Every once in a while, I hit a speed bump.
I have been a writer since the age of seven when I penned (or, rather, penciled) my first entry in my first journal. I have been writing ever since. Every once in a while, however, I hit a bit of a speed bump. For one reason or another, my certainty about being a writer wavers.
In Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe series, the super “Earth computer” works out that the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything is 42. That’s all well and good, but a bit useless if you don’t know what the actual question is. In a wild, last ditch effort to find out exactly what the ultimate question is, Arthur Dent (the book’s protagonist) pulls random Scrabble tiles out of a bag. Lining up the tiles, he finds the message, “What do you get when you multiply six by nine?” Clearly not very helpful.
Sometimes that’s how I feel about writing.
Usually, I have no doubt that writing is “my thing.” I am also very clear about why it’s so important and valuable, not just to me, but to humanity in general. But, now and again my cocky conviction wobbles and I’m suddenly wondering if maybe writing is a crazy thing to do. I worry that I can’t really understand why I do this thing or whether it matters.
But then I come to my senses. I remember that writing is not a science. It’s an art. It doesn’t need to be defined and categorized and explained. It just is. Writing does not need to justify itself. And, furthermore, I don’t need to justify being a writer.
After that, I get back to doing what comes naturally. I write.
What I’m Writing:
Though my workload for my marketing clients continues to keep the vast majority of my writing time tied up, I have managed to stay on track with my bi-weekly column for the local paper. I am so grateful to have this creative outlet (and its corresponding deadline). It gives me the chance to craft a different kind of story and express my own ideas instead of a client’s.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a way to share my latest pieces with you. You see, up to this point I’ve been posting my columns on my marketing site under the heading “Off-topic.” I have decided, however, that this is not the right approach. I need a better way to manage my multiple online identities.
Though I make my living as a marcom (marketing and communications) writer, I aspire to write fiction, publish my column, and handle the odd feature assignment. I need to figure out the smartest way to blend (or not) these different aspects of what I do into a cohesive and sensible online presence. I haven’t figured out the solution yet, but I’m leaning towards creating another site or blog where I can post my personal and creative writing.
I bring this up because I wonder who else might have a similar problem. Do you have multiple writer personalities? Most writers I know fill a number of different writing roles in order to make ends meet and/or keep their creative muscles limber. If you’re such a person, how do you manage your public persona?
What I’m Reading:
Last week I mentioned how much I enjoyed Robin Sloan’s Kindle Single, Ajax Penumbra 1969. This “follow-up prequel” (is that a thing?) to his novel Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore was the perfect fix for a reader who wasn’t quite ready to leave Sloan’s quirky and hopeful world.
This week, I pulled a beautiful book off my shelf. Lyra’s Oxford (affiliate link) is one several stand alone short stories that Phillip Pullman has written as companion pieces to his extremely successful His Dark Materials trilogy (affiliate link). This tiny, clothbound tome is beautifully designed and includes a fold-out map and some other printed ephemera on the last few pages of the book. It’s a gorgeous edition that delivers all the sensory pleasures that we bookish types adore.
While I did enjoy the story, I enjoyed its presentation more. I wanted to love the story as much as I loved the trilogy, but it didn’t capture my imagination in the same way. The ideas in the trilogy are so big, I can see why it would be challenging to reduce them to a scale suitable for a short story.
What I found most interesting about reading these two pieces was the concept of creating short stories and even novellas around a larger work. I like the idea of an author being able to dip back into a particular world or collection of characters, even if creating a whole new novel doesn’t make sense. I was also struck by the difference in (perceived) value associated with the two “shorts” that I read. Ajax Penumbra 1969 clocks in at about sixty pages and is available as either a Kindle Single ($2.99) or an Audible audio edition ($3.30). Lyra’s Oxford is also approximately sixty pages long, but is more expensive ranging between $5.98 and $13.45 across five formats including paperback, Kindle, hardcover, CD, and audio download.
I’m honestly not sure where I’m going with this (yet). I just found it interesting and thought you might, too.
And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:
- Balls of Steel: The Value of Voyeurism by @jeannevb via @scriptmag – Jeanne on eavesdropping at her favorite Panera hangout
- 7 Things I Learned from the World’s Best Marketers by @tianawarner via @JaneFriedman – Great branding and marketing tips for authors
- The Top 4 Reasons Why Your Blog Is Boring by @ndileka – Not written specifically for writers, but plenty of good advice
- Self-publishing e-books: How to get started by Johanna Ambrosio via @computerworld – Helpful overview of formats, etc.
- 8 Ways Scrivener Will Help You Become A Proficient Writer Overnight by @thecreativepenn – Great overview of key features in this writing software
- Freaking Never Ending To Do List by @JenGresham who asks, “Are my dreams ruining my life?”
- How Einstein Solved Problems via litemind.com – Helpful creative process concepts and tips
- When Is It Time to Stop Blogging? by @JeffBullas – Interesting advice for would be or failed bloggers
- You Should Write Everything Down in a Spark File via @99u – Unique, unstructured approach
- Here’s How to Find Your Next Favorite Book via @wonderoftech – Irresistable “toy” for book lovers
- Keep gnawing by @SPressfield – What rats and artists have in common
- Sell More Art: Why Transparency and Storytelling Win Fans via @99u – Not just for artists …
Finally, a quote for the week:
So – here’s to writing for yourself and finding your public.
Happy writing & happy reading! See you on the other side.
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.