CP: From Ashes to Phoenix

This post is part of the Creative Process series, in which I will whine, cry, and philosophize about my life as a fiction writer. In the worst case scenario, fellow struggling artists will be heartened by my constant failures. In the best case scenario, a best-selling novel just might be written. 

Recently, I compared novel-writing to pregnancy because most miscarriages occur in the first trimester. Once you get through the first third of the book, you’re much less likely to abandon it. Every day that passes, you are more and more enthralled with your “baby” as it begins to take shape. However, while pregnancy miscarriage has a rate of about 15%, I would bet that novel death has a much higher rate. I just passed the third-of-the-way mark and I’m absolutely thrilled. Yet sometimes I doubt that the road ahead has gotten any smoother and the thought of discarding my work entirely does cross my mind from time to time.

Mostly, I feel like a proud parent because I have the most unique opportunity to watch my novel flesh out before my eyes. In the beginning, it was difficult to get a grasp of the characters and the plot. Slowly, the plot has built itself and the characters have driven the progress. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not the type of writer to plan everything out beforehand. In fact, sometimes I feel the way Elizabeth Gilbert described in her excellent TED talk on creativity.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86x-u-tz0MA]

The worst affliction that could possibly manifest in a writer is the disease of narcissism. More than one too many a writer has loved his or her own writing a tad too effusively. Worse is when a writer is in love with himself because of his creative talents. The second worse writer’s affliction is self-doubt. The leading cause of novel death, this ailment is as common to artists as athlete’s foot is to runners. Since both narcissism and self-doubt contribute to the demise of good writing, the question becomes: what is the cure?

The answer lies in Gilbert’s fascinating look into historical views on creativity. When you give up the idea that you are the end-all, be-all of your art, you save yourself from the two primary causes of bad writing. When you accept that you are merely the vessel — the pawn — in the grand scheme of divine artistic connivery, you relieve yourself of the burden of being either God or Satan. Dear fellow writers of the world, accept that you are neither brilliant nor pitiful and then your work will speak for itself.

Do you suffer from either of these two ailments in your art? Will you participate in NaNoWriMo?

À bientôt,



3 thoughts on “CP: From Ashes to Phoenix

  1. Although I had literary agents several times, if not getting published means I was a failed writer, then I failed annually 1968 – 2007. Then my first novel came out. Now I’m considered a mid list author. At first if you don’t succeed, just keep going.

    During those 39 years of failing at writing, I just kept picking myself up and starting over.

    Saw a great documentary this week: “Searching for Sugar Man”. In fact, Rodriguez’s story is one of failure that became a success too but not over night.

    According to Rotten Tomatoes.com : “Searching for Sugar Man tells the incredible true story of Rodriguez, the greatest ’70s rock icon who never was. Discovered in a Detroit bar in the late ’60s by two celebrated producers struck by his soulful melodies and prophetic lyrics, they recorded an album which they believed would secure his reputation as the greatest recording artist of his generation. In fact, the album bombed and the singer disappeared into obscurity amid rumors of a gruesome on-stage suicide. But a bootleg recording found its way into apartheid South Africa and, over the next two decades, he became a phenomenon. The film follows the story of two South African fans who set out to find out what really happened to their hero. Their investigation leads them to a story more extraordinary than any of the existing myths about the artist known as Rodriguez.”

    • Oh I certainly don’t mean to say that not getting published means failing as a writer. I know that selling books takes a whole lot of good luck — for every Hemingway, there are probably 50 writers of the same quality who remained unknown.

      It is amazing that you were able to keep writing, though. Sinclair Lewis once said, “It is impossible to discourage the real writers — they don’t give a damn what you say, they’re going to write.”

      However, if I never get published, turning writing into a fulltime career would be problematic…so I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

      That sounds really fascinating. I believe anyone who succeeds in the creative arts has more perseverance than a hundred Mark Zuckerbergs.

      • I agree with Sinclair Lewis. And there are opportunities to publish that did not exist a few years ago.

        For about a century, there was traditional publishing with literary agents as the first gatekeeper. If a writer found an agent that liked his or her work and the agent decided to represented that writer, then the agent contacted the next gatekeeper, an editor or publisher, and if that person liked the writer’s work, then it goes in front of an editorial board to decide if it will be one of the books published by that publisher.

        When a manuscript is accepted, a contract is signed and usually a year later, the book is released. Then readers decide to buy and read or not. The average traditionally published book sells about 250 copies in its lifetime. That says a lot.

        Today, there are three choices thanks to Print on Demand and e-books.

        A writer may decide to self-publish and pay a company such as Publish America or iUniverse, etc. a few hundred or a few thousand dollars.

        Or a writer may become and independent author/publisher and launch his or her own imprint. With LSI-Ingram, Create Space, Amazon Kindle, etc., a writer who is willing do all the production work, may publish books at little to no cost and have them marketed through companies such as Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, Create Space, etc. to a global audience.

        For example, there is Amanda Hocking. She became an indie author soon out of high school. For nine years she wrote her fantasy novels, published them under her own imprint and struggled to promote her work through her Website/Blog. Then last year, her work went viral in a short period of time and started selling hundreds of thousands of copies a month. After selling several million copies of the books she wrote and published over a nine-year period, she was approached by a traditional publisher and offered a contract in the millions of dollars. And Hocking is not alone. There are a number of very successful indie authors out there. In fact, some traditionally published authors are leaving their agents and traditional publishers and going indie because they make more money but cutting out the gatekeepers and going straight to readers.

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