Monday, April 12, 2010

Stickwitu foreva

Nobody gon' love me betta
I'm gon' stick wit u foreva
Nobody gon' take me higha
I'm gon' stick wit u
You know how to 'preciate me
I'm gon' stick wit u my baby
Nobody ever made me feel this way
I'm gon' stick wit u

I know better than to go on about the lyrical or musical value of the Pussycat Dolls, but even a broken clock gotta be right twice a day, yeah?

Today on my mind: commitment.

Commitment is a difficult thing for me. I've heard several theories about why I don't stick with anything. (You know in this day and age, everybody and they sista has a theory about everything.) My personal favourite is Barbara Sher's concept of scanners and divers. (Look it up, it's fascinating!)

Whatever the reason, the fact remains, it seems I am unable to commit to anything in the long term. I'm 28 and I've already sold shoes in a department store, been a co-pilot/translator on a passenger submarine, been a tour guide/interpreter on bus tours, been a teacher of 4 different subjects, been a supervisor in a call centre, and been in the military.

I've done a fairly ridiculous string of training associated with several different fields. And don't even get me started on things I wanted to do, but never pursued...(like the ten minutes when I wanted to be a police officer.)

Yet, despite knowing my aversion to commitment, I've wondered into a field which requires more commitment than maybe any other.

Being a novelist, you see, is a very solitary pursuit. You spend hours upon hours wrapped up in your own little imaginary world. You can have the most supportive family and friends around you, but in the end, you still have to spend a lot of time on your own.

In other professions, there are objective measures of your skill level. As a salesman, you can record the number of sales. As an accountant, you can boast of your perfect record on the audits. As a teacher, you can boast about your students' accomplishments. As an unpublished writer, you have none of the above. And after a while, you being to think your friends and family are just being nice or don't have a clue what it takes in the writing world.

You need commitment to keep going on the days when you feel like you're horrible and must have been crazy to ever have laid eyes on a keyboard, pen, pencil, crayon, X-acto knife...

There are a lot of professions where being average (or even mediocre) is just fine. You don't have to be the best salesman to have a job in sales. You just have to be able to sell. Sometimes, you don't even need that much. But just being able to write will not get you very far as a novelist. To get published (traditional style) you have to be in the top x percentage. And if you want to be a household name, NYT bestseller, winner of any of the top literary prizes, you're looking at the top 1% of the original x percentage.

It takes commitment to keep practising for all those years when you know you're crap, to come to a point where you're half-decent, or maybe even, good.

Even for the best and most accomplished writers, turning out a novel is not a quick process. It's slower than even the other artistic fields. In one day, a painter can finish a painting, a songwriter a song, a coreographer a dance. Show me a novel that was written in a day, and I'll show you fuel for your barbecue grill. Writing a novel can't even be compared to many of the longer processes. Someone might say, it's like building a house on your own- one brick at a time, but it's not. In a house when you slap cement on a brick and lay it down, chances are, that's where that brick will stay. Not so with a novel. It's more like building a lego house. You build it, and you think it's horrible, so you pull it down and start over. Next time around it's not so bad, so you only pull off pieces of it to tweak.

It takes commitment not to throw the towel in after the first draft.

Imagine if you will, an Olympic hopeful (without sponsorship). He's up early so he can train every day, He's got to make up his own diet plans and workouts. He's got to find funding to attend qualifying meets. He's got to keep convincing himself that he's good enough in between meets. AND he's gotta keep going to work, because right now, his athletic pursuits are a pipe dream and that 9 to 5 is paying the bills.

A tall order? PSHAW! Writers do it every day. All day, every day.

Writers NEED to be committed...

to an asylum :S

Second interviewee clue: YA


Marsha Sigman said...

First of all I would like to say that I sing like that all the time. yeah.
I like this post! And you have plenty of time to commit. As long as it is to writing.

I tagged you on my blog today!!

Natalie Aguirre said...

If you are a writer, which you are, you are someone who can commit to something. Because like you said, writing takes the ultimate commitment. Especially since the end result may be the personal satisfaction of writing and not necessarily getting published. For some people, the day job is just to provide the money to support the dream of writing. Perhaps that's what your other jobs are.

Claire Dawn said...

Thanks guys!

Marsha, thanks for the tag! :) I won't get around to it til weekend, because school's in- and as a teacher, my life is about to get crazy- even crazier than normal.

ElbieNy25 said...

I couldn't have put it better myself Claire. I love the lego house analogy, so true. I know how tough it can be, my faith was tested last week and you were kidn enough to give me a friendly kick in the butt.

Tawna Fenske said...

Excellent blog post! I particularly like the Lego house analogy -- very true!


Claire Dawn said...

Thanks Laura and Tawna. I like analogies. :D

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