October 15th, 2006

Jin Shei Cover from sgreer

Question #3

miketo asks:

If you were to create an artist's enclave / commune, how would it work and who would you invite? (Oy, two questions. If you pick only one, pick the first one.)

That ain't fair, it ain't making me dream up utopias... [grin]

It would consist of people passionate about their art, and probably a mix of those - painters, sculptors, writers, musicians, all mixed up and stirred well and seasoned with a love for whatever it is that they were doing. There would be individual cottages, funky ones with lots of nooks and crannies and plenty of light for the more visual souls who need it to create, but there would also be a communal eating place where a gourmet cook would be on duty to create nourishment for those who will not or cannot cook or have serious doubts about how poisionous a widl mushroom is and don't want to find out the hard way. There would a wholly optional gathering every day at twilight where you could go and grab a glass of chilled white wine, or mulled red wine, or hot chocolate, or whatever the season demanded (coffee, of course, would be free and always on tap), and basically just talk (or not talk, just listen) to or with other other people who are doing something. There would be just enough momentum created for the creative juices to be flowing, not too much so that everything turns into a competition. There would be celebrations every time one of us had a success; there would be "pickpyourself-up-dust-yourself-off-start-all-over-again" wakes for projects that didn't quite make it to the finish line. There would be a sense of living with a family that you have CHOSEN to be your family.

I'd probably appoint a non-creative type - lawyer, accountant, suchlike - to run the business end of the community - I know I have enough trouble with figures, and my own life has been transformed by the presence in it of a profressional accountant who deals with taxes. (I DO recommend it [grin])Other than that, minor decisions are everyone's on their own, major decisions get put to a vote. Other than THAT, your only responsibility would be to your art.

I TOLD you it was Utopia.
Jin Shei Cover from sgreer

"I want to be a writer... but I hate writing"

On the newsgroup that I call home, the usual discussions turned up some interesting statements. People who if not stated outright then certainly implied that they were writers or wished to be writers are now on record that they enjoy the planning part of the game, and the editing part of the game, but they "choke on the middle".

The middle.

Which is where, you know, the WRITING takes place.

One of them "explained" that the thing (s)he REALLY hated, you see, is not the "Writing", it was just the bit where you "sit and stare at the blank screen".

To paraphrasethe words of an old song - I beg your pardon, who ever offered you a rose garden?

Writing isn't easy. It was never easy. It was never SUPPOSED to be easy. For some it comes just like turning on a tap, and gushes out like a stream of water; others must apply a little basic plumbing to the system before the words will flow smoothly. Neither kind of writer is any less than the other, but they do share a certain something and that is, dammit, that they love what they do. Gushing or dripping, coaxing words out of that faucet is their love and their joy. And if occasionally it comes a little harder than other times, that's part of the deal. That's part of the price. That's part of the bargain.

Here I sit, privileged beyond dreams, and I am grateful for every moment of it. For every perfect phrase that has ever been granted to me, yes - AND ALSO for that other thing, for the blank screen days, for the frustrations and the fears and the sudden taste of terror at the back of my throat when something new hits the shelves and it's time for a verdict from people who don't know me other than through my words. I am grateful, and I am proud - because the fallow fields have not stopped me from gathering in my harvest. I tend the land of my imagination with devotion, and carefully nourish the soil where I grow my stories, and yes, occasionally those fields have been watered with blood, sweat and tears - but look at what grew.

And I love it. Every moment of it. I take joy in it.

Writing is a strange beast, to be sure. It's a gift and a talent, on the one hand, and that's something that is in the hands of the gods to bestow or withhold; it is a painstaking application of patience and craft, on the other hand, and this is something that is in all of us to cultivate... *if we so choose*. Writing, as a profession, is perhaps above all else a profession of choice. And there are plenty of things that the publishing industry can throw at a writer - the rejections, the long waits for approval or for money owing, the multiple editing passes where the writer has to make tough decisions to stand up for some cherished thing or meekly bow to an editor's fiat for something to be excised forthwith and abandoned like a discarded appendix in a hospital operating theatre (and you have to know what exactly is your book's appendix and what is some more vital part like a heart - and which parts are worth taking on the battle over). None of this is glamour, or pure sweetness and light. Writing is a long and lonely task, a tough slog, something you roll up your sleeves and set to doing, something that gives you headaches and sometimes ulcers, and something that, when you are done with it, is a child of your mind and your heart and your spirit and something that you can be fiercely proud of. And if you don't love it, the passion of it, the crafting of it, the sheer hard work and long hours and the stubbornness and the exhilaration and the glory and the catastrophes and the dust of its battles and the heat of its days and the frost of its nights - well, let me say it again. This is *a profession of choice*. You do not have to choose it - nobody is making you do it. But if you choose to do it, and then put youirself on record as saying that you don't like doing it, I have only one piece of advice for you. Life is too short for this. DOn't put yourself through it. If you do not find your life's joy in writing, choose another career.

One which will give you a steady job, a monthly cheque, a guaranteed rent - and I promise you that everything you DO do will have its own set of kvetches and if you're a kvetcher you'll find something to kvetch about. It's purely okay to hate going to the office every day - but that's a job, and one you're paid to do, and nobody is in the business of paying you to be happy. But writing as a profession is such an uneasy living - everything is in flux, everything is subjective, your life and your livelihood are subject to so many unforeseeable disasters, that to put yourself through this without a pressing need is pure damned lunacy. If you write without the love... quit now.

(And should anyone counter this with, but I don't want to make it a profession, writing is a hobby - I have to ask a different question - why, with so many hobbies and free time activities available for us to choose from in the world that we live in, would you choose to pursue one which didn't make you happy? Id jumping out of airplanes made you feel sick to the stomach, would you keep skydiving?)