29 June, 2006

Mary Sharratt on writing goals

Mary Sharratt , whose latest novel The Vanishing Point is a historical set in 17th century Maryland, has posted this interesting article on long-range writing goals. I read it expecting to look on from a reverential distance - after all, the writing goals of an established author with three novels and a literary prize to her name are liable to be of limited relevance to the likes of me. Then I came across this paragraph:

Focus on your own writing. As writers we need to take back our power. If the book market is full of variables beyond our control, we need to focus on what we can control-namely our own writing. In her excellent book, Writing Past Dark, Bonita Freedman notes that our commitment to our own writing is our best weapon for banishing inner demons. "The antidote to envy is one's own work. Not the thinking about it. Not the assessing of it. But the doing of it. The answers you want can come only from the work itself. It drives the spooks away."


And later on:

Be happy with what you do achieve. [......] Behind our house is a vast sheep pasture. I tried to imagine that pasture full of all the people who have taken time out of their busy lives to read what I wrote while labouring alone in my room. This is the big picture and encouragement that will keep me going for the next forty years. Ultimately we write for our readers, no matter what the market does.


Amen to that, say I. The writing is its own reward, or it should be. One may not aspire to a "vast sheep pasture" - unless one lives in the kind of terrain where land productivity is measured in acres to the sheep - but for me there's something magical about the idea that someone, somewhere, has read something I've written and liked it enough to write to me and say so. That's what it's all about - a connection, the sharing of a story or image or idea, just by means of words on a screen. Magic.

12 comments:

pundy said...

Interesting. Good writing is good writing whatever the genre. Aim high, aim very high.

SAND STORM said...

How very true! Hard to distance ourselves from all the BS, the Market, self doubt, etc. but really we need to focus on our passion.

Bernita said...

My affliction is at the fore, it seems.
I do agree that satisfaction of an individual aim is Writer's First Rule, but I found this description of it ...tepid.

Carla said...

Pundy, Sand Storm - hello, and thanks for dropping by. Glad you found the link of interest.

Bernita - each to his own.

Gabriele C. said...

I also write the stories I want to write, not what sells. Of course, it would be nice to share them and the widest distribution is reached by traditional publishing; yet if that will not work, I won't mind to share them via Lulu, my blog or some such way.

I'm too much of an realist to think I'll ever be able to live off my writing anyway.

Carla said...

My thoughts exactly, Gabriele.

Bernita said...

Of course, Carla.
I much prefer your description of the magic.

Carla said...

Thank you Bernita (blushes). Flattery will get you anywhere :-)

Alex Bordessa said...

Being caught up in writing 'for the market' isn't helpful; it seems to be many a would-be writer's graveyard. But any article that encourages people
to have faith in their own writing is fine by me :-)

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

I have always written for myself first and never the market. I'm lucky to be published by the mainstream and to be earning a living from something to me that's as necessary as breathing. However, even if I wasn't published I would still be writing. Not for anyone else, not for sheep in the field, but for me. It's my personal involvement with my story and my characters that matters. Readers are essential and they pay my wages, but they're along for the ride rather than holding the whip. I wrote eight 500 page novels before I was taken on by a publisher. I spent 17 years writing stuff down that was never seen except by me, a few members of my family and the occasional bored agent or publisher. Did it stop me? Never! If I'd not received the call, I'd still be sitting here - on a pile of 23 unpublished manuscripts, and I'd still be as happy as Larry penning my 24th.

Carla said...

Alex, Elizabeth - that's the spirit! It's lucky that 'the market' and a lot of readers happen to share your passion, Elizabeth!

. said...

.