Friday, September 9, 2011

What's it all about, Alfie?

This is a painting by Giorgio de Chirico, a surrealist Italian painter. I love his work because it is an external expression of the internal.

I spend a lot of time in my own head. I can get really moody. I can feel really burdened by self-doubts. And then I can feel amazingly motivated by self-doubt as well, as in, "Heck yes, I can do this. I am gonna prove it to myself and the world that I can." I'm going through one of those doubtful periods right now.

I have one book out. The Tilting House. It did pretty well. Got really solid reviews. The sales were good, but not enough to make me feel completely rock solid in my success trajectory. I have another manuscript being shopped. Letter Off Dead. My agent, the esteemed Abigail Samoun, loves it and is shopping it around right now. She keeps telling me not to worry. But I worry. I'm a worrier. I come from a long line of worriers. It's what we do. We're good at it. And I have another complete manuscript that is close to the copy edit stage. Is it good? I think it is.  Will publishers like it? Will readers like it? I really hope so.

One of main reasons I want to be an author is because I think the work is so valuable. Not my work. Just the general work of telling stories. There is little in life that is worth more than a really good story. The media of story telling may have changed: from cooking fires and cave paintings, to epic poems told with goatskins full of wine, to tragedies performed in togas, to traveling minstrels singing songs of green-capped heroes and royal outlaws, to hunting songs and songs of lost loves, to poetic plays performed in the round, to folk songs of sailors and heartbroken widows, to serialized novels so popular that you'd dive in the water to greet the mail boat, to pulp fiction about cowboys, detectives and shiny robots, to musicals to movies to television miniseries to video games. A video game and a campfire story may look different, but the value--the soul-touching, self-losing, story-telling value--is very much the same.

I think it's important work. As important as anything and far more important than almost everything. But it's hard to get a story told and shared. And it's hard to make it really good. Can I do it? Are my stories good enough? Can I withstand the bone-grinding process of idea to book?

Ask me tomorrow.

1 comment:

Gwen Hayes said...

If it's any consolation to you--ditto.

It's hard to live inside your own head so much and then suddenly have to present everything inside your head to the public for consumption and not "worry".

I have no advice--just commiseration.