Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Pop Goes The Writer!
I’ve been reading the biography of Robert A. Heinlein by William Patterson – whom I met at a worldcon years ago and who is a very nice man and a FINE writer – in order to blog the book for Tor.com.
The volume I’ve just finished is Learning Curve, the early years, till the marriage with Ginny.
I don’t intend to go into my impressions of the book here. I’m saving that for Tor.com, of course. I will say, in passing, that Patterson treats his subject exhaustively, unsparingly and surprisingly gently, for all that.
I am going to say, though, that one of the things that struck me about Heinlein’s early years (and probably his later years, but maybe not) is how much like me he was in how he handled the inevitable tension of a writing career: badly!
Like me, he seemed to direct his tension into illness and came – physically – crashing down so often he might have been a bungee jumper.
This surprised me, because, of course, he was ... well... good. No. Wonderful. How could he have that much tension? Didn’t he know his stuff would eventually sell and sell well?
Of course, as soon as I thought that I realized I was an idiot. (Which, you know, I’ve always been, so it shouldn’t have taken that much thought.) I mean, children, hindsight is twenty twenty. To us – to me – it’s obvious he would sell and become an icon. But it might have been obvious to someone – poor thing – out there that I would eventually sell. To me, it was navigating blind in a pea soup fog. As for “sell well” I’m still here, stuck in the darkness. If anyone sees ahead, they’re better than I.
As Dave has pointed out there are factors way beyond our control as authors that determine if our work sells, how it sells, who gets to read us. Factors we can’t guess much less control. This means we send our darlings out. And we wait. And wait. And wonder.
My dentist says that his free-lance-writers clients are the greatest sleep-teeth-grinders. I could see why. What I can’t see and don’t know, is how the h*ll I can manage tension without making myself ill with raging eczema and/or pneumonia.
I have a book out at several publishers. Haven’t heard a word. And I’m NOT obsessing on it. In fact, I’m making a point of not obsessing on it. Days go by I don’t think about it. Well... not consciously. But my arms are raw with eczema and my voice keeps disappearing which it ONLY does in times of extreme stress. (I used to go through the first week of school mute.) And I don’t know what in heck to do. I walk. A lot. I’m within ten pounds of the weight I can start distance running again. Only between the time I did marathons and now I tore my ACL, (falling down a flight of stairs with a box, while moving, twelve years ago) so this might not be possible. Ever. I seem to remember it helped. I’ve considered a punching bag, but we don’t know where to put it. It would have to be the basement, but we’ll have to try to clear space. And since I’ve never used it, I don’t know how it will work.
So, we’re back to – How do I control stress when I don’t even know I’m stressed? No pills, please. The oddest things turn off the writing.
Other than that, does anyone have ANY suggestions? All suggestions welcome.