The writer’s world: an often-familiar routine in a controllable environment with simple creature comforts. It’s the place where creativity find its way onto the computer screen. A pleasant frequent aroma allows you to let it all out, and the temperature is cool but not chilly, warm but not tepid. A friendly staff of baristas work there, perhaps. You’re a regular. There’s a table where your stuff stores perfectly. Maybe, you search for a specific chair. If it’s occupied, you keep glancing up at in rising hopes that it will be vacated. After all, that’s your favorite place to write. 

It’s really the small things, isn’t it?

Working on my novel for over 4 1/2 years, I have found multiple ways to stay motivated. As anyone who’s ever attempted writing a novel–let alone completed and published one–knows, there are many tactics we use to keep us on track. As my latest final of all final revisions are being finalized into the next final revision (right!), and the book trailer for The Silent Partner enters its editing phase, I thought of the things I do–and have done–to stay focused. I haven’t let the lovely San Diego lifestyle infect me. I’m no beach monger who has nothing to do but get some rays and accelerate premature melanoma. Rather, I’ve kept forward momentum by spending a lot of time in a coffee shop. (I pay high California taxes to live here WHY?)

Here are ways I recommend to manage staying motivated after you believe you’ve started to write some brilliant prose. (It’s probably not brilliant yet, but if it is, dedication to your craft can hopefully make it that way.)

  1. Find a place you will love to write. You’ll miss the experience of writing. This has worked for me. I’ve missed this when I’ve been on vacation, and I couldn’t wait to get back. Don’t sweat the four bucks for the good coffee if that’s what it takes. The progress is worth it! Or, get a regular coffee, fill it with milk and Splenda, and cut the price in half.
  2. Tell your friends. The good ones will ask about it. And I’ll be damned to be made the fool. Not deliberately or out of laziness, anyway.
  3. Find ways to enjoy the process of getting to the next step. The next chapter. The next revision. The next (or first) step in agent querying. It’s fascinating to watch writers on Twitter motivate each other with a word count. Find success and accomplishment in all steps moving forward.
  4. Meet other writers. In my case, most are better than me at something . . . and I love them for it. Inspires me not to stop.
  5. Don’t stop learning. A little space from your work allows you to breathe new life into yourself, and likely, your writing. If your life becomes enriched, so does your writing.
It’s all about progress. Hopefully this helps you.

Inhale, Exhale

No matter how hard I try, I’m not a machine. Cranking out my desired quality of work at a specific pace is my greatest discipline, and I struggle to balance it with my desire to breathe in and breathe out every day.

Breathing in: Taking the time to take in the world around me. Absorbing the color and drama of the world, in life and art, with conscious energy to avoid the next Charlie Sheen interview.

Breathing out: Projecting thoughts and vision, in any form, with or without distortion of LIFE. Read here: Loved ones and friends, work, errands, exercise, spirituality, unnecessary relationships (so much can be read into that one), breathing in, and the absolute but necessary time waster: sleep.

Balancing it all has required me to maintain a stable, consistent state of mind. A refusal to forfeit my ambition in artistic expression. It’s one thing to have the guts to do it. (There is no shortage of artists, of any kind, who love being in the spotlight receiving glory for their work, who ignore criticism. Really, there are many unsung heroes––in virtually every discipline––who are more dedicated to their craft than their more-celebrated peers.) It’s something else entirely to be committed to a work or a project, regardless of the desired outcome. I have friends––and family––who are diligent in different pursuits. It’s not celebrity that motivates us as much as success. That is, finishing the project to the best of our ability. Cresting above that of what we thought we were capable. And not giving up.

This, without relinquishing the (actually) more important facets of living, many which are included in the aforementioned “breathing out” list above. In the end, it matters most that we’re breathing at all, right?

Kamikaze

 

I can’t remember the exact time when I reached the point in my writing when I thought, Okay, I can’t turn back NOW. Before then, I had a reasonable delusion of safety that I could stop and not absolutely humiliate myself. Then . . . somewhere between 2 – 3 years ago, a tricky little thing happened. Going backward wasn’t an option. It would’ve been costly in the sense of explanation (read: excuses) to my friends and family, a post-partem-like depression over the time and energy wasted, and, surely, a hit to my self-esteem (which some jovial pals might think I can use anyway, though I eagerly challenge). But sometimes you reach a point where looking back is a bigger mistake than moving forward, even if you crash and burn. At least then, it happens on your terms. This reminds me of a time when I was hiking in unfamiliar territory in New Mexico and thought, Yep, I’d get lost going back. Going forward was the only option. Luckily, I found my way . . . and had an experience that I’ll never forget. And I learned something.

The key to not crashing and burning has to be a well-executed plan. Preparation. A cultivated craft. Authenticity. Throw some luck in there, and great things can happen.

The Obsession

Trying to balance time and energy so that I can find the will to write is sometimes difficult. Think of the things that drive you. For anything you want to achieve . . .

I remember an old girlfriend who said once that she thought I made things more difficult on myself so that I would remain focused on my passions. It’s stuck with me to this day mostly because I’ve realized that–to a certain degree–she was right.

With a great job–with a pretty good company–and an excellent income, where does one go for inspiration? 50+ hours a week as a professional in advertising sales, and all the social distractions that go along with that, can take a toll on anyone continuing to pursue passion projects. Sometimes I don’t know where my desire comes from . . . after all, I’m not 20 anymore. It was much easier back then. When I was in college. Broke. My whole life at that point was about propelling myself into the next social economic class, though I didn’t realize it at the time. But years later, I’m still not comfortable enough to forget my core. Where all my ambitions began.

Music. Films. Others’ success stories. These all drive me, sure. But I recommend that if you’re ever looking for inspiration, look into yourself. And never give up. For me, choosing the road of artistic expression isn’t elective. Never has been. It’s what keeps me sane through the rest of my life. So I continue to make hard, personal sacrifices so I have the energy, time, and drive to pursue and complete whatever project I’m working on. For the last 4 years, it’s been The Silent Partner. If you’ve found yourself drained of the obsession you used to have, reflect. Will you look back at yourself years from now with regret for not doing the time?

After all, I don’t continue because I want to. I have to.