Thursday, January 01, 2009

Diamonds in the dust

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself."

I woke at six this morning with but one thought in mind -- to go back to sleep. I did. The phone rang but I ignored it from the haze of sleep, but for some reason my curiosity made me get up and check to see who called. It was Lynn and talking to her is always interesting and often makes me laugh, so I called back and got what I came for -- good conversation and laughter. That's the thing about friends, they may be irritating when they call and I'm tied up with work or sleep, but talking to them is always worth while.

Having spent the rest of the morning putting together schedules and deadlines and making notations in my brand new 2009 desk calendar that arrived two days after I purchased it on line, I decided to spend the rest of the day watching movies and goofing off, perfecting, as Carol would say, the art of being lazy. However, my mind is never lazy and was busy with plans and schedules and ideas for the final phase of editing on the two books that I need to get finished before I send them to the publisher this month, especially since new book ideas and characters are beginning to make themselves known and are almost at the stage in their development when they will transfer from the corridors of my mind to the page. It looks as though this year may well be as prolific and busy as the last two have been and that's never a bad thing.

My new desk calendar is from Bylines and has some interesting quotes, like the one about comparing oneself to other writers. It's a mixed bag and sometimes gets ugly, especially when comparing oneself to a writer that the red-suited demon on the left shoulder says the other writer is better. That breeds contempt and envy and neither are good for a writer's soul. Of course, that is not to say that one writer is better than another or that one writer cannot learn from another; that would be untrue. And there are some writers who are worth reading and learning from, but that doesn't mean they are necessarily better or worse or that it's wrong to dislike another writer's work; that's all part of the mystery and difference of being human. To dislike another writer's work is purely subjective, although sometimes it's also an accurate evaluation. What one person likes another may dislike with impunity and without envy. It's all a matter of taste.

For instance, I recently read a review of Stephanie Meyer's vampire series that hit on what makes the series so successful. It's not the writing, but the way people respond to the themes and emotions in the book. That first flush of love and romance in a teenage girl's life and the primal urges that nearly overwhelm a girl when she falls in love for the first time, perched on the edge between innocence and sexual awakening. In that respect, Meyer has touched on something. Technically, the writing is amateurish and -- in at least a few editors' and agents' and reviewers' estimation -- bad. One thing I have learned is that a book or story can fail technically and still retain a spark of magic in the characters and the story line that resonate. I've read enough amateur memoirs to enjoy the story while I cringed at the grammar and lack of technical ability. Even a madman's tale can hit on the truth now and then if you can bear to slog through the inanities heaped on all sides. It's sort of like finding a perfect diamond in the midst of a compost heap.

I hope readers will find a few gems scattered among the dust and compost in my posts and stories and novels. When you get right down to it, it depends on how many people are willing to take a chance and look -- and then tell their friends and relatives and anyone else who will listen. That is the secret to success -- putting the gems as close to the surface as possible.

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