Monday, August 26

The Writing Life

If you're here for the Back to School Blog Hop, please click HERE to get to the correct page. Of course you're welcome to read today's post first, if you'd like!

A number of years ago, I went to a great discussion at a convention about what it was like--and what it took--to be a professional artist.
Being an artist of (of any kind) takes more than just talent. It takes education (whether formal or informal), dedication, hard work, and discipline.
I'll be the first one to admit that that last one eludes me most days. (I should be working on my next novel, not blogging--but of course blogging is part of being a professional artist. It's kind of a catch-22).
Being an artist is typically a solitary pursuit; extroverts aren't (generally) well suited to the artistic life. We sit in offices or closets or spare bedrooms--or we sit in coffee shops with headphones on--and create whole worlds on computers--or on canvas or in music. We transform ideas into tangible things, into images and notes and words. It's a remarkable experience.
It's also a difficult one, and I'm not just talking financially.
Artists need emotional support; we need the understanding of our friends and families. But it can be hard for those people to take what we're doing seriously, especially when we're first starting out (which is when we need the most support).
It took me a very long time to convince my friends and family that my work is just that: work. No, I don't punch a clock, this is how I make my living, but just because I'm home all day doesn't mean I'm everyone's beck and call. In fact, if you call in the middle of the day, I might not answer the phone, so be prepared to leave a message.
Even so, I know I'm lucky that I have friends and family who are supportive. A lot of artists, especially in my genre of writing, aren't so lucky. I don't know what I would do if I had a friend (or worse a spouse) who didn't support me (well, okay, I did divorce my second husband who once remarked that I'd never publish anything, I just wasn't that good of a writer, but the truth is that that statement was simply indicative of a much larger problem in our marriage; he didn't support anything I did, which is why he's my ex husband. My first ex husband is wonderfully supportive; we were just kinda young when we got hitched and really didn't know what we were doing. But there's a reason we're still friends  *g*).
Getting back on track....
Artists need to surround themselves with people who support us. Those people don't have to love everything you do (very few of my friends read my work, very few of them are into romance of any flavor), they just have to support you. If they don't, it can be time to make the difficult decision to walk away.
Last year, I had to walk away from my critique group. I got a lot out of the group and there were some really wonderful people in it. But there was also someone who was constantly calling what I write "porn".
I don't have a problem with porn, but it isn't what I write. (And I'm not the only m/m author who has faced this "fight"; a lot of people seem to assume that if there are two guys on the cover--or if those guys have sex in the course of the novel--that it's "porn").
For me, porn is sex for it's own sake. And that is totally cool. But like I said, it's not what I write. I don't even consider what I write to be particularly erotic. (Okay, my second book is; the first half can really be summed up with: and they had a lot of kinky sex!) But my third novel has very little sex at all. The amount of sex and the explicitness with which I write aren't determined by me, they're determined by my characters. That said, a sex scene is like any other scene, if it doesn't tell readers something important about the characters or do something to drive the story forward, I cut it.
My friends who write m/m say the same thing. That's because we're romance authors.
So I guess the lesson that I'm trying to drive home to any aspiring writers reading this (or even seasoned authors, because this is hard for all of us) is that if you have people who don't support you, it's time to step back and evaluate the situation. If you're not getting something positive from the experience, it's probably time to move on.
(After I initially left the critique group I used to belong to, I was shy about saying anything in public; I didn't want to hurt any feelings, should any of them stumble across this. But the truth is that I doubt any of them read my blog. If they do, the people who know I'm not talking about them will know who they are--and I'm pretty sure the guy who basically pushed me out knows why I left, too. Ironically, I think he's a great guy and an amazing writer--I just got tired of the jabs. As an author, I get enough of those from readers who didn't like something I wrote, I don't need it from friends, peers, and colleagues. No one does.)  


West Thornhill said...

I'm still having trouble convincing my mother that writing is my job and to make money I need to do more. On one hand she gets it, but on the other not so much.

I was part of a small, online critique group, and we all wrote some form of romance. It didn't matter if it was M/M or M/F. We just supported each other, but now we've all drifted apart. Which means my support group is tiny again and I only have one beta reader. But sometimes you have to work with what you have. It's hard, but writing is what I've always wanted to do. So, I'm going to keep at it.

H.B. Pattskyn said...

That's all you can do, just keep plugging away at it :)

Unfortunately my own experiences with online critique groups were horrible. It was such a shame; writers are supposed to support each other.