Thursday, June 10, 2010

Self indulgence.

24th March, 2010.

On Giving Up

Well, it is ten years to the day as far as I can reckon since I quit my job to write a book, and that seems an auspicious time to announce - no, admit - that I'm giving up on my extremely half-arsed aspiration to be a novelist.

During those five months back in 2000 I wrote 30,000 words and played a lot of Starcraft. I experimented with sleeping during the day and working during the night; I flipped out on LSD; and I was shot at by my neighbour. The most enduring thing to come from that period was that my cooking improved by great leaps. 'Rick Stein's Seafood Odyssey' was shown at noon, I'd roll out of bed and I'd watch it with a notepad ready.

Since then I have written a drift of stuff on scraps of paper, notebooks and the backs of envelopes - just like a real writer, and just like everyone else - but I never got around to really putting it all together.
And do you know why?
It's because it's really hard work to produce a published novel, and I don't have the drive or passion to go through all that shit.
Not only do you have to write a manuscript, you have to shop it to agents or (far less likely) publishers. Then, if they look at it, you have to do rewrites n times. Then, because this takes a couple of years, the market will shift and they won't publish it after all.
Luckily you're usually saved that pain by just being rejected again and again.
Ok, ok, *say* you get published. Do you know how much the average author earns? SFA. Say $8K if you do well.
$8K for two plus years work isn't enticing.

But, ahhh!, you say: you're not in it for the money, but for the love of it.
Well maybe *you* are but not me.
I kinda think that if I loved writing then I would have done something close to the 10,000 hours someone needs to do to become an expert at something. Over ten years that is 2-3 hours a day, every day.
And that's just for a shot at the title (pun). That's not a guarantee of success - you still have to be lucky.
And, sure, people do get published and make a living, but people also win lotto.
I haven't done the sums but it is tempting to think that instead of going through the agony of writing something that nobody wants, how about just get a job and turn those wasted hours into cash that you then spend entirely on lottery tickets.
After ten years you might crack the big one, as they say.
Also, there is less chance of cracking the shits, as they say, and running round the streets bludgeoning randoms with an axe-handle.

I guess it all comes back to that excellent movie 'Office Space' from the late nineties. The plot revolves around an unhappy office drone, Peter, who realises that life should be on his terms - and he starts dictating those terms. Through this process he becomes happy.
During a heart-to-heart with coworkers he tells of the careers advice he received at school. They asked the kids "If someone gave you a million dollars, what would you do with it?" and if you said you'd buy a car and do it up, then you were meant to be a mechanic. If you said you would invest it on the staock exchange then you should be a broker.
'So, what did you say', asks Peter's friend.
'I said 'Nothing'. I would do nothing'.

You know what the best bit of those five months in 2000 were? Watching Rick Stein.
No, that doesn't mean I should become a chef - I tried being a cook and it was the most stressful job I've ever had.
What it means is that I enjoyed doing what I wanted to do and that didn't look ANYTHING at all like work.

If someone gave me a million dollars I would do nothing too. Heck, I'm doing nothing now: rent's paid til June; I just bought tickets to 14 shows of the comedy festival; and I got a whole library of books to read.

It's not giving up - it's biting the bullet.


7th June 2010

On Not Giving Up

So, I wrote the above in a funk in late March, and I happily packed everything away in boxes and didn't think about it for a month or so.

Since then three things occured to me:

a) The above was actually quite well written.

b or 2) Something about being a spineless and lazy little girl/This being one of those test of character things I keep hearing about/Something inspirational bordering on the trite.

b part 2 (or 2 part b)) Um, how about trying doing something that actually is actually hard like being a nurse or a gigolo specialising in the handicapped or something, you tool? No? So, shut up. qv 'spineless girl'.

c) What _else_ am I going to do for funnsies, really?

d) All of the above.


Liam said...

Have you seen Rick Stein's Colonial Adventures? I know that's not what it's called but it's the premise of the show; he goes around the quainly referred-to Far East and clucks at the very very Eastern Easterners.
It's fantastic, all it needs is pith helmets and a Webley on a string.

c) What _else_ am I going to do for funnsies, really?


Zoe said...

We don't all have to be ambitious.

anti ob said...

I've got a friend who wrote a pretty decent fantasy novel, and my brother-in-law wrote an absolutely hilarious movie script which he started to work up into a novel; neither has had even the vaguest of hints at selling anything, much the less making a living out of it. My aunt had a couple of short stories published after 20-some (more?) years of trying - including one in the New Yorker - and said that finally breaking through was all about learning the way the game was played and getting a good agent, and nothing to do with any improvement in her writing. Its a hard road.

Never read any of your novel stuff, but if your blog writing is any sample I'd guess its well-written and funny (which is not to say that there shouldn't be more of it!) But alas the quality of the work has only a passing acquaintance with its commercial success - even after you manage to get it published! I'd suggest that if you aren't doing it for the sheer joy of it at some point in the process (even if its grindingly hard work the rest of the time) then you're probably doing it for the wrong reasons.

This does not preclude getting disgusted with the process occasionally, throwing a funk, and storming off to do something else for a bit. Thats just normal. Hope you _do_ keep writing, because one day I want to read the damn thing (and cadge lifts on your privately chartered Lear to book-signings in Rio...)

anti ob said...

Oh and also? If you want to sell a book? It should be about a sexy vampire / witch / were-shark who has a torrid relationship with a vampire hunter / christian evangelist / pool boy. There should be violence, heaving breasts, and angst - not necessarily in that order. Its what they're wallpapering bookshops with these days, honest.

harry said...

Also, don't physically describe the female protagonist so that every drippy pimply teenage girl came effortless slide her own porky shape into the role.

Mindy said...

Geez Harry got something against girls this week?

Reinhard said...

You could always retire, and then the book project becomes "writing my memoirs", and everybody nods wisely and you get to work on it without angst. Or pressure. Or indeed sales.

Fyodor said...

Yes, you should quit. You're a terrible writer. Hope that helps.



P.S. sorry for the delayed comment - I assumed you'd already squibbed on your blog in a spinelessly girlish fashion.
P.P.S.N.B.F.T.W. mind you, my judgement is suspect, which is the only reason I read your blog, despite your writing being so godawful. Thought you'd get me on that one, didntcha? Sucked in.