Clarkesworld magazine decided to run an interview with writers of epic fantasy, including such luminaries as Stephen Erikson, Terry Brooks, Elizabeth Bear…and, to my startled delight, me.
It was, although flattering, rather scary to realise my witterings would be up there alongside the words of wisdom of authors I admire immensely. I spent hours frantically polishing my answers in an attempt to sound less than a complete blithering idiot. This did at least have the interesting and educational effect of making me think quite hard about what I write and why, (though whether the resulting answers were any less wittery as a result of all the thinking is up to the judgement of the reader).
I do believe it’s salutary, sometimes, to think about why we do the things we do, especially when it comes to writing. Once you have an audience, and are earning money at it, a whole new set of factors come into play – like deadlines, and contracts that you have signed and are therefore obliged to fulfil, and paying the mortgage.
But why do you do it when you’re not earning any money at it yet? When no-one who could get you that deal seems to have the slightest interest in anything you’ve created?
Well, sometimes you don’t do it. Sometimes people stop, and decide to do something else with their lives, at least for a bit, and maybe they go back to it, and maybe they don’t.
But if you do keep at it, you keep slogging away, and sending out the stories, or the novels, or the poems, and you don’t sell anything, or you do sell a story, but realise that the time it took you to write it and the money you’ve been paid for it works out at a wage of about .0006p a month, or you sell a story and the magazine promptly folds, or someone asks for a full of your novel and a month or a year later the rejection comes back saying ‘I absolutely loved this but…’ and if this goes on long enough, which for most people it does, you get a little discouraged. Or a lot.
Yet some of us keep trying. Why? If we have day jobs, which most of us do, and something else in our lives, like family, or friends, or other creative endeavours, which I hope most of us do, why do we keep on slogging away at that far distant goal of publication, which seems to recede even as we run towards it? Why don’t we just give it up and watch telly or take up line-dancing instead?
It’s not the same answer for everyone. It’s not just one answer even for me.
Some of it was the fact that there are a lot of people in my head who all seem to want their chance to get down on paper, and if I don’t write, they don’t shut up. But if that were all, I could just have written for myself and never worried about whether it saw the light of day.
Some of it was, I suppose, simply arrogance, a belief that I had good stories that people would enjoy if they read them, and that I had things I wanted to say that I thought people would want to hear.
Some of it, a lot of it, was the support and belief of others; people who read my stuff and liked it and told me to keep at it.
Some of it was sheer, persistent stubbornness, a determination to keep butting my head against that wall until one of us broke. And, at least in terms of getting my first deal, I guess it’s paid off.
But that’s why I did it, and not even all of why I did it. So I am left wondering, why does everyone else do it, what keeps pushing them on? If you haven’t yet got to the place you want to be…what keeps you trying?