Thursday, January 17, 2008

Art & Fear -- Part 7


I got a kick out of author Ted Orland's comment to Tuesday's post. Ted, this is why you're a photographer and we're writers. (Although, as you've seen from this series and its comments, writin' don't exactly come easily to us, either.)

BGs, I've given you almost all of the "Fears About Yourself" chapter. I've learned equally as much from some of the other chapters. "Fears about Others" deals with putting our work out there. Will readers understand what I'm trying to say? Will they accept me? Approve of me and my work? Hard questions for us novelists, who tend to feel like we bleed all over our pages. And the "Outside World" chapter--yikes. At one time or another we've all had to engage in the fight between what we may want to write and what the world/market wants from us.

The "Finding Your Work" chapter has some amazing things about finding your voice as a writer. There is a hard-hitting passage in this chapter about being moved by what you view--or read--and how little that can affect what art you make. When we're greatly moved by a book, we novelists tend to say, "Oh, I want to write like that. Why can't I write like that?" Orland and Bayles respond with this: "Making art is bound by where we are, and the experience of art we have as viewers is not a reliable guide to where we are. As viewers we readily experience the power of ground on which we cannot stand--yet that very experience can be so compelling that we may feel almost honor-bound to make art that recaptures that power."

Making art is bound by where we are...

The greatest lesson I'm learning at this stage in my career is to trust the process. Those of you who read this blog regularly know my shtick by now. Whatever book I'm currently writing is terrible and will absolutely ruin my career. So far, my career is still around. By now you all are probably tired of my whining. ("Shut up already, we've heard this before.") And do you think I don't know, each time I go through this time of feeling terrible, that I'm repeating an old, bad pattern? I have this running commentary with myself--"Come on, this will work out in the end, you know it. The last one did." "Yeah, that's because the last wasn't bad after all. This one really is."

(By the way, this line of thinking is quite common among those of us who write to deadline on a regular basis. I'm not the only wimp out there.)

This line in the Pretending subheading of "Fears about Yourself" hit home with me: "After all, you know better than anyone else the accidental nature of much that appears in your art..."

Yes, that is the key! My readers see the finished product. I see the mess it is all the way to that finished product--a good 90% of its journey. I've come to realize I'm not happy with the manuscript I turn in as the first draft, because it really isn't that good. Oh, it has components of good. It has promise. But it hardly lives up to my standards. In the second step of the process, the rewrite--thanks to insights from great editors--the manuscript is really fixed up. After that it's real close. Just minor tweaks from there. And at that time I'm feeling better about the whole thing. Even so, I'm not feeling as good about it as I will by the time it actually releases, almost a year later. By then I've written a couple more books and can much more objectively look at the work.

It is this messy process I must trust.

Danged hard to do when you're in the mess.

My great thanks to Ted Orland and David Bayles for allowing me to quote so extensively from Art & Fear. As for you Forensics and Faith readers out there, a very small percentage of y'all are commenting these days. It would be great if you took a minute to thank Ted and David in a comment and tell 'em something you've learned.

And in case, for some crazy reason, you've dragged your heels:

Buy Art & Fear at amazon.com--$10.36. 122 pages. It's money well spent.

8 comments:

Jennifer L. Griffith said...

Good topic, and quite timely!!

Margie Vawter said...

After reading last week's posts on this topic, I bought the book. And I took it with me to our local ACFW chapter meeting on Monday to promote it there.

I haven't read it all yet, but from you have posted, Brandilyn, I know my book will be as marked up as yours is.

Thanks to Ted and David for allowing you to do this series in such detail.

domino said...

Brandilyn, my one-word review of this series has to be, "WOW!" Thanks for bringing this book out, opening it, and shedding its light on us.

Ted and David, thank you. Your encouragement to produce in our own uniqueness will draw a boldness out of our depths to a place where the gift of creativity can be seen.

Thank you for transfusion of energy that we all need to strengthen our grip for the climb.

I'm climbing higher and digging deeper. Who's going with me?

Ed J. Horton said...

Brandilyn, Thank you for bringing this book to our attention and for sharing the multi-part posts. At the outset, I may have been a bit skeptical about your promise, "insights of this book will resonate with you and amaze you." But you were right! I found myself relating to several of the topics.

A special thank you to the authors for their insights. I was particularly drawn to the topic of 'talent.' As a child I wondered why others had the gifts of music, art, composition, while I seemed to be sans talent. I wasn't realizing a lot of hard work went into shaping their talents into what they were. I appreciated the authors' statements, "Artists get better by sharpening their skills or by acquiring new ones; they get better by learning to work, and by learning from their work...So when you ask, 'Then why doesn't it come easily for me?', the answer is probably, 'Because making art is hard!'"

Katy McKenna said...

Brandilyn,
Thanks for referring to this series on the ACFW loop! I've read all your posts, and am now going to order 4 or 5 copies of Art & Fear. (We are a family of artists...) Not only are you a wonderful writer, you're a darned good salesperson!! ;)

Katy McKenna www.fallible.com

Ted Orland said...

I fear that my mind runs at a slower clock speed than that of most Bloggers -- at least it sure feels like you all WRITE faster than I can READ! But just in case anyone checks back to look at entries posted three days ago, my sincere thanks again to all of you for your generous observations about “Art & Fear”.

I’m always intrigued to learn which passages resonate -- or scratch a nerve -- with different people. One thing I’ve learned from such feedback is that artists share a great many common fears, but because we tend to lead insular lives (artistically speaking) we tend to think we’re the ONLY person facing those fears.

Another thing I’ve learned is that many of the simple truths about life and art are in such plain sight, right in front of us, that we never pause to recognize them. I remember one person who told me that he'd read Art & Fear and realized that he already knew everything we talk about in there -- it’s just that he'd never seen anyone actually WRITE about it before. I took that as a compliment.

Pam Halter said...

I learned that I'm not alone in my quirky fears about my writing. I mean, I know writers have fears. But this book pointed out with startling clarity some things I have not seen addressed at writer's conferences.

Also, the part about asking your work what IT needs. It requires trust and a good ear. I'm just getting back from a weekend writer's retreat and we talked about how writers need to be good listeners ... which is a whole other topic in itself.

Lynette Sowell said...

Thanks for sharing this resource with us. I had a deadline of Jan. 15, and it was the hardest one I've had yet. All those things resonated with me. This book is next on my 'to buy' list. :)