Holly Lisle, the sci-fi writer who was such a huge presence on the web for so long (her website is on the list to the right) decided back in November to give up her blog and her website to concentrate on her work. She came to a place where she realized that her participation in the writers’ workshops and other parts of her website were draining her own creative energy. And so she handed it all over to other people, and she went off, and now she’s writing (I assume) away from the babble of the internet.
Her mantra, while she was deciding to do this, was Protect the Work.
It’s a good mantra, but for every writer I expect it means something different. For Holly it meant withdrawing from the very large, very active community of aspiring writers that had grown up around her website. Probably if I were in that situation I would be dealing with the same issues, but my challenges look very different. Writing this weblog hasn’t distracted me from the novels I’m working on, nor has it caused some kind of magical surge in my productivity. It has made me think a little more about some craft issues, which is good. It has put me in touch with more readers, which is also good. (There’s a forum, but it’s a quiet, rather calm place where lots of people have registered but most are content to listen rather than participate in the occasional exchange, so I don’t feel overwhelmed by that, either.)
But Holly set out to create a community that was welcoming and encouraging to aspiring writers, and I haven’t done that. I’m happy if people want to discuss craft on the forum (something that hasn’t happened so far, and might never), but that’s up to them. The idea behind this blog, this website, the forum was simply to share information with the people who read my books and who come looking for answers to one question or another. I post bits and pieces about writing, about my own process, about things I read and watch; I answer questions about the next book and the last one. So far it’s been useful for the readers (or at least somebody is stopping by, an average of 250 visits a day) and I get something out of it, too. So goodbye to Holly and good luck, and I’ll continue to putter along here at my own speed.
For me, Protect the Work has other connotations. Right now I’m struggling with where the story wants to go and what the readers may be expecting. Most writing teachers will tell you to let character lead, and never to think of the readers. Editors and publishers have a different take on things. The writing guru asks: what does this character want? The publisher asks (or would ask; nobody has said this to me in so many words): what will make the reader pick up the book and put down the money? That’s what I’m struggling with right now, because the contrast between these two things drains my creative energy. I’ve been writing less the last two weeks thinking about it, and working through it, and trying to figure out how to resolve this external conflict and keep telling the story. I’m at a crossroads, I suppose, and a little puzzled about where to turn. But this blog isn’t part of that. So again I say: wish me luck.