Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ninety Percent Awesome, Ten Percent Suck

Writers write, right?  Absolutely.  But the thing is, there's all this behind the scenes non-writing stuff that's part of the job too. In the last month, I've gone through edits for three manuscripts and reviewed galleys for a fourth.  I've run the promo gauntlet for releases and the hamster-wheel of emails that seems to be a constant aspect of the job.  And through it all, I kept thinking about a conversation I had back on one of the cruises I was on in the spring.

I was chatting with one of the performers when I mentioned I'd worked on edits that day and made a face.  He said something along the lines of "But it doesn't feel like work, does it?  You love every second of it, don't you?" and, in perfect honesty, I had to say no.  He was shocked by my lack of blind enthusiasm when it came to my work.  He said that his job never feels like work and he loved it from start to finish.  (Lucky him, right?  Though, for the record, I've heard this same guy bitch about aspects of his job, so there.)  For a moment, I almost felt guilty or wrong that I wasn't one hundred percent euphoric about my job at all times.  I mean, I am insanely lucky to have the life I have and I freaking love what I do... just not every second of every day.  (Especially during edits, which seem to bring out my neurotic insecure side.) 

The more I've thought about this, the more I've concluded that the difference of opinion could have two potential causes (or seventeen million I haven't thought of, but I like these two, so I'm stickin' with 'em.).  ONE - Attitude.  TWO - Crucial differences in our professions.

For Thing One, maybe he's just a more positive person than I am.  Maybe his cup is always half full... though mine is almost always half full too and dude, when did optimism become a competition?  Perhaps it has to do with those affirmation thingies people always seem to want everyone else to do when you project positivity into the universe.  Like if I say "I love edits!" often enough, I will start to believe it.  Though, honestly, it's not the edits I mind.  I actually love my editors and am delighted when they help me craft my books into stronger works - what I don't love is the self-doubt that always seems to crash down on me like an Acme weight during the editorial process.  Which is what got me thinking about Thing Two.  The differences.

You see, reader friend, he's a performer-type and I'm a creator-type.  I'm not saying either one is better or harder than the other, but they sure are different.  He takes popular songs and performs them (brilliantly), and the audience applauds.  I take a blank page, crack open my head and heart to turn it into a story, wrestle with it to twist it into the best version of itself (which always seems to be a moving target), then throw that story out into the world, and no one ever applauds - though on occasion I'll get a nice note from a reader which will make my month or a review like the one earlier this week that makes my life, but on the whole, I'm writing in a vacuum.  So if I'm a bit more nervous about the uncertainties of my job (will this book be good?  will readers choose to read it in their valuable reading time?  will they like it?  will they recommend it to their friends? will those friends like it or will it be the catalyst that destroys their once BFF relationship?) than the performer who beautifully interprets the already beloved songs someone else has created, is that insecurity not warranted?

I don't know a single writer who loves absolutely every second of this career.  (The waiting alone is enough to drive most of us a little batty.)  But that doesn't mean we aren't grateful and freaking over-the-moon to have it.  And if you aren't struggling at least part of the time, are you really challenging yourself?  If life is one hundred percent awesome all the time, are you the luckiest person in the world or are you playing it safe?  The sucky part comes with pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone - but that is also where the gold is, where the most awesome part of the awesome comes in - when you break through the wall of suck into the promised land beyond.  Maybe the suckiness is what makes excellence happen.

Or that's what I'll tell myself, so I don't have to feel guilty about my bad attitude next time I make a face about working on edits.

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