Friday, November 21, 2008

on getting it right

This past week I've had many opportunities to talk about what I do. In a way, I feel like I've been at a trade show, even though I never left Portland. I went to a speed networking event a week ago, then gave a presentation at my small business networking group, PDX Synergy, then met a couple of people at a magazine launch party last night, and today I was on a conference call being introduced as a, gulp, novelist.

My head is spinning with myself. Every time I open my mouth, I feel the urge to reinvent my career. Maybe reinvent is a little strong. Refine, maybe? Or perhaps adapt? Filtering the discussion of what I do with the tools of marketing, occasionally I come up with something new—an invention, you could call it, if you were spinning. Something that hadn't occurred to me before. "I'm the Walmart of words," sprang out of my mouth once. I wish I could press an "unsend" button when shit like that escapes.

But novelist, yes, I like that. What I most like about that is that someone actually sees me as that, even though there are no novels out there by Suzanne Freisinger, Suzy Vitello, or Suzy Soulé, or any of my other monikers. But there will be.

Last night, at workshop, we delved into one of those lamentations that we "novelists" suffer from time to time. One of our members is having, what Tom Spanbauer always referred to as, "failure of spirit." Having spent years on his project, this novelist (who has one published book) is losing heart with his book. The circumstances that propelled the book—the politics and emotions of the day—have changed considerably in the four years he's been writing it. He wants to quit. Not just the book, but writing.

This too shall pass, the group acknowledged. We've all been there. It goes with the territory. There exists for all of us a chasm between our intention and the product. The more time elapses between conception and outcome, the greater the challenge. Especially when we suffer from the effects of our own manic creative drive. Again, I have to reference that Gladwell piece on late bloomers in the New Yorker a few weeks ago. Process is elusive. Trust in our own sense of authority, however, should not be. What allows us to continue to write, to reinvent ourselves vis-à-vis new inspiration, and to fail a heck of a lot of times before getting it "right," is the thing that we must cultivate. This thing lives inside of all artists, and, let me tell you, it's a bit of a tease, and it's very vulnerable. But it has to be, because it's also the thing that will move us toward truth. If we let it.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:51 AM

    That failure of spirit happens in writers of all stripes. There's nothing more familiar or disheartening to hear someone want to give up writing. Hope is sometimes our greatest strength.

    I like the late bloomer link too. We're told time and time again that it's a young person's world and there's always an example of where that's not true...


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