Friday, April 22, 2011

The P.I.T.A. that is self-doubt...

Photo from Brandmaker News
In this day and age, we often get to see biographies in movie form, and in recent years there have been biographies about women writer's such Beatrix Potter (Miss Potter - 2006) and Virginia Wolfe (The Hours - 2002), and I found I could relate so well to both those women - at least as they were portrayed in those movies.  Both women lived for their writing, and their characters and were awkward in society, but were sustained by their work. I can relate.

Virginia Wolfe had such strong ideas about her writing that she self-published (through the publishing company she and her husband built). She wanted editorial control over her words. Ms Potter was, likewise, headstrong and knew what she wanted. Both (in these films, at least) came across as standing a little outside of society, though, not necessarily having many friends, and suffering greatly from mental afflictions such as anxiety.

I can relate.

I was talking to Dave about this tonight because for the past few weeks I've been struggling with the idea of figuring out what the market wants, what publishers want (you know, besides good spelling and structure), and whether or not I can do what is wanted. It is a struggle for me because I don't read a lot - I don't read a lot because I read slowly (I've seriously considered learning Braille to find out if I couldn't read more quickly that way, but then again, it's not easy to get new releases in Braille either), and also because I struggle to maintain focus for any length of time.

I bought a copy of the Sleepers Almanac No. 6 and have been reading the shorts in that to try and get a feel for what the editors there are moved by. I absolutely adored Grey Sky Morning by Jack Cassidy. One other story, I won't mention the title of, did nothing for me at all - it seemed to have no point to it. So, it's a mixed bag. I haven't read all the stories, or even half of them, so I can't say what the mood of the anthology is yet. Still, I found myself wondering if my writing would fit at all.

Writers are often encouraged to write for themselves first and foremost, but that is some sort of cruel joke in many ways. Publishers definitely have a concept of literary fashion, 'This is in, but that is so 2004, and no one is reading that kind of fiction anymore, it's been done to death!'

In order to do the kind of work I want to do (for an income) - teach writing to others - I am compelled to get published, which means I have to know what sells, because what sells is the bottom line, right?

The thing is, a big part of 'what sells' these days is the author.

At the Melbourne Writer's Festival last year I attended a panel on 'Author as Brand', where the panel discussed the phenomenon of authors presenting themselves as a brand, with both its advantages and disadvantages. A strong point was made for 'being yourself'...

Do you see my problem?

Okay, well, how many authors are socially awkward, introverted and possibly even off-putting when they open their mouths? How many are not funny or charismatic? Maybe quite a few? How would Beatrix Potter and Virginia Wolfe fare in this bold new world of self-promotion - where 'networking' is a catch word, and you've got to have the X factor when you walk into a room? If publishing is a popularity contest and the writer has never been socially popular, how does the writer manage?

I wonder if the Emerging Writers' Festival or the Melbourne Writers' Festival will ever run forums on 'How to Make Friends and Influence People for the Socially Inept'? I'd be first in line to sign up for those forums!


Juniper said...

I am going to risk offending you and suggest that IMO, reading more books and reading a bigger variety of books would help you work out what the publishers want, what sells, and how you can consider these things while staying true to yourself and your own style.

I know that the library does larger print books, does Vision Australia loan out more recent books in this format? The other thing I was thinking was audio books, which my kids used a lot while travelling in Scotland, and Dh still occasionally uses while doing long drives.

Juniper said...

Dh said the website is, you can down load audio books for the iPod/iPhone. It never existed when we lived in Scotland, I bought audio cassettes for our Walkmans!

Sif Dal said...

Oh, the issue isn't that I don't *want* to read, I love reading in and of itself, and it's not the size of the print that slows me down, but rather my ability to track from the end of one line to the beginning of another, and to stay on the same line while I read (because my eyes bounce around a bit, LOL). Because I have to read slowly to stay on track, I also find I get so easily distracted. To finish the books I read at the beginning of the year, I had to read through the night while everyone else was asleep, LOL, which is great when you have kids to watch during the day!

The audible book site sounds like a great idea though, will definitely check that out! I could probably "read while I walk", as well as at night and on the school run! Thanks for the suggestion.

Juniper said...

Yeah, I was just reading Neil Gaiman's (author) blog and he said he has lost 25 pounds in weight listening to Bleak House on audio which has inspired me to do the same!

Sif Dal said...

LOL, was it THAT depressing?! Hahaha, yeah, I just need to get my phone fixed because it is my iPod.

Good Job!