Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Stiff Upper Lip

That's the name of a later AC/DC album after they lost their mojo. I think it follows Ballbreaker. By then they couldn't even bother to come up with good innuendo, and their last tour had Axl Rose with a broken leg subbing in for lead singer Brian Johnson, whose hearing loss was so bad he couldn't safely perform onstage.

But the stiff upper lip is the important thing. It's not innuendo, but the "mustn't grumble" steadfastness of those from the isles off the northeast of Europe, whence Brian Johnson (a Geordie through and through) hails. And it's a characteristic a writer must cultivate, because the profession is a daunting one.

I'm not one to complain about the act of writing or editing. "Look at a blank page until your head bleeds," really? We're not moving furniture with our minds. If you haven't been daydreaming your story before you sit down, and expect to conjure it between farts in your favorite chair, maybe it is like bleeding. No, the business side, the promotion, the nagging doubts about whether you're good enough or whether your current project will mean anything to anyone but yourself, those bother me more than a tough night of editing messy pages.

That's where the stiff upper lip comes in. Mustn't grumble. They really aren't the same, I know. But they go hand in hand, or lip in lip (also not innuendo). This is a tough career whether you go at it with or without a day job. One will have you scrabbling for freelance work, the other will have you fighting for writing time. So what's a writer to do?

A monthly get-together with likeminded writers will help. With Skype and Google Hangouts, the miles don't matter. You can get together and kvetch and commiserate and pat each other on the back. It's good to know you're not alone in the struggle. But that alone can lead to doubts? Why in hell are we doing this to ourselves? Well hopefully, because you love writing. You'd do it anyway, so you might as well put in the extra work and get paid for it.

Another way is to keep abreast (no innuendo)  of publishing news. This can also be a downer, reading Publisher's Lunch Deluxe every morning and seeing how many writers who are not you getting significant deals. But that's the half empty view. The half full view is that books are bought and sold every day. One might remind you of what you're working on, and give you hope that there are readers out there who will love it. Can't afford the $25 a month for a Publisher's Marketplace subscription? Read the right blogs.

Publishing...and Other Forms of Insanity is a good one that covers all genres including literary and commercial fiction. Sandra Seaman's blog lists anthology calls and keeps track of genre publishers, tending toward crime fiction. It's a must for short story writers. What I'd advise against, is reading social media all day. While this might feel like a great way to stay in touch, because of the nature of promotion, it can feel like a whirlwind of ad copy devouring you, like Tuttle's demise in Terry Gilliam's Brazil. I find it draining rather than energizing. The monthly writer chats energize me, going to readings and book signings energizes me, seeing my friends succeed energizes me.

Power Lloyd, my assault on the world begins now.

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