Thursday, April 20, 2017

Creativity, Frustration, and Burnout

It was the best of jobs, it was the worst of jobs. . .

When people ask me what I do (which is the typical first encounter questions in the US, as if doing is more important than being. When I remember, I ask instead 'What do you enjoy?') I tend to reply with something like this:

"I have the best job in the world. I get to make stuff* up for a living."

And I'm not lying when I say that. I've done other things for work, most notably a 25 year career as a physical therapist. I truly loved being a PT. It was something that was both a job and a calling and in my long career, not only did I directly and positively impact the lives of thousands of patients, I also directly nurtured the careers of dozens of clinicians as well as helped shape the way chronic pain is managed throughout the profession.

Still, being able to live a life of creativity through my writing is amazing. It's what I always dreamed of doing, since early childhood. It's hard to top that with any career, no matter how successful.

There are days where going back to the routine of evaluating and treating a patient seems the simpler path. You know that famous opening line from A TALE OF TWO CITIES? Yeah. Turns out Dickens was right and was probably also talking about the life of a creator. Definitely a best of times/worst of times gig.

Understand, I'm not complaining. No one is holding a gun to my head and forcing me to write for a living. And I went into this gig knowing how mercurial it would be: How long the odds of success. How having a day job or a patron went with the territory. How few writers made a full living from their writing. How much luck and timing counted, even when the hard work was done and I had a solid book, with solid editing, and a solid cover.

Knowing all of that doesn't make it easier to understand why amazing books get overlooked. And I'm not even talking about my own work, here. Over the years I've been working this author/publisher gig, I've had the pleasure of reading some incredible novels and meeting (both virtually and in person) some incredible authors. 

And we're all struggling with having our books discovered. This isn't an indie vs traditionally published dichotomy either. I personally know:

  • a NYT bestselling genre author who, trapped in midlist hell, broke with her agent, stopped writing her own titles and now only ghostwrites;
  • a traditionally published author with a 3 book deal, the novels have been well reviewed and well received, and she'd drowning in her day job, desperate to be able to leave it and afraid to do so;
  • an indie writer whose work is simply astonishing and well-loved by his readership, but who can't seem to get that big break that causes the work to catch the attention of Amazon's algorithms;
  • actually, that last point for at least a dozen writers I know and whose work I have recommended over the years. 

I'm not even sure what the point of this blogpost is, to be honest. My fellow writers already know this; they live it. I suspect that most of my blog readers are fellow writers, so we're all singing to the same choir. 

Maybe it's simply to remind myself that this is the work that I love. As frustrating as it can be, I keep stringing words together to make sentences, turn those sentences into paragraphs. And somehow, those paragraphs stack up over and over and end up telling a story.

I'm a storyteller. It's what I do, who I am, and what I love.

*Depending on the audience, that gets changed to 'sh*t'



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1 comment:

  1. I'm right with you here, Lisa. Honestly, whenever one of my books comes out, before I even hit the "publish" button, I have to take a step back and remind myself why I do this. While I would love to live off my writing, I recognize that there are superior authors out there who aren't able to either. It's a trifle depressing.