Sunday, February 17, 2008

Writing and Worrying

I've just finished reading a fascinating book: Art & Fear. I'm indebted to Brandilyn Collins for calling this book to my attention. On her blog a few weeks back, she featured a series of discussions drawn from the book. At first I was sort of put off by the title, but as the week went on and the posts continued to touch me, I ordered the book. Of course, as often happens, it got put aside on my desk to be read "when I have time." Now I'm sorry I waited so long.

I'm not going to rehash the message of the book, but would like to make a few comments about it and how it spoke to me. To begin with, the authors write repeatedly about "artmaking." They use this all-inclusive term to include painting, photography, composing, and all types of writing. I hadn't thought about it that way, but the creative process does have a lot of similarities, especially in the area of concern about making oneself do the work, worrying about how it will be received, agonizing over the commercial success that may result, and--if you succeed in these respects--going nuts hoping you can repeat the process.

One sentence especially spoke to me. In discussing artists (of all kinds) who try to reproduce the styles of those who have been successful in the past, they say, "We modestly offer this bit of cowboy wisdom: When your horse dies, get off." I have heard repeatedly that the face of fiction, especially Christian fiction, is changing. Chick lit (whatever that really is) is supposed to be "dead." Science fiction is no longer a hot genre. And on it goes. If you're interested, check out this post from agent and former editor Rachelle Gardner, who spoke to a number of other agents at a recent Christian writers' conference. Then, if you're writing in some of those styles that are out of favor, hurry to find your hidden stash of chocolates and calm yourself.

My second novel was written about the time removal of life support was a hot issue, and that was the main theme of the book. By the time the book was finished and had been sent to (and turned down by) several publishers, that theme was no longer the flavor of the month. I've come to believe that the advice I received long ago is really valid. Good writing will trump a catchy topic and will be around a lot longer.

Since writers worry in much the same way that they breathe--as a part of their normal condition--I won't tell you not to worry. But I will suggest that you read Psalms 55:22 again. And keep writing.

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