Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Best Laid Plans



Appropriate to do this, of course, on a day when I’m late posting. It’s not that I didn’t leave enough time to write last night. I did. My mind just refused to cooperate.

Plans...

I’ve heard no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. With me, no plan seems to survive contact with the real world.

One of the things that amuses me is looking back, say, on my college years. I took a degree in languages and teaching. Now I’ve done many things since leaving college but I only used my degree for about a year and a half and even then a lot of the translation I did was Portuguese to English which I could have done without a degree and German to English, which I could have done after highschool.

Then there was the kid thing. We waited a year before having kids because we were going to have a large family and wanted to have a year for ourselves first. Six years of infertility treatment after that first year, we produced one child. And then we said “That’s it. We’re not having more treatments, so that is our large family.” Four years later, I found out I was six months pregnant. And then we said “Oh, it fixed itself. Now we’ll have one every year.” Do I need to say there’s been no third child?

So, what does this have to do with writing?

Well, plans are particularly funny when they are made about writing. At least for me, they are. Most people I know have some sort of contact between plan and career.

I started writing science fiction. I was going to be a science fiction writer. Twenty years later, I was published in Fantasy, Mystery and Historic Fictionalized Biography with multiple books in each when my first science fiction book (written 13 years before) came out. Now I start when I hear myself called a “science fiction writer.” For years, that’s how I thought of myself, even as everyone else called me a “Fantasy writer”. Now it seems too late.

However at this point I’m not taking any bets. It’s entirely possible that if I should end up being remembered by the future it will be for something I haven’t even yet written. Maybe the future will consider everything I’ve done so far my apprenticeship and will consider me a great writer for ... scripts. YA romance. Techno-pop-Fantasy. Or some other genre yet to be invented.

So, what’s my point with this, other than depressing you?

To tell you not to be depressed. To tell you to give yourself permission to fail, sometimes and to leave enough room in your plan to adapt to the unforeseen. To tell you in the distance view, this will all make sense, even when it doesn’t. And that if you keep trying, something will come of it.

Take the above – when no one would take my science fiction, I could write fantasy because I’d uh... done a couple of novels in it. I could write mystery because I’d read as much as fantasy and science fiction. If I’d refused that early offer on the fantasy novel and said “I’m a science fiction writer” chances are I wouldn’t be published in either today.

I’m not saying sometimes it doesn’t break your heart. I broke my heart over the cancellation of the Musketeer Series. But I took the opportunity to write a contemporary mystery, which seems to be doing well.

Oh, look, I know what it’s like to have plans fail and fail and fail. Did you think I INTENDED to write for nine years before I sold a word of what I wrote? Or to sell a short story four times (and never see it in print, btw) before I sold another? Sometimes it seems as if your heart is so shattered you don’t have a heart anymore. This is what my grandmother called a good time to turn your guts into a heart and forge on.

The thing is, if you read anyone’s bio, you’ll find the same sort of thing. And even if you look at the shelves of your favorite authors’ works, you’ll find there’s some books you don’t care for. If that were the only thing they ever wrote, how would you judge them? Do you realize sometimes those were their own favorite books, the ones they thought would go big? (And sometimes did. You just hate them.)

So, gird your loins (don’t grill them! Well, unless they’re not yours) and start walking down that old glory road. There’s gold in them there hills. Or maybe the other ones a bit to the side. We’ll find out when we get there. Plan but stay ready for serendipity. The way to do this is to plan on what YOU are going to do, not on the response. Don’t say “I’m going to write a bestseller” say “I’m going to write three novels and submit them. And if they don’t sell, I’m going to write three more.” However, keep your mind on the dream, on what you’d LIKE. It’s my firm belief that you’ll get there, if you only keep it in mind and remain flexible and working.

And because at this point you’re not nearly depressed enough, one good way to focus on your long-term dreams, without making them into plans that make you unable to react to here and now is to write your epitaph. Leave out your date of death and – if you wish – manner of death (though amusing ones are welcome) and other personal details, but write what you’d like to be remembered for.

Here is mine – you can write yours when you stop laughing –

Sarah A. Hoyt, aka Sarah D’Almeida, aka Elise Hyatt, aka Nikita Marques, aka Carolina Haute, died yesterday after being nibbled to death by ducks. It appears she ran out of bread and the ducks took revenge.

She is known to fans of fantasy, science fiction, mystery, horror and romance. She will however probably be most remembered for her science fiction. In a career spawning almost sixty years, she created a vivid and compelling “future history” to rival Heinlein’s. (Whom she was always very flattered to find herself compared to, even if it was just “oh, look, they’re both carbon life forms.”) Into that history she wrote men and women of extraordinary courage, who face their world and its changes unafraid, and whose example inspired a generation of men and women. She will be remembered by her husband, children, cats, but mostly by those ducks.

Your turn!

20 comments:

Jonathan D. Beer said...

Jonathan D. Beer, aka Rohypnol Jones (don't ask), died this morning after the mob finally caught up with him.

Jonathan began his career writing franchise fiction, and never really left, despite creating a number of successful "original" series, based on enduring, believable characters and rollicking action. While he left no indelible mark on the science-fiction genre, no influence on the craft that would inspire the coming generations, his books consistently and thoroughly entertained.

He is survived by his vast and beauftiful harem, and his equally vast and beautiful children.

--------

If, at the end of my days, I have earned such an epitaph, I will consider my life well and truly lived. That was extremely cathartic, Sarah; thank you :)

Now to get there!

Anonymous said...

Pamela A Uphoff. Science fiction and Fantasy writer, best known for her "Wine of the Gods" series featuring raunchy sex, intelligent animals and magic.

She was probably 103 years old at the time of her death, which is uncertain due to the continued function of her automated house under the control of her horses and dogs. Her desiccated body was discovered Tuesday when feed store employees became concerned that they never actually saw Mrs. Uphoff when delivering the high priced gourmet grain mixtures and imported Irish timothy hay she ordered on the internet. The house computer is suing for the immediate release of the five dogs and six horses, on the grounds of human level intelligence.

Mrs. Uphoff is otherwise survived by her two sons. When contacted on tour, Infamous Crash Star Eric Uphoff replied that he wasn't a bit surprised, and that a memorial service would be held when his brother returned from the first FLT flight to Tau Ceti.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Aww, Sarah.

Are you having one of those days?

Kate said...

There is no plan. There is only a vague notion of direction and a few ideas about how to get there.

And cats, of course. There are always cats.

Chris McMahon said...

Great post, Sarah. Really feeling that thin edge of the wedge at the moment. With a family to support and another full time career for the breadwinning - its tough to keep pulling it out for what seems like nothing.

Your post gave me much needed encouragement.

I'd really love to finish my Jakirian series.

Stephen Simmons said...

The plan is to make the migraine meds work. Thus far, the plan hasn't been successful ... I feel like a big-block V-8 only firing on three cylinders ...

Stephen J. Simmons, local author best known for his creation of a science fiction "alternative future" featuring a multi-universe setting so complex it has become the subject of accredited courses of study at several major universities, was strangled by his literary agent yesterday afternoon at his home. Police questioned and immediately released the agent, upon learning that the much-anticipated thirteenth - and climactic - volume of the author's bestselling urban fantasy series concluded with the assertion that the hokey-pokey was really what it was all about.

Mr. Simmons is survived by his two children, both of whom were unfailingly embarrassed to be seen with him anyway, and who both see the change as generally a positive thing.

Dave Freer said...

'I get up each day and read the obits. If I'm not there I know I'm not dead, so I have a good breakfast and go back to bed' (Arlo Guthrie I think)
Ah wish fulfilment:
Dave Freer: Satirist, man of at least one letter, battler, solid sort bloke you could rely on, died yesterday while diving for spiny lobsters off his remote island home. He washed ashore still holding lobster of 22Kg which according to wishes will be cooked at the wake, along with enough liquor to float a boat. As his great grandson said 'He died with his lead boots on, which is what he would have wanted as he's been complaining his climbing boots are too tight.' Freer, the author of some sixty books on subjects ranging from cookery to Science Fiction, is best remembered as the author publishing loved to hate and readers insisted on buying anyway, despite his obnoxious habit of mocking sacred PC cows and poking fun at modern literature. Dave is survived (and we mean survived) by his wife Barbara, sons and daughter-in-laws and and a small tribe of grandchildren and dogs and cats who all refuse to believe the mad old bastard is really dead. Several politicians, presidents and mad Mullahs are coming to dance on his grave, which should be worth watching as he's being buried at sea in the shark refuge. (this IS the obit I dream of isn't it?)

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Jonathan,

Thank heavens you guys understood I meant obituary, not epitaph. And ... Rohypnol?

BTW, have I mentioned I'm acquainted with one of the editors for game-based books?

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Pam,

Of course, my younger kid is probably on that FTL with your kid...

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Rowena,

Actually rather upbeat. Just -- yesterday was the anniversary of our civil ceremony and I was looking at all the things that have happened in 25 years, the planned, the unplanned, the good and the bad and thinking what I would change if I could.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Kate,

The cats are the quantum mind of G-d, looking for itself. Or at least for some really great tuna and a catnip mouse.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Chris,

well... try another more than full time career that doesn't pay a cent. You know, the housekeeping (literally, I do a lot of the fix up and such, because Dan works such long hours) and mothering. The other day I was wondering how I could be tired. I hadn't done ANYTHING. Then I tallied up what I'd spent the morning doing, including trimming all our shrubbery and doing ten loads of wash. But it's all "background noise."
So, yeah, sometimes it's hard to sit down and write, when there's so much other stuff that needs done. But over the years I've found persistence is ninety percent of the battle.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Stephen

ROFL. The hokey pokey?

:)

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Dave

I LOVE that obit. And if I survive you, I promise to help with the consumption of liquor and to film the politicians dancing with sharks. And to laugh. :)

Stephen Simmons said...

Dave - I believe that song is early Paul Simon. "How do I know my youth is all spent? My get-up-and-go has all got up and went."

Dave Freer said...

:-)Stephen I defer to the expertise of a man who knows the hokey-pokey.

Tedd Roberts said...

Mine is less of an obit - and more of a police blotter...

It is now believed that author Tedd Roberts died Tuesday after an explosion and fire at his laboratory. The author of over 100 scientific articles, 15 short
stories, 8 science fiction novels, 3 nonfiction science books, 2 textbooks and one commentary on Science and Popular Media was missing for over a week before his
family reported him missing to the police. "We thought he was just in the bathroom" explained Roberts' son, Stephen.

The family only suspected that Roberts had perished in last week's fire when they received a complaint from the University that hyper-intelligent lab rats were
causing havoc in the Psychology department laboratories. Son Brian told The Tattler that "Dad always was the only one that could control his LabRats (tm)."

University officials were not available for comment, but a faculty member who wished to remain anonymous told The Tattler that Roberts had been conducting
experiments funded by the super-secret defense agency that "Rhymes with Martha." The Tattler's sources say that the written log for security guards performing
rounds in adjacent buildings contained mention of a low-flying aircraft immediately before the explosion that started the fire. Arson investigators say the fire
burned uncontrollably for 5 hours due to the presence of high amounts of alcohol in the facility. "The residue smelled of peat smoke, with an exceptional nose of chocolate and honey and an undertone of oak char and sherry. Addition of water to extinguish the fire opened the bouquet and brought up wine cellar notes and white lilies. It finished smooth, spicy and astringent." stated fire chief Angus MacCallan.

Roberts is survived by his wife, two sons, and 7 genetically enhanced LabRats. Sapiency hearings for the LabRats were scheduled to be heard by Federal District Court on the 16th, but the hearing date has been postponed until after Roberts' will is probated. A spokesman for the law firm of Dewey, Cheatham and Howe, LLC, released a public statement confirming that the LabRats were named as co-beneficiaries with the family, and that the question of ownership and self-determination would be answered by the will and eliminate the need for the sapiency hearing.

New information suggests that Tedd Roberts' death may not have been accidental. A source that identified himself only as 'Ratfink' told The Tattler: "He was messin' wit' da wrong peoples. I warned him, but he jus' didn' listen. Some of us can't believe he's dead, the rest can' believe they only sent one bomber."

... in other news, Air Force officials have admitted that a B-2 Stealth Bomber disappeared from tracking over northwest North Carolina and was unaccounted for a
period of 6 hours last week. When asked whether all strategic weapons were still onboard the aircraft, the USAF spokesman stated only that the investigation was ongoing ...

Tedd Roberts said...

Mine is less of an obit - and more of a police blotter...

It is now believed that author Tedd Roberts died Tuesday after an explosion and fire at his laboratory. The author of over 100 scientific articles, 15 short
stories, 8 science fiction novels, 3 nonfiction science books, 2 textbooks and one commentary on Science and Popular Media was missing for over a week before his
family reported him missing to the police. "We thought he was just in the bathroom" explained Roberts' son, Stephen.

The family only suspected that Roberts had perished in last week's fire when they received a complaint from the University that hyper-intelligent lab rats were
causing havoc in the Psychology department laboratories. Son Brian told The Tattler that "Dad always was the only one that could control his LabRats (tm)."

University officials were not available for comment, but a faculty member who wished to remain anonymous told The Tattler that Roberts had been conducting
experiments funded by the super-secret defense agency that "Rhymes with Martha." The Tattler's sources say that the written log for security guards performing
rounds in adjacent buildings contained mention of a low-flying aircraft immediately before the explosion that started the fire. Arson investigators say the fire
burned uncontrollably for 5 hours due to the presence of high amounts of alcohol in the facility. "The residue smelled of peat smoke, with an exceptional nose of chocolate and honey and an undertone of oak char and sherry. Addition of water to extinguish the fire opened the bouquet and brought up wine cellar notes and white lilies. It finished smooth, spicy and astringent." stated fire chief Angus MacCallan.

Roberts is survived by his wife, two sons, and 7 genetically enhanced LabRats. Sapiency hearings for the LabRats were scheduled to be heard by Federal District Court on the 16th, but the hearing date has been postponed until after Roberts' will is probated. A spokesman for the law firm of Dewey, Cheatham and Howe, LLC, released a public statement confirming that the LabRats were named as co-beneficiaries with the family, and that the question of ownership and self-determination would be answered by the will and eliminate the need for the sapiency hearing.

New information suggests that Tedd Roberts' death may not have been accidental. A source that identified himself only as 'Ratfink' told The Tattler: "He was messin' wit' da wrong peoples. I warned him, but he jus' didn' listen. Some of us can't believe he's dead, the rest can' believe they only sent one bomber."

... in other news, Air Force officials have admitted that a B-2 Stealth Bomber disappeared from tracking over northwest North Carolina and was unaccounted for a
period of 6 hours last week. When asked whether all strategic weapons were still onboard the aircraft, the USAF spokesman stated only that the investigation was ongoing ...

Anonymous said...

Mine is less of an obit - and more of a police blotter...

It is now believed that author Tedd Roberts died Tuesday after an explosion and fire at his laboratory. The author of over 100 scientific articles, 15 short
stories, 8 science fiction novels, 3 nonfiction science books, 2 textbooks and one commentary on Science and Popular Media was missing for over a week before his
family reported him missing to the police. "We thought he was just in the bathroom" explained Roberts' son, Stephen.

The family only suspected that Roberts had perished in last week's fire when they received a complaint from the University that hyper-intelligent lab rats were
causing havoc in the Psychology department laboratories. Son Brian told The Tattler that "Dad always was the only one that could control his LabRats (tm)."

University officials were not available for comment, but a faculty member who wished to remain anonymous told The Tattler that Roberts had been conducting
experiments funded by the super-secret defense agency that "Rhymes with Martha." The Tattler's sources say that the written log for security guards performing
rounds in adjacent buildings contained mention of a low-flying aircraft immediately before the explosion that started the fire. Arson investigators say the fire
burned uncontrollably for 5 hours due to the presence of high amounts of alcohol in the facility. "The residue smelled of peat smoke, with an exceptional nose of chocolate and honey and an undertone of oak char and sherry. Addition of water to extinguish the fire opened the bouquet and brought up wine cellar notes and white lilies. It finished smooth, spicy and astringent." stated fire chief Angus MacCallan.

Roberts is survived by his wife, two sons, and 7 genetically enhanced LabRats. Sapiency hearings for the LabRats were scheduled to be heard by Federal District Court on the 16th, but the hearing date has been postponed until after Roberts' will is probated. A spokesman for the law firm of Dewey, Cheatham and Howe, LLC, released a public statement confirming that the LabRats were named as co-beneficiaries with the family, and that the question of ownership and self-determination would be answered by the will and eliminate the need for the sapiency hearing.

New information suggests that Tedd Roberts' death may not have been accidental. A source that identified himself only as 'Ratfink' told The Tattler: "He was messin' wit' da wrong peoples. I warned him, but he jus' didn' listen. Some of us can't believe he's dead, the rest can' believe they only sent one bomber."

... in other news, Air Force officials have admitted that a B-2 Stealth Bomber disappeared from tracking over northwest North Carolina and was unaccounted for a
period of 6 hours last week. When asked whether all strategic weapons were still onboard the aircraft, the USAF spokesman stated only that the investigation was ongoing ...

Tedd Roberts said...

Wow, three times. And to think it gave me an error each time.