Friday, August 13, 2010

A Capricious Diety

I've been lousy about posting this week, but I have a pretty good reason—I've been completely, utterly involved in a project. And since I haven't really blogged about it before, I'm going to blog about it now. A little. But not too much.

Some history. I wrote a book earlier this year about dragons. After I finished it, I got a few crit opinions, and they pointed out some fairly major structural problems. I could have rewritten it. I will someday, I'm sure. But that happened to have been the second time I'd written this same story, and it was ugly to realize that I'd gotten it wrong yet again. I began to wonder if I wasn't a good enough writer to handle the story.

So I shelved it, which sucks. If you've ever shelved a book, you know what I mean. I shelved the book before I even thought about drafting a query.

'Cause in the background I had another project kicking around. It felt like a very commercial, very hooky idea, and I just loved the main character. It was the easiest idea pitch I'd ever worked on. The book is a walking elevator pitch.

I had about 5,000 words done on this thing, and I figured to heck with the complicated dragon mythology, I'm switching projects. Which brings me to this August.

About two weeks ago, I promised myself I'd write every day until the book was done. When you make a stupid promise like that, you've got two choices: either give it up in shame or keep it. So far, I've kept it, and the book has been rolling out. It's amazing how fast a book can happen when you sit down every freaking day and pound out 1,000 or 1,500 words. I'm coming up on 40,000 words today, and I expect I'll be done before Sept. 1.

I was telling my wife last night that I probably should be jaded by now. I'm doing at least a novel a year nowadays, which must make me one of the most prolific unpublished writers on the planet. (I believe there's another word for that and it rhymes with snidiot.) But I'm not jaded. Actually, I'm insanely excited about this book. It's been so easy so far, and even though I know there are major things I have fix (like oh by the way, I cut a main character in the middle of a chapter last week—just poof!), the whole architecture feels solid.

And all of this is leading up to a Revelation. See, I'm working like a dog lately. I mean, I still have a full-time job and kids, one of whom just had oral surgery, and an old dog who's been throwing up in her mouth for the last month or so despite the vet's best efforts to figure out what's wrong ... and then I decided to add another hour or two of daily writing on yet another book that, based on my recent past, is statistically doomed. I should quit, right?

But that was my revelation. I don't want to quit because I like this. I guess I'm writing now for the same reason I wrote when I was 12 and 15 and 22 and 31—because I just like to tell stories. It's what I do. There's a certain freedom in knowing that. There's a weightlessness in the knowledge.

I'm not saying I don't want to sell. I do. And I'm not saying I'm done improving. I'm not.

I don't know how people are chosen for their lots in life. I don't know what capricious god decided that I should only want to write my little stories, then make me spend decades first admitting it, then a few years realizing I sucked at it, then more years painstakingly learning to get better at it. Maybe these questions are beyond me anyway—when all that really matters is I'm two weeks away from finishing another draft, and I think that's pretty cool.


Kath Calarco said...

"And I'm not saying I'm done improving. I'm not."

Last year 60 Minutes interviewed Chris Martin from Coldplay, and he said something so profound that it has acted on me like a pair of crutches to Tiny Tim. He said, "We rely more on enthusiasm than actual skill. Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically and people will like it more." Steve Kroft, CBS correspondent conducting the interview, said that the group is "confident that they are not yet as good as they are going to be."

As writers we tend to angst over skill, and that tends to overshadow the heart necessary to keep on keepin' on. So, whenever I'm feeling suckitis, I recall Chris Martin's words, and then Kroft's. Works for me.

Bravo on the gazillion words you've written!

Sarah Laurenson said...

You go!

Quitters never win and winners never quit. Then there's those of us doggedly pounding away at the keyboard with no idea if we'll ever get published. Feels like winning to me.

Mark Terry said...

Even published, I generally have much greater peace of mind if I tell myself I'm doing it because I can and because I enjoy it, rather than as a financial aspect of my life. I may be delusional (without a doubt), but I'm happier in my delusions.

Jude Hardin said...

Glad you're finding the joy in it, Jon. I am, too, and that's really all any of us can ask for.

Jon VanZile said...


I love that quote! I've never heard it before, but totally agree with it. You can always see when any kind of performer is really into their thing, when they enjoy it. That kind of joy can go a looooong way.

Jon VanZile said...


Thanks for stopping by! It feels like winning a lot of the time to me, too, except when it sometimes feels like whining.

Jon VanZile said...


I would love to be happier in my delusions. Someday, perhaps. Someday.

Jon VanZile said...


Welllllll, yes but ... I could also ask for a Ferrari and one-on-twelve lessons with the National Swedish Women's Volleyball team. But I'm not sure that'd make me a better writer.

Erica Orloff said...

I think Flanigan might back the Volleyball team dream. ;-)

Allen said...

In my world, the only thing worse than writing is not writing. I don't write to make money. I write to become wealthy and healthy. I'm enriched by the mere fact that I can create something people will read. I chuckle inside at the little asides in my stories that no one else will get.

And I just smile when my wife reads one of my books cover to cover.

My only small regret is that i don't make a living from my writing. I live such a silly life.

Jon VanZile said...


I laughed at your last sentence ... I relate completely. I do make a living from writing and editing, but I'd rather make a living from a different kind of writing. Such a silly life.

Melanie Avila said...

Go you!

Now that I'm back in the real world I wonder what the heck I did with my time before I moved to Mexico. I didn't write, I wasn't online... yet I still kept busy. I'm much happier with this kind of busy. :)