Monday, 12 April 2010

On Dreams and Growing up

In this post here I said "Did I spend too much time in the past on impossible wishes? Am I more rooted now, moving towards an achievable future for once? I don't know. I think I might be growing up. Finally.", and Sarsparilla asked: "Do you believe that growing up is a process of losing your dreams, then? What has made you come to believe such a thing?"

...and the whole discussion is salient to my New Plan, so I thought it was worth reproducing my response here:

"Not losing your dreams, but giving up on the impossible ones.

I have new dreams, and they're achievable. Before, I spent a lot of time chasing rainbows.

Now I'm more sensible and realistic, and yes, those feel like attributes one might give to a more mature person.

There's also that thing of having less energy and more responsibility. I'm not the only person I have to look out for now, and my mind and body are slightly more fragile and need protecting - by me - from more of life's dangers.

But this achievable dream thing... it's coincidental I think that you should have arrived here today, the first day in weeks that this blog had fresh content... content which details (see here) my latest dream. This new dream is an example of the less-likely-to-be-possible replaced by the definitely-possible. Not long ago I was a full time writer, chasing after a dream of stardom. Now I've given up on that, which means that instead of panting on the heels of dismissive publishers I can happily announce Fuck All That and publish my own book with impunity.

Self-publishing is inadvisable for a writer trying to get the attention of mainstream publishers. It actively disimpresses them. Getting the attention of these people is something you do if you want to be a "successful" writer, when success is measured by how many books you sell and how many good reviews you get. But there are literally millions of writers and not enough publishing deals to go around... and even if you get published there aren't enough readers either (if you're chasing "success" on publishers' terms), so you have to jump through a million hoops in your efforts to get the attention of publishers and readers... unless you stop, step back, rethink what it's all about. What if what really matters is that you produce a beautiful book? One that you are proud of, that a small number of people can read? People you actually know? People whose opinions matter because you genuinely care what they think, instead of strangers pitching into your meaningless popularity contest? If that's your aim, then self publishing is an entirely reasonable enterprise.

And I think that counts as growing up: working out what will really make you happy, instead of chasing miserably after things which won't make you happy even if you catch them."

... to which I'd like to add that another reason I was chasing mainstream publishers was that I wanted to make a living from novel-writing, which is impossible without massive book sales.

Why did I want to make a living from it? So that I could do it all the time and not have to lose all that lovely writing time on Making Money To Feed The Kids.

But why did I want to write all the time? Because I wanted a life of dreaming, instead of a life trying to make money. But what if the dreams become your means of getting money? Then they stop being dreams, they start being work, they stop being fun, they start to destroy the very soul you were trying to preserve.

I know there are full time novelists who are happy that way and find a route through all this, but I wasn't one of them.


Anonymous said...

I'm still here :o)

I think you must follow your heart and do what drives you. If that means you want to self-publish one or more pieces of your writing work, then why the heck not? You obviously understand all the pros and cons very well.

One idea you might consider is to use a pseudonym when self-publishing. It might provide a buffer zone between that "you" and the "you" that may still want to go the traditional publishing route one day. Perhaps such an indirection might prevent some doors from closing.

Just an idea.

Good luck with all of your new ventures.

Queenie said...

It sounds as if you know yourself better than you did, as well. Also part of growing up, and a particularly useful one, I find.