Mark Terry

Friday, May 25, 2007

If I Only Had A Brain


May 25, 2007


From time to time I look at this novel-writing thing and think: you're nuts.

Okay. Not from time to time.

All the time!

It's not that I don't love it. In fact, I do. It's an addiction, and if you're an aspiring novelist and you don't understand that, there's a good chance you're in the wrong field.

Novel writing, except for a select few, can be creatively satisfying, no doubt about it. Of course, for some people, carving zoo animals out of bars of soap and constructing replicas of the Eiffel Tower out of toothpicks and creating images of the Supreme Court judges out of broken CDs is creatively satisfying as well.

Part of the problem, I think, is that people who carve zoo animals out of soap probably don't expect to make a living at it. They don't, in fact, probably expect much of anything out of it except, ultimately, a bar of soap in the shape of an elephant. Maybe it tickles their children, but more likely it amuses them, kills some time, and provides some satisfaction--intrinsic satisfaction--along the way.

Probably soap carvers et al., don't repeatedly look for people to represent their work, don't send it out to carved soap manufacturers who might sell their soap elephants, or in most cases, even hustle their creations in booths at art fairs. (I say in most cases; seems to me damn near everything gets sold at arts and crafts fairs. Americans' ability and willingness to clutter up their houses with shit is endlessly amazing to me).

Yeah, I'm in the writing business. From a completely rational, thinking point of view, I should just ditch the novel writing and concentrate on the lucrative end of writing for me. That's what most business books would tell you to do, right? Nurture the lucrative part of your business and prune the less lucrative.

But I won't. Instead, I'll do what most novelists do--keep writing, keep nurturing this particularly beautiful part of my writing garden in hopes it will take off and live up to its potential.

In the meantime, good advice would be to try very hard to enjoy the process.

And, you know, get a brain.

Happy Memorial Day!
Mark Terry

7 Comments:

Blogger Shannon said...

It's funny when you talk about making a living as a fiction writer, it really makes me think. I have always thought that the money wasn't the important part and if a million people agreed to read my book, I would be happy to let them for free. But, then why wouldn't I just post it in its entirety on my website and let whoever wants to read it do so? Because that just wouldn't be satisfying at all. First of all, yes-the process of getting published is grueling but if you succeed, you get more than a contract--you get validation that your writing is in fact good enough. You get acceptance by people that know more than you do. Huge thing. Then of course, when you actually get paid you can look at your relatives and friends,the ones who roll their eyes when you say you're a writer, and know that you haven't been lying to them all these years! So, besides paying the bills, money exchanged for your writing does a lot more.

7:06 AM  
Blogger Sonya said...

Hey there! I found your blog through your website designer, whom I'm thinking of hooking up with. :-)

Ah... you know, sometimes I think about doing something else (I never could, but I think about it. Oh yeah.)

Usually I imagine I'd be better off working as an accountant, or a line cook, or in a sewage treatment facility...

Carving soap elephants would be better!

I like your style.

7:17 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Shannon,
When asked about the money from writing novels, I generally say to people that it's part of my business plan. And it is. And I wish it was a bigger part of my. The advances have gotten bigger so far, but it's not like they were very large to begin with. You just hope by doing your best work and promoting that over time you'll build a readership and the money and everything else will follow.

Sonya,
Maddee is very gifted. I like her website a lot. I wouldn't want to be anything else but a writer (been there, done that, hated it), but on rational days I look at the fiction and wonder what I'm doing. And I guess the answer is: having fun and planting seeds.

9:42 AM  
Blogger Aimless Writer said...

Could you stay happy and sane if you only did the business end and forgot about your fiction?
Doesn't that story just scream to be slammed down on the paper?
Do you feel a touch of insanity threaten when you stop writing?

6:24 PM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

I'm old-fashioned, and I still believe that being an amateur is a noble calling. That's the spirit with which the Olympics were created.

In Hope Floats, one of the characters said that the American Dream was to take something you love, and twist it and bend it and try to squeeze some money out of it. In the end, though, you hate it.

That's always resonated with me. I've always thought the big RWA leveling system to encourage people to turn this into a career was wrong. They want the 10,000 members, so they should respect writing as a hobby. Really respect it. I know I do.

6:36 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Aimless,
That's the big question, and the honest answer is: no. I have to write fiction, whether it gets published or not. I'm happier when it does, though.

SS,
I'd have to check the details, but the Latin root for the word "amateur" is someone who does it for love. I think that line from Hope Floats (which I haven't seen) is pretty true, sadly enough.

7:28 AM  
Blogger Aimless Writer said...

Spy: Re-Hope Floats. Its true. I used to paint. I love to paint. Every piece of clothing I owned had paint on it. Sometimes I'd go out with paint on my face and hands and I didn't care. Painting was joy. Then they paid me money for it. They gave me special orders and deadlines. All the fun went away....
Now I hide and paint in a secret room and show my work to no one. The joy is now a secret I keep in my soul.

12:08 PM  

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