I was ‘talking’ to McKenna the other day – or whatever verb we are supposed to use when we email back and forth with somebody we’ve never met, but feel we know extremely well – and she suggested I needed to talk about how people need to have different kinds of work; some of which is important and some less so. I had a feeling I’d covered this, and went to check the archive. Hey presto! 26 March last year, this is what I said:
If you want to be a writer …
Have projects as well as babiesWhat I mean is, don’t just write fiction that is important to you. Kick back, have fun, write fluff. Nobody can spend all day being serious and high falutin’ about words and not become a bit of a pompous arse. Think of Goethe, a man who simply took life a little too seriously.
If you change gear and allow yourself to write candyfloss, not only will your days be somewhat lighter and easier to get through, but you’ll find you have work circulating that you can dismiss with ease. ‘Oh look, another rejection for Ten Ways to Kiss a Frog,’ you murmur. ‘How very amusing.’ And on you go with your life, and Ten Ways to Kiss a Frog continues to go out and get rejected and then one day it gets accepted and you feel as validated as though it was your masterwork that had found a home.
This is a strange but true fact about the publication process. You can write fluff and not care about it getting rejected, but when it is accepted you feel just as good as if it were a serious work of fiction.Because project work is easier to write, because you have less investment in it, and because you have less tendency to revise it to death, you’ll find you have quite a body of it circulating, alongside just one or two ‘babies’ – those stories that really matter to you.
Remember that you don’t have to send everything out under your own name – pen names are there so you can have fun without admitting you’re really Zem Hurkov, writer of the popular science fantasy series: Kat Kallurian and her Magic Boots. If you only have two stories out in the world, each rejection is like a sabre cut. If you have forty-seven pieces out there, each rejection still hurts – but it’s more like a paper cut.
And one year on, I’d add a rider to that. If you’re writing long fiction; novels, plays screenplays etc, then it’s even more important to be able to change pace and enjoy a little lightweight playtime. Otherwise the risk of burnout looms …