Friday, June 03, 2011

Say It in Writing

One of the hardest tasks an author faces is sitting down in a chair to face the blank page. There is no doubt that after yesterday's announcement that V. S. Naipaul said that no woman could equal him as a writer because of sentimentality and female tosh, the task of facing the blank page got a bit easier. Naipaul seems to find inspiration in controversy and feuds. Since his 15-year feud with Paul Theroux has ended, he needs something new to boost his ego and his writing, thus his attack on women.

While controversy makes for interesting news and provides ample fuel for bonfires of some writer's vanities, it is not enough to rely on when it comes to sitting down and facing the blank page of work on a novel, short story or article. There is no substitute for hard work and discipline, even though many writers have dived into bottles and drugs to support their creativity. Having seen some of the resultant work, I cannot agree that drugs or alcohol, or whatever chore or tasks takes the writer away from the central task of writing, ever works -- or works for very long. Physical deterioration detracts from work, it does not enhance it.

Some writers have no problems with ending one project and beginning immediately on the next, while other writers find themselves in the midst of a blue funk with completion of one novel and unable to dive in and begin the next. Everyone is different and no one rule applies to all writers, except the one unbreakable rule that in order to have a book one must write it first.

My biggest problem is getting back up on the horse -- or in the chair and writing the next book. Once a project is completed, I must also see it through to publication since I am self-publishing, manage the marketing, do interviews and handle all the myriad details of getting attention for my work. There is no point in writing, unless it is for personal use only, if no one knows what has been written. With tens of thousands of books published every year in one for or another, getting noticed is more important and requires a substantial amount of work.

It would be easier to dive right into the next book, and preferable in most circumstances. It's not that easy to manage with all the work required of the author in promotion and advertising. Time is finite. Promotion it seems is eternal. The downtime between projects makes it that much more difficult to sit in the chair, put fingers to the keys and begin typing. Distance and time are not a writer's friends, at least not where output is concerned. The days of taking a year or two, or even five, to write the next book and still be in the public eye, are gone. The world moves too quickly and writers are quickly forgotten before they ever find an audience.

It all comes down to numbers: pages written, words written, books written, etc. The numbers either are or are not in favor, which adds yet one more burden to the already over burdened author. One can only handle so much before crumbling beneath the sheer weight of expectation.

All of this comes from my own personal fight with the post book blues, my name for the funk that surrounds me when I am finished with the bulk of marketing and promotion and know that I must now sit down and write another book. My current project has me stymied. All the research and incorporating it into a fictional novel, coupled with the ongoing promotion of my last book and the inevitable fears that I may not be up to the task come crashing down like the contents of Fibber and Molly McGee's closet, battering me to the floor.

And then I read Naipaul's condescending and egotistical comment that women are sentimental and what they write is not equal to his own work. After all I have read about Naipaul since I happened across his comments, I can see how he would think that, since he does not believe that anyone, male or female, is equal to him. Suddenly, I have a reason to sit down in the chair and face the blank page so I can fill it with proof that female writers are not just sentimental and that some female writers know exactly what it means to be master, or rather mistress, of a home and shoulder all the burdens normally handled by a big, strong male. I've been doing it for decades and am none the worse for it, although I think my sentimentality has been relegated to cards and pictures from my children and grandchildren.

One might think my sudden returning writing fervor is because I have something to prove, and maybe I do, but not to V. S. Naipaul or any fan. I must prove to myself that I have the strength and determination to continue in the face of incredible odds. My book is selling well and I need something to back it up to show I'm not a one, or in this case fourteen, book wonder. I have something to say that is not sentimental or female tosh. I have truths to impart and miles to go before I sleep. I have purpose. I am a writer.

Whatever it takes to get your bottom into the chair and your fingers whizzing over the keys, find it and don't stop until you do find whatever makes you mad enough, excited enough, or determined enough to get back into the saddle and write. Sometimes it's discipline and sometimes it is a bigoted, misogynistic, egotistical gas bag with a penchant for creating controversy. It's one way to stay in the public eye and make people remember who you are, even if they cannot manage to get through one of your books. This may be a man's world, but this woman still has a lot to say and will continue to say it in writing.

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