Thursday, February 05, 2009

Boldly on Hold

Seems to me that though there's a lot of scrambling going on in these difficult economic days, in some sense the country is on hold. Lots of decisions, actions, expenditures have been delayed. (Yesterday a writer told me about her novel, which was close to sold in October. A well-known editor at a major house loved it, needed only a committee's expected approval, said it could take as much as a week. The writer is still waiting. Her agent says it's going to happen but not soon because, "Things are a mess here.")

This brought to mind a question: how does one best handle being on hold? A lot of that depends on money of course: whether, primarily, to focus on writing another novel or on finding a job bagging groceries. However, there's a psychological part of the response that is also important. It's a question of keeping on with what's important anyway.

Once in my early pre-email years of freelancing, I had a few days when I didn't have enough money to buy stamps. I just kept writing the letters, so I'd have them ready to send, when I got hold of the stamps. It was only letters, and it was only a few days, so no big deal. But now, we face something like that situation nationwide, and I think it's important that we keep on with our important work, even while on hold.

And maybe there are ways that being boldly on hold can offer something new and useful to the process. I also remember a screenwriter talking about how upbeat and productive she was during a writer's strike of many months. She had a sense of freedom, because she knew the phone wasn't going to ring, knew already that she wasn't going to sell anything today; and so she worried less and felt free to concentrate on her work.

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mamie said...

Very thoughtful post, Peggy. I like the concept of staying busy while in limbo. Me? I play solitaire when I'm on hold....

billie said...

I think the idea to keep working is valid for just about any creative project that is trying to make its way "out there" into the world.

I've been actively setting aside my little "fretting" episodes about the market and the publishing world and how "maybe I should work on x next or y next" - instead of the one that's currently in front of me.

I realized while on writing retreat last week that there is probably some very important, if unconscious, reason that my books came to me in the sequence they did.

I can certainly trace the learning curve for the first 3 adult novels, which started with first person. In the second I took on alternating POVs, initially first but then I decided to try third. And in the one I'm editing now, I've tackled alternating POVs and big shifts in time, that woven together, form a much bigger picture story.

They came to me in this order, but I realized last week that had I not written the first one first, and learned some things doing that very narrow POV, I would have really struggled with what I'm doing right now. And as it turns out, it may well be that this book, which looks at the same cast of characters as the first one, but from a different perspective, is the "real" book -- and the first one was the necessary prep.

If I look at my writing work as something integral to ME, carrying forth over time, as opposed to something I have to sell, the process becomes rich and a treasure all to itself.

Meanwhile, of course, I have the second novel traveling the various streets of NYC, seeking a ticket to ride the big ferris wheel. :)

Peggy Payne said...

Solitaire has its virtues, Mamie. Can't be concentrating all the time.

Billie, I think all your novels are "real."

And I see my books/stories/articles all as pieces of my particular puzzle. The one book I've co-authored Healing Power of Doing Good fell in my lap; I decided to take the job. And it also fits into my personal "big picture." I suspect that's true for most if not all of us. I think of the Flannery O'Conner title: Everything That Rises Must Converge.