Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Writing the Bronc

It's been a long and brutal winter, a cold, wet spring, a stifling summer, and writing was forced to the back seat. February it turns out, proved not to be the most difficult month. March brought not only more bleak cold but an unwelcome diagnosis for my partner. A hell of a birthday present for him. Consultations and decisions followed, and time moved on. It always does.

Then the rains came. Days, weeks of it. Cold rain, flooding fields until long after the sowing season. Stuck indoors, I completed another complete revision of The Guardian at the Gateway, my sidekick for longer than many marriages. At last, a few days of perfect Spring weather allowed planting of patio pots and some weeding of the bountiful crop of weeds the rains had encouraged. But before all that could be finished, swamp-like heat settled in, precluding any further outdoor activity except sitting outdoors of an evening with adult beverages, pretending that it was just lovely here on the bayou.

Meanwhile, the day job picked up ridiculously (a good thing, considering the state of real estate today) as the regimen of daily treatments proceeded for my partner, and my writing and critiquing stalled out. I haven't restarted querying since my last two revisions. I've become less confident, or more unsure, since much of my reading during this time has been the constant chatter on the Internet about the rapidly changing world of publishing. With the growing importance of e-books, e-readers (I don't have one—yet), and e-publishing, the traditional routes are being challenged, new ones being explored and developed, and fewer and fewer traditional publishers are willing to take on any but already-known authors or personalities. We unknowns must consider self-pubbing, small independent houses, going digital and going it virtually (pun intended) alone. One must dive into social media and develop their own fanbase. Blog. Tweet. Network.

I suck at it. Key factor: consistency. Every six months or so? I don't think so.

Here's the thing. I see people I "know" from writers' sites who've landed an agent (or not) almost frantically blogging and tweeting about their blog posts to drive others to friend (when did friend become a verb?) or follow them. Some are quite good, but now there are a gazillion blogging writers, agents, and other literary types all talking about the same things with slightly different angles or takes. Who could possibly read them all, get their own done, and still find the time to write? Obviously some do. But not me. At least not this Winter-Spring-Summer. Not yet.

So I question whether I really want what the writing life entails these days. No longer can a writer rely on their agent and publisher to be the primary marketer of their work, if they want it out there. Writers have always had a responsibility to promote their own work. Now they must become the primary person doing that, devoting countless hours to blogging, guest blogging, anything to build interest in them as writers and in their work, in their unique voice. Be funny. Be relevant. Be interesting. Be different. And, oh yeah, be writing that next novel. No one wants a writer who isn't writing.

Well, what fun would it all be without challenge? Do I want to have to do all that? Make myself heard above the chatter?  Do I just want to write, to express myself, to tell stories, draw images, move hearts and minds? Or do I want to be a writer? Am I up to the job? Cowboy up, bucko.

How do you ride the bronc?