For the past year, I’ve put off finishing the proposal for what I hope will become my third, commercially published non-fiction book.
I had a gazillion quite legitimate
— I’m getting my hip replaced (which crippled my hands?)
— I’m recovering from hip surgery (and too busy playing Ipad Scrabble)
— I have to go to physical therapy three times a week (which of course consumes 24 hours of the day)
— I need to make money first (actually true)
But the deeper, tougher, sighing truth is…
Every creative venture for which you seek external interest, validation or sales — your Etsy site, your play, your poetry, your drawings or music or pottery or stained glass — must find its audience at some point.
If you need people to pay for it, let alone pay you well and buy more and more of it, maybe to pay for your food and shelter and your kids’ new shoes, the stakes are even higher. No pressure.
Like anyone with a creative idea, I want it to find favor. I also want, and need, for my ideas to sell for some serious money, for once. To finally get the editors with very deep pockets to call me for a change.
What if it were a game-changer? (What if it’s a total failure and no one wants it?)
(Which likely explains the voyeuristic pleasure of watching all those reality TV shows where people have to be reallycreativereallyfast, like Design on A Dime or Cake Wars or my favorite [yes] Project Runway. “Make it work” is a great motto for life!)
I’m also ambivalent:
I love writing books.
I hate the endless time-suck and income-drain (paying for assistants and PR help and finding every possible way to get people to read/review/love the damn thing) that comes with its eventual publication.
I love the thrill of an agent, then an editor saying “Yes! We’re in.”
I hate the crazy-making and ever-tougher contracts they send later.
I love getting enthusiastic emails from readers.
I hate getting shredded by anonymous trolls on amazon.com.
I went away for the month of June, spending two weeks alone with no television or company to distract me, telling everyone (hah!) I’d be working on my book proposal. I took all the notes I’d made, and the latest draft and my sources…and didn’t even take them out of my suitcase.
But I started working on it in earnest last week — (which suggests the vacation had the desired effect) — and, reading through my source material, found some things I’d forgotten. I started getting excited about this again and stopped doing everything else but that. Hours flew by and I kept cranking.
Then I cold-called a source whose resume and background, (being appointed to various committees by a few Presidents), were terrifyingly august, which I began the conversation by telling him.
I know that one of the best ways to up your game, when possible, is to get some Big Names on-side, people whose opinion carries weight and whose interest in a project can help you discern what larger interest exists in your iteration. It’s also really intimidating!
(The bad news is that it makes your stomach hurt with anxiety. The good news, if you’re smart, genuine and persuasive, you’ll find a few allies. Hey, all they can do is say “No.”)
But he took my call, and immediately got the idea. He’s as passionate about the subject as I am and knows this stuff inside out. So I asked (gulp) if he’d read the proposal. And he agreed.
I asked another wise source, and she promised to read it it this weekend. While it’s scary to show an idea-in-progress to people who know about 10,000 times more about the issues than I do, I’m also really grateful for fresh eyes and smart input.
Much as I fear criticism, knowing I’m on the right track will also help me pitch it with greater passion and conviction. (I realize as I write this, that within academia, for better or worse, you have a thesis advisor; I never went beyond my B.A., so I have to scout out these mentors when and where I can find them.)
After re-working the same material for months — probably like many of you — I need fresh eyes. I lose all perspective on it.
Do you find yourself dicking around and postponing work on your creative projects?
Do you find others to help you with them?
What successfully gets you — and keeps you — moving ahead on them?