Mark Terry

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Not Either Or

July 13, 2011
Sometimes I have to remind myself that things in life are not necessarily "either/or." That is to say, yes, I'm a real pragmatist and I believe it's important to set your priorities and be aware of what they are. I've been rather delighted with the Oxford Middle School track and cross country programs. They tell the kids - regularly! - what the priorities are. And they lay it right out like this:

1. Family
2. School
3. Track/Cross Country

In my experience, sports coaches may be forced to live by that standard, but they rarely say so or even preach it. So, Go Coach Forrester and Coach Klein!

Of course, I have a problem related to this. I want to do everything!

Here's a non-writing example from my life. Over the last 7 years or so, especially, I have been studying karate (I have a black belt now), riding my bike, lifting weights, and running. My least favorite of those activities is running. It's also the activity that seems to cause me the most injuries. Most recently I strained an Achilles tendon, forcing me to give it a break for a while. (But I didn't give it a long enough break and I re-injured it. Now, 2-1/2 weeks after the last strain, I tried running again this morning, so far so good).

Part of my thinking (and yes, I understand for non-runners you don't get this concept at all, that's fine, I understand) goes like this: I should just quit running. It's the activity you enjoy least, it's the one you do worst, and it's the one that causes you the most problems. Why don't you just quit it and add that extra time to your karate practice? Do that and you'll be that much better at karate and you'll still burn plenty of calories and have plenty of health benefits.

And some of why I go back to running is:

1. I actually like it, especially on nice summer mornings like today
2. I like being a runner.

In fact, I probably like being a runner more than I like running. That's slightly different from karate and biking. Biking in particular, I like biking more than being a biker. A lot more. I don't much care if anyone thinks of me as a biker, I just plain like getting out on the bike and riding. Leanne has noted that if I'm in a crappy mood a good bike ride will change my mood around better than anything else.

So, apply to writing fiction.

1. I actually like doing it. A lot.
2. I like being a novelist. A lot.

There are definitely things about publishing that I'm not a fan of and there is the whole balance of writing time that pays the bills versus writing fiction that barely (if that) pays for itself.

Nonetheless, if I don't write fiction I feel like I'm missing something that the nonfiction paying work doesn't necessarily provide.

Writing fiction for me may be a lot like biking. I prefer writing even more than being a writer.

How about you?


Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

Most of my life I've been writing, in various forms, for fun, without any thought of professional publication. I've written for fanzines, done mini-comics, small press zines, interactive fiction, even newsletters for volunteer organizations -- none of which was geared in any way toward commercial publishing. So I guess I enjoy writing more than being a writer. In fact the being a writer part tends to ruin the enjoyment of writing. However, there was a real audience for all the amateur writing I did. Which contributed to the fun. I don't see any real audience for amateur fiction so to have any fun writing fiction I need to be thinking of actaul publication. Or had to in the past. With ebooks...who knows. I am a skeptic but still hopeful.

12:11 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

If you already have an audience for your print books you'd have an audience of some sort for e-books. Maybe not huge, but I'm sure you'd find a way to spend any income that came in.

As for amateur fiction, you know, I'm not so sure. TIME Magazine just had a huge article that I haven't finished yet about fan-fic, especially regarding Harry Potter fanfic, and they note that there are literally hundreds of thousands of book-length Harry Potter fanfic online and some of it is really, really great, that people write without any intention of making money (well, they had better not had that intention or some 5000-pound gorilla lawyers are going to stomp all over their sorry asses).

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Jim said...

A few years ago (probably around 1993 or 94) my wife and daughter persuaded me to try an introductory karate lesson. (I use "karate" in a generic sense; I don't recall what flavor it was.) It seemed interesting but it terrified me because some of the movements made my knees feel vulnerable and my knees were my weak spot as a runner. (I had wanted to run a marathon a couple of years before that but once my long runs got up around 14 miles, my knees let me know in no uncertain terms that they were very unhappy with that.)

I used to love running. After Achilles tendon surgery and hernia surgery last year, I got really out of shape -- and am old enough that getting back into shape is difficult. A few times recently I have been able to recapture some of the enjoyment I used to get out of running and I am now working diligently at getting into good shape, hoping to achieve that enjoyment of running more often.

Like Eric, I have written and edited lots of newsletters and such over the years (plus a blog that is a couple of months short of its 15th anniversary) but I have never published a novel. (Lots of anonymous work-for-hire books for high-end software training, but no fiction.)

However, now my wife and I are both working on writing novels. I do think that the process of writing is enjoyable.

2:08 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Although I have a certain fascination with Iron Man triathlons and marathons, practically speaking I don't think I'm interested in pursuing either of them realistically.

I AM, however, interested in someday running a half-marathon, specifically the Walt Disney World Half-Marathon, and maybe some 5Ks and 10Ks, and the Bobby Crim 10 Mile in Flint, Michigan.

I don't know if I ever will, although I should be able to do some 5Ks, and I think 13.1 miles would be do-able if I lost weight and trained for it.

As for marathons, when I was in college I worked with a bunch of veterinarians and a couple of them were long-distance runners and they were more or less pursuing a marathon. One of them probably made it, but the other one found that whenever his mileage hit the 15-18-mile range, even for a single run, he ran into knee problems. So I doubt he went that far, although who knows, maybe he did.

My wife runs a fair amount and I know she's thinking of a half-marathon in October. She doesn't want to write a novel.

2:17 PM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

I have to say, my best time writing this year was writing LITTLE SIBERIA in the anthology you edited. I expected to make no money from it. I just wrote it for the writing's sake, and I loved it. And so I have come to the conclusion that I like writing more than being a writer, yes. It is still my joy. I do make my living as a writer . . . and I enjoy the things I write that make money. But commerce can sometimes muddy how I feel about things.

3:43 PM  

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