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.