“You have to skate with the flow or you’ll cause an accident.”
As life advice goes, this is mostly true. A young girl, without caution, was diving out onto the skating rink facing the wrong direction. Even after I overheard the skate monitors (aka police) explaining how this was dangerous, she continued to enter the rink as if she were a salmon headed upstream to spawn.
This is just one example of how we are taught, at an early age, that going against the tide can be dangerous. Which
of us hasn’t panicked after turning onto a one way street going the wrong way? And even unintentionally, we can find ourselves trying to head back into a stadium (say for a forgotten jacket) after an event is over and the crowd is
moving against us.
For the most part in life I don’t really like to tempt fate. I try to go in the way I am directed and stay with the mainstream. But lately, I have found myself testing this way of doing things. Tens of thousands of people query literary agents every year… so it is difficult to differentiate my work from that of the crowd. But on the periphery (and growing larger) there is a group that has dug their own little canal to bypass that river. It was not easy to get
myself out of that strong current, but once I did I found a new path that, at least so far, has helped me and my writing grow.
This analogy doesn’t entirely hold water (...oh yes, I did:>) since I don’t feel the world of e-pub goes entirely against the flow…. But it certainly cuts across it in a new way. And this can be dangerous.
It’s true… even if a publisher now found my first book, Betting Jessica, and loved it, they probably wouldn’t publish it since they would want all the rights, including the digital ones. Agents and publishers may see me as a rebel and therefore not be willing to take me on for future work. More importantly, without the gatekeepers, I am entirely responsible for the quality of my work…. My reputation is on the line.
When you are roller skating and you are travelling in the same direction as the flow it is like you have a group around you both pushing you forward and holding you up. They are supporting you. But when you cut across that group, you are alone…. And worse, you are in their way and may very well get run over.
I am still waiting for the big mac-truck of writing/publishing that could seriously take me down. I know it is out there…just as that girl knew that a large clump of skaters could trip her up. But…sometimes, even when you know that it is easier and safer to go with the flow, you still have to forge your own path; because there is another saying which also holds true and which every mom knows…
Just because the crowd is doing it, doesn’t mean you should.
The song of birds
My garden is abuzz with the activity of happy flying creatures today. A woodpecker chips away at a pine tree; small chickadees pluck at the grass, and bright orange robins seach through the remains of the bird feeder that came off in a storm a few nights ago.
With the sun out and all the wildlife around me, it almost seems like spring is on its way. The only contradition is the harsh, 34 degree temp. outside right now.
For as long as we have been married my husband and I have had an argument over the name of this time of year. He calls it spring.... but to me it is still clearly winter. It makes it difficult to plan holidays since we become very confused about whether we are taking a spring or winter break.
I have come to see that this is much more than a difference in definition... I believe it is a psychological distinciton between us. I am a waiter, I would rather be surprised on Christmas morning than shake the presents beforehand to learn what they are. I like the anticipation and the planning. My husband, on the other hand, is a shaker. He searches for hidden presents and then tries to guess what they are through the wrappings. He is ready for things to happen immediately, and encourages it right along.
Either way is good... (though it does make it tricky to surprise him!) But I bet this difference shows up in more ways than simply presents and the season. In writing we frequently debate the pros and cons of being a pantser or a plotter. Pantsers let the story unfold as they write it without detailing the plot twists in advance. On the other extreme, I have met plotters who literally lay out a specific number of note cards with the key plot points listed and then fill in the details to fit each card.
Again, neither way is wrong (and I happen to think a little of both probably works pretty well). But I suddenly wonder if this relates to this psychology of waiting. It is important for me in my writing to be surprised by what my characters do.... it is part of what makes it fun for me. Trying to strip away that surprise in the very beginning would be like forcing Spring to come early. I don't feel ready until everything is fleshed out and it actually surrounds me.
But much as I like to be surprised by my characters, I have to remember, they don't really care. Plotter or pantser, waiter or shaker.... go with what works for you; the birds will sing and peck at the grass whether I call it Winter or my husband calls it Spring.
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