Thursday, October 16, 2008

If I were truly a genius, this would be easier . . .

My artistic life began at the age of five. That was when the proverbial fire in the belly ignited in me. I wanted to sing, and to be a singer. I began, at that early age, manufacturing audiences and situations so I could let the fire burn. My success, I have to admit, at least in the first fifteen or so years, wasn't spectacular.

That changed over time, though. I compensated for my lack of brilliance with an amazing persistence. Looking back now, and comparing my own young self with students I've taught since, I see that I was disciplined to the point of doggedness, right through college, on through my early professional years, through graduate school, and so forth. The lessons learned in that time are pretty well summed up in my often-reprinted essay Five Music Lessons for Writers (you can read it at http://www.louisemarley.com/lm-in_music.htm if you like).

Now, as a novelist and occasional short story writer, I still compensate for not being a genius by working really, really hard. When I write science fiction, I have to learn any necessary science from the ground up. When I write fantasy, I have to stretch my creative muscles beyond their comfort zone. I consider myself a slow writer, yet I've published eleven novels in thirteen years, which astounds me. I am no super-smart hare. I am a tortoise of a writer, making the most of the abilities God gave me, producing my three pages a day and staring in wonderment at my colleagues who write three books a year.

I retired from a thirty-year musical career--still being surprised and delighted that it actually happened--when my writing career seemed to be taking off. In the weeks to come, I'll be working out some demons on this blog, talking about the vicissitudes of a market in which awards (two Endeavour Awards, a handful of short lists) and critical acclaim (several times on the ALA's Best Books of the Year list) don't assure anyone of financial success. I'll get to ramble on about the choice of writing under a pseudonym. I hope I'll be announcing the imminent publication of my twelfth novel, which I turned in to my agent seventeen days ago (but who's counting?)

I do think if I were smarter, this would probably be easier. But I still love it, perhaps to a fault. I felt, when I was a working singer, that my weakness was how much I loved to sing--anywhere, anytime. I love to write, too. And it will be fun talking with all of you about the life of a writer!

3 comments:

Marianne said...

Hi Louise.

Creating is a journey, whether it be a long one or a short one. Each word is a step along the road. As long as you get there in the end. As a painter friend told me when we went out on a group paint a year ago and I was fretting about only doing one painting to my husband's three (he paints really, really fast and produces excellent results) - "It isn't a race. Go at your own pace and you'll be happier at what you're doing."

Good advice that. :-D

As for your singing career: what great texture it will lend to your writing - even if your stories aren't about music. :-D Look what Anne McCaffrey did with her singing career/or default thereof. She wrote the Crystal Singer series and worked music into the fabric of her Pern stories - all to great success. :-D

Looking forward to reading more about your journey.
Cheers,
Marianne

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Hi Louise,

Talent is nothing without persistence and determination. I can relate to what you are saying. And you'd sympathise with my daughter, who auditioned for the Conservatorium 3 times and finally got in on the third try. (She had to pack 7 years of music theory into 3 to get into the Con).

Cheers, Rowena

Dave Freer said...

It's not the writing that kills me... it is the waiting. Strength to you with that.
Dave