I was all ready to write a riveting post on urban fantasy (really, this was going to be world-class stuff) when I read this interview with Paolo Bacigalupi this morning. And I realized I had to write about it instead.
For those of you not in the know, Paolo won about a bazillion awards for his debut science fiction novel The Windup Girl; in addition he received strong reviews for his first YA novel Shipbreaker. The entire interview is interesting, but what I want to respond to is what Paolo says at the end:
I realized I’d actually been carrying a lot of baggage from people who would make offhand comments like, ‘well, it’s not like you’re working.’
I was still accumulating some sort of psychic pain over it. You know, that all these people really did think I was a loser, and slacking around and doing nothing, basically. And when you’re writing your fifth book, and four of them have already failed, you’re obviously a joke, right?
Yes, this. Exactly this.
As many of you know, I closed my successful business (in the arts! how did that happen?) at the end of May to pursue writing full force. And the kind of psychic pain Paolo is talking about here is my current reality.
It’s an insidious kind of discomfort, comprising of little pauses, supportive assumptions, and politeness. No one comes right out and says, “But what about your real job?” A few people have delicately inquired how my husband feels about it (I would hope the answer would be self apparent, but perhaps not.) People get frustrated when they can’t reach me by telephone when they’re calling during business hours because it’s not like I have other commitments. (I do. They’re called writing.)
It doesn’t help that so much of writing does look exactly like slacking off. I do some of my best work in the shower, or walking the dog, or sitting there staring out the window. When I’m planning a project, I can fuss around the house for weeks trying to figure it all out. And without a word of manuscript to show for it. (Although maybe my reams of notes count?)
And then there’s the entire publication question. I am at the stage in my career that is known as pre-professional. This is the nice way of saying I have no writing credits, no agent, and no deals in the works. I like to think of it as my apprentice stage, a necessary stepping stone if I’m ever to achieve more. People in the arts understand this. Other people, well … some of them understand it. Others are baffled.
In the end, I’ll embrace this psychic pain; it’s the cost of getting to do what I love all day every day, and well worth paying.
But it sure feels good to see another writer with similar feelings getting the last laugh.