Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy ~~ Kahlil Gibran
This is a quote I have had on my desk for many years. For me, the truth of this is gut deep, so visceral that every time I read it, it forces me to check my attitude about writing. Am I still having fun? Am I still enjoying the process? This question is important because, as a writer, as any kind of artist, it is all we can control. Am I still writing stories I would want to read? Am I still doing the best work I can?
And sadly, sometimes the answer to one of these questions is no. It isn’t always the same question to which I answer no and, just as sadly, there are times when my answer is one of the facts of life for a writer.
We want to get published. Getting published means deadlines. Deadlines mean pressure. Sometimes, under pressure, I don’t do my best work. On the other hand, sometimes under pressure I do my best work.
There are parts of being a published writer that aren’t always fun. I have to admit that I have only learned to enjoy the promotional part of my work since I’ve hired my amazing assistant, Annette, who some of you know as Jar O’Marbles. But there were days – many of them – when I cursed the necessity for it. Now, having an expert at hand makes the process kind of entertaining. Plus, it’s no longer a solitary endeavor. I admit that I love socializing, that I love doing readings, that I love conferences. That part is always fun for me. Trying to sell a book? Not always fun. Oh, occasionally you get an immediately we love it response, but that happens so seldom that it’s barely worth thinking about. Negotiations, contracts, rights reversions, not much fun at all – unless you’re a contract lawyer and these things are your lifeblood.
The process is the one thing I work hard at enjoying though, again, sometimes I’m forced to answer no to that question as well, which is very sad as I love writing and almost always enjoy the process of it. Because I’m a fogwalker, I never know what’s going to happen next and that means it’s a voyage of discovery. I’m always learning things, finding out things, being taken down paths I didn’t expect. I love that. But I have a schedule that changes week to week, month to month, sometimes even day to day. That means that I can’t get into a routine – so I’m working now on what I call a no-routine routine. I think – once I don’t have to squish it into the odd hours that I can find each week – that my no-routine routine will make enjoying the process much more consistent. Though figuring it out ain’t much fun, either 🙂
So far, I’m happy to admit that I am still writing stories I would like to read. In fact, for various reasons over the past six months, I have been re-reading my earliest work – some published, some not, and I’m proud of it. I would enjoy reading it even if I hadn’t written it.
Am I doing the best work I can? Yes and no. I am enjoying the work I’m doing but the best work I can do is hard work, complicated work, difficult work, and it’s not going to pay the rent. Not yet. So I do other work that I enjoy and that will help me get to a place where my no-routine routine turns into a full time writing routine, which will then give me more time to do the hard work as well as the rent paying work.
So you see what I mean when I say these questions aren’t always simple, aren’t always easy, and aren’t always answered in the way I would like them to be. Still, I’m happy to say that most days, when I look up at the quote on my desk I can say that my writing is love made visible, that I am doing good work, I am enjoying the process, I am doing work that others will enjoy. Can’t want more than that, can I?