I’m halfway through the twelve week program outlined in The Artist’s Way and have reached the chapter about defending your ideas.
“The first rule of magic is containment.”
This is a really potent phrase for me, because I think it’s true. JC is referring to the temptation of talking about ideas before they’ve been nurtured into whatever you want them to be. Her notion is that ideas need a bit of time and a bit of protection, so that they can grow – and you can figure out what you want to make of them. Too often, in her view, artists (writers, too) talk to other people about ideas too early. Those ideas then either get squashed – as being dumb or unmarketable or derivative – or modified by the input of those other people, as they try to be helpful. Either way, the idea will never become what it could have been. Often, it dies on the vine.
This is one of my issues with critique groups as well as the whole business of pitching ideas before the work is done. I hate pitching. I’d rather write the entire book first, but the business of publishing isn’t geared to that mindset. Similarly, I am leery of critique groups and their helpful input – too often, I’ve seen promising authors lose the sparkle of their voice or have their exciting ideas made “safe”.
Something that also happens in publishing is that people pass on projects, but don’t give the real reason why. They will invariably blame the work itself. Sometimes the issue is the work, but other times, it’s the market. Publishers believe that readers want to read what they are already reading, so any idea that differs radically from what is currently selling will have to be brilliantly written to find a placement. If it’s less than brilliant, the rejection will often focus on the quality of the work, not on the current state of the market.
For example, the first romance I wrote didn’t ever sell. I loved it. Despite that, it gathered a stack of rejections. No one loved it but me! It is likely true that I didn’t have the skill to tell that story as well as it could have been told – it is also true that it was a paranormal romantic suspense. In 1990, there was no market for paranormal romantic suspense. Now, there’s tons of it being published – in fact, my Tor books (the ones with the fallen angel heroes) could be labelled as paranormal romantic suspense. Part of the issue may have been the work, but the lion’s share of the problem in placing that work was that there was not perceived to be any market for it at that time. That’s changed. I can see a similar pattern in other discarded ideas of mine that never made it to a sale or to fruition. The market – or the perceived market – was the greater issue.
The TAW task this week for me is to rummage through my box of proposals that never made it past the pitching phase. I’m looking forward to digging through that box, and picking yet another idea to write up into a book. There’s some interesting stuff in there – it’s going to be hard to choose!
How are you doing with TAW this time? Writing your morning pages? Going for your artist date? Taking that weekly walk?