Wednesday, February 22, 2012

From HFO

I was responding to a thread at Historical Fiction Online, and decided what I was writing really had to go up here, too.  Still in pain most of the time, I hope everyone will forgive me if I don't re-edit this.


There is a dividing line, in my mind, between having been a writer of sorts all my life - and finally becoming an *author*.

Some years ago, my brother invited me to join him for the James River Writers annual Conference, and I said yes.  We'd both always harbored sort of minor dreams about being writers, but the good fortune was that we're both also not "joiners" and kind of needed each other to go with in order to participate in something that made us feel sort of vulnerable.  I never counted on how important this Conference would be for me (and I have been a faithful JRW member since they began memberships).

The education and the INSPIRATION of this community transformed what had always been a formless idea into the directed, educated, and confident motivation which pretty quickly became the beginnings of The Ax and the Vase.

E and I have often talked about creative people who say they are something, but never truly produce anything professionally (and there is precisely nothing wrong with that), and the people who dedicate themselves to some form of professional product to be recognized publicly in one way or another.  Because E is a graphic artist, we ended up coming up with the phrase "I'ma 'Nartist" (sincerely not intended as derogatorily as that may sound) for those who fill sketchbooks and party chatter, but never push themselves nor feel the need perhaps to reach the specific goals of publishing a graphic novel or what have you.

I was quite happily a 'nartist all my life.  But once I actually learned something about how to publish, I decided that I *wanted* to do so - and have worked at it with passion and professionalism ever since.  I don't care about being King or Rowling, and would be sorry if I did.  I don't care about rights options.  I do care very much about making my work good enough to get it repped by the man whose positive response to me so far has been about as gratifying as any creative accomplishment I've ever managed.  I care that this will be sold in Europe, too.  I care that it should sell well enough to make me a going concern as an author - though I don't fantasize about wild wealth in royalties, nor even quitting my (excellent) day job.  I care about being well repped, per the note above.

Above - and beneath - it all, I care about my story.  Without Clovis, I never could have gone anywhere, and I'm as grateful to have found a subject (well - or three!) as to have found JRW.

But without my pragmatic and mercenary expectations and motivations - I would still just sort of "think" I was a writer.  And that was okay - and would be still, if I din't know what I do now.

I wrote a book.  I'm an author.  Even if I died tomorrow, unpublished and in my grave - I accomplished something real.  I produced the book.  Now I want to do it the service of seeing it read.


Jeff said...

One of the things I've loved about the two JRW events I've attended is that the unpublished, the published, and the self-published all sit and gab and eat together, because after all, they're all writers.

I do think you're right to discern a line between "writer" and "author," which we feel far more deeply when we're on the not-yet-published side...but I also think there's a less acknowledged line between "people who've actually finished a novel" and "people who've only talked about it." To my mind, it's the difference between being an artist and being "artsy." (I had friends and relatives who humored me for years and didn't seem to believe I was "writing a book" until they were stunned to find, one fine day, that they could walk into a Borders and buy the thing! So sometimes our perception of ourself on that writer-author continuum is out of sync with the perceptions of others, humorously so...)

DLM said...

Hi, Jeff!

I try to remind myself - because after all I "am one" only by accident, in a way - that there's no distinction in worthiness between the 'Nartists and the artists with successful comics, or gallery shows, or actors in Hollywood versus New York versus less obvious places (or who do film versus plays versus community), or writers who are exquisitely talented but find no need for that goal I have set for myself.

But, for me, I know I wasn't "real" without the education I got from JRW - because I was not directed. I had no goal, with my skill with our language. Which is fine, but for me the lack of discipline meant I would never have accomplished anything. Now that I know how, I actually need more than to be a 'Nartist.

Fortunately for me, it'll happen. Partially because of this education - and discipline. :)