Monday, April 20, 2009

How do you know whether you should give up or keep fighting?

I’m at a crossroads. You see, I wrote a novel (yup, that's it above!). I have tried getting various agents to take it on. No luck. The last one, a friend’s agent, seemed very keen to take a look and I duly sent the entire novel, but two months on and there’s been not so much as a peep. Oh well, I tell myself, I wasn’t actually sure if she was experienced enough as an agent as I didn’t really know what her credentials were. But I’ve reached this place where I’ve been letting go of all my old beliefs and assumptions. I used to have this dream that I’d get my novel published, that it’d be a smash-hit bestseller and that the film studios would be queuing up to make a movie adaptation. And now? Well, that hasn’t materialised. I did my part; I spent years of my life creating, writing and endlessly re-writing what I felt was a more-than-decent novel, filled with twists and turns and an element of depth that I find sorely lacking from most contemporary art. Sadly, 'life' doesn’t seem to be doing its part! I created what I felt - and I don’t mean this in any egotistical, self-aggrandising way - was my gift to the world. It was my story, my vision, with every last ounce my heart and soul poured into it...and the world doesn’t appear to want it. Doesn’t care. Doesn’t matter.

Maybe it really doesn’t matter? I’ve seriously questioned my need to get it published at all now. I’ve let go of my elaborate dreams of bestselling status and glitzy film premieres. I’ve come to a point where I wonder whether the endless stream of rejection slips signify that my book is quite simply not good enough to publish. It’s perfectly possible. And yet, I can never really know that: no one can conclusively determine whether a piece of art, be it a painting, novel, short story or poem is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Those are subjective judgements and ultimately amount to very little, unless of course like the masses you equate your personal opinions with gospel truth. The primary motivation of agents and publishers is to find something marketable and make as much £££ as possible. Although I tried to make my book as mainstream as I could given the subject matter, I am aware that it doesn’t tidily fit into a neat little pigeonhole; it doesn’t follow trends or take current styles into account. Why should it? I really don’t give damn about trends of current fads in contemporary literature. I’m one of those olde fashioned artists who really doesn’t care about commercial appeal or fitting into certain markets; I had an inner vision, a strong and vivid one and I wrote it as best I could without trying to water it down or tailor it to today’s market. Is this just excuse-making on my part? It has been suggested to me that the UK book market isn’t perhaps very conducive to the type of novel I’ve written and there might be something to that. Then again, it might just be a steaming pile of crap that I’ve written! I’m open to all angles at the moment.

Personally, I have a feeling within me that it’s NOT a steaming pile of crap. Thing is, whenever I reread I actually thoroughly enjoy it - and generally I don’t like reading over things I’ve written because I just tend to criticise every single sentence and the choice of every second word. But I really do get swept away by an engaging and fast-paced story and a character narrative that really compels me. The climax, although I might have written it differently had I done it today, moves and excites me and seems to transcend the normal boundaries of fiction.

So, my question now is really this: do I just accept that I’m not going to get it published, or do I redouble my efforts and give it one last concerted push?

I thoroughly despise sending out queries and whoring my work; I also feel that the initial sample chapters I send off (assuming they are read at all - I can sometimes tell when they aren’t!) aren’t that representative of the book as a whole, simply due to the nature of the story. Maybe I should just get over my dislike of doing this and FORCE myself to give it one last try and not simply fall into what I’ve been doing up til now; sending out 3-4 submissions, waiting for the reply and getting so discouraged when the inevitable rejection slips do arrive that I wait another 6 months til I send out the next batch, and so on.

I could always self-publish, which would give me complete creative control, although by nature I feel really uncomfortable with self-publicity and know I would struggle to get anyone to buy my book. (I would make the world's very worst salesman; even if I had a product I thought was good, my anti-capitalistic tendencies would no doubt cut in and I would lose all motivation to sell it)

Third option is just to give up. Let it go. Chalk it up to experience. And I am prepared now to give up my dream of being a writer. I held onto it tightly for so many years that it was almost a part of me; in reality, it almost seems as though life doesn’t want me to be a writer. If it did, surely it would be easier than it has been? (Then again - who said it would, or should be easy?) Maybe I should just write for myself - I have been toying with ideas for sequels and spin-offs to my novel and I enjoy exploring the various story possibilities. Maybe writing ought to be just a hobby for me. And yet, there’s a part of me wonders - what’s the point? If I can’t somehow put my ideas out there to help the world in some way, to bring just a little more beauty, or inspiration (as I try to do with my every artistic endeavour), then why bother at all?

I really don’t know. When you have ME and everyday is a struggle to get through the basics, you have very little energy left for fighting crusades. I have virtually no fight left. And yet, a little something in me really feels that this particular dream might be worth fighting for. I don’t need to achieve it in order to be happy; I no longer buy into that reasoning (you know, “I need X to happen before I can be happy and at peace”). I can be happy and at peace wherever I am. It’s more like an inner call; I don’t want to share my art out of vanity (personally I’m more comfortable not sharing what I do, particularly if it’s at all of a personal nature and I do put a lot of myself into whatever I do - and then, accordingly want to hide it away). It’s more a feeling that I have something to contribute. So much art out there is soulless and ugly. Maybe contributing something which I know has heart and beauty in it (at least I think it does) is a worthy endeavour.

By the end of this week I will try and come to a decision as to whether I give up or persevere with getting published.


GaySocrates said...

Three things
1 “The universe is the vessel that gives birth to all things, from the seasonal change of flower and leaf, the snow and moon, mountains and seas, plants and trees, the sentient and non-sentient…..make the mind a vessel of the universe, establish that vessel of mind securely in the vast and formless emptiness and attain the miraculous flower of attainment in the art
Founder of the Japanese Theatrical Art of No
2 Meteorologists talk about something they called the Butterfly Effect. The idea is that if a butterfly chances to flap his wings in Beijing in March, then, by August, hurricane patterns in the Atlantic will be completely different.
3 "Genius is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration."

The more you put your work out there, the more you change the world. Maybe you were meant to see the consequences of your creativity; maybe your genius will only be recognized posthumously. Just because you let go of the dream you had of instant Hollywood success doesn’t mean you give up your belief in the truth of your creativity and your work.

I’d love to read your book for one-just can’t seem to get my hands on a copy

Rory said...

Thanks for your comments - they have helped big time, will email a proper response :)