Ignore the Hype, Just Write

I made that title up all by myself! In my previous (and upcoming) post I noted that I'm off at back-to-back writing conferences. Conferences serve as a good getaway from the real world, a chance to immerse yourself with other writers, and also get a sense of how your work is perceived by those who don't know anything about you. Plus, you can work with an author who may serve as further inspiration in-person and not just in their prose.

One of my main struggles has been the idea of never finishing my linked story collection. The reality that more than five years have passed and it's still not done, yet it is much closer to completion than it had been this time around in years past.

Another problem I have: I read about the market, often. And it doesn't help matters whatsoever. Yes, Writer's Digest will repeatedly tout that you (writer) should be aware of what is going on in your genre and in the industry. But nowadays that can be depressing news!

An internal type of competition festers from your belly and rises to your head and that's where the doubt comes in. Is my book timely? Is my writing good? Is my voice original? Is this story relevant? Are these characters interesting? And so on and so forth.

And reading that less money is put towards genres you enjoy and more to spitting out mass market titles because, apparently, readers have a short attention span and aren't dedicated fans/readers to authors, you worry that your pace is too slow and that the publishing world is passing you by.

I'm here to tell you, you are not alone. Speaking with Tayari Jones and Sara Zarr about their experiences they have conveyed the highs and the lows as authors who've written several books. Tayari's advice: "Write the [damn] book. Nothing will happen if you don't write the book." Sara's advice is to disconnect from Publishers Weekly and Marketplace and force yourself into exile so that you can focus on the work.

Both authors, who you should check out immediately if you haven't already, were very candid when I asked/told them my concern about my story collection. About whether Black people were still desirable by publishing houses and if by the time I completed it, really completed it, whether anyone would want it because there's the potential that it's been done before. As authors who have had tastes of losing the "joy" in writing because they worried too much about the market they have found ways to continue with what they love to do and what has gained them so much respect and fans around the globe: continue to write on your own terms.

"No one has written your book," Sara told me. And she's right. Her example was Frankenstein, a monster tale that has been told from so many perspectives and genres that you wouldn't recognize where the core story began and the new one ended.

So for me, after two weeks of travel and staying in a cottage on a couch and in a dorm to having workshop mates I had never met before from various parts of the U.S. and Canada tell me that the voices from my stories resonated and that they're eager to hear/read more has given me more momentum to ignore the outside world in terms of marketplace and focus on the revisions necessary to get me one step further to showing this to an even larger segment of the world.

To my workshop mates at Napa Valley Writers' Conference and Glen Workshop West, and especially to Tayari and Sara, I offer my most heartfelt thanks for relighting the fire that was beginning to dim.