More pie, anyone? Or, Writing as a Job
We original Muses have a little saying about writing for publication that we trot out from time to time:
Writing is a pie-eating contest in which the prize is more pie.
What we mean is basically that you'd better love writing because once you get a book contract, you can expect to do it a whole lot more.
But is writing the same once you get the book deal? Does sitting at the computer typing away, building characters, revising, expanding, cutting--does it feel better or worse when you're getting paid to do it? Easier? Harder? More satisfying? Less?
The answer for me has been is a little bit of everything.
It's a great feeling to know that the words you're typing will someday be printed and bound into a book, but it also brings pressure. Those words cannot suck if they're going to be printed and bound. The problem is that suck is an inescapable part of the writing process. You can't bypass it. You have to overcome the suck. You have to take it and power-wash the rust and barnacles off, and then polish it, and eventually you get something shiny and presentable. Maybe there's a writer somewhere who lays down perfect first drafts. If so, I haven't met them (and I'm not sure I want to.) My point is that the internal critic prevalent in writerly minds can become even louder when writing turns into a job.
An editor and agent can also bring their comments to your work, complicating matters. This was something that was new to me when I became a published writer. I wanted so much to impress both that my own instincts felt dimmer. It was like a critique group in my head all the time. Not a great way to draft, especially when there's also... wait for it...
Deadline pressure. When writing became work for me, deadlines ruled my life for about two years. My life's milestone's were no longer Halloween and Christmas, and my son's birthday. They were Revision Due Dates and Copy Edits due. I had to learn to pace myself (still learning.) I had to learn that, in order to do my best work, I need things like sleep, and food, and exercise in my life. I had to become comfortable with my ability to write and revise relatively quickly - at least, much, much faster than what I'd been used to.
But enough about all the tough parts. What about the great aspects?
Well, not a day goes by that I don't feel exceedingly lucky to get paid to write. I mean that. Fortunate doesn't begin to describe how I feel. I think I say, "I love my job" several times a week. Only half of those are me speaking to the mirror.
Though I try not to think about the "end game" when I'm drafting, sometimes it's a thrill to look at a chapter and imagine a reader reaction. And I feel so, so privileged to have an excellent editor and agent to guide me along the way. Before I was published, I used to read books and think I could never create something so complete and polished. Now I understand the team effort that goes into the process. I feel so lucky to have that help. Even deadlines have their benefits. Things get done when there are deadlines!
And that reminds me... time to get back on the clock. Or, I should say: time for some more pie!