Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Aces wild (the life of a writer in Ace form)

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Welcome to the 41st Tarot Blog Hop. Yes, that is right--this is the first Tarot Blog Hop of year six. The very first Tarot Blog Hop happened way back in Imbolc 2012, oh how times flies. Over the course of the last five years, every six weeks Tarot bloggers have came together and opened up their brain boxes to talk about various Tarot topics.

To start off our sixth year, our fearless leader and cat wrangler, Arwen, asked us to consider "How can I best foster the energy of the Aces in my life?" She also noted that "Aces are the beginning of the suits as seeds are the beginning of the plant."

Oh, I struggled with this one. I put it off, and then put it off some more. A lot of household cleaning got done--because as a writer and house husband, housekeeping happens when I am blocked as a writer and writing happens when I am in no mood to clean.

I still have no brilliant ideas for this one, so let me describe my life as a writer and how the suits (which grow out of the Aces) manifest in my profession during the production of a book. Yes, I know that is god awful boring, but I really have no other idea of what to do.

(The only people who find the life of writers interesting are other writers. Sure, there are some writers who have wild adventures, but the actual writing part of their lives is god awful boring for the most part. Why should my writing life be any different?)

[I really should point out that I am talking about "creative writers/novelists" and "occult/esoteric writers" in this post--not technical writers, not public relations, not script writers, etc.--this is important to keep in mind, especially when I am talking about the monetary aspects of my profession--I don't belong to a well-paid branch of the profession.]

Passion is not everything.
"Oh, you are so lucky to do something that you are passionate about for a living," says the person who believes that writing is easy, that writers attend lots of parties, and go out having interesting adventures; they also believe that all writers are making big sacks of money while only working on projects that are enjoyable. I blame movies, television, the myth making department of publishing houses, and news-media for this person's beliefs. Basically, you only hear about interesting writers who made boatloads of money--the J.K. Rowlings and Stephen Kings--and those celebrities who wrote books (in all likelihood, the celebrity talked to a ghost writer for a few hours, and the ghost writer did all the actual tedious writing). You never hear of the average writer who would probably be better off earning money flipping burgers.

[Official government figures on income and such for writers is extremely misleading, for it does not actually account for all the writers who support themselves doing other types of work. The official government figures are only for success stories, and ignore most of the less-than-stellar writers who are working day jobs (they get counted as their day job). Either that or my web monkey skills are not clever enough to figure out the right combination of keywords. For real numbers, one has to rely on independent studies like Author Earnings.]

Now, it may seem strange that I am associating "profit and income" to the Ace of Wands, along with passion. But considering whether a project might be profitable or not comes at the start of the process and not the end. 

Whether you are a writer or a publisher, the first thing you have to decide is what genres and niches you are going to produce work in. Now, publishers (like banks) are always profit oriented--after all, the entire structure of traditional publishing is that best sellers support the entire structure. Writers, on the other hand, can choose passion over potential profit.

In my case, as a writer, I have split the difference. A certain amount of my work is aimed at profit, and is typically published (or sold) under secret pen-names. Then comes the "it might make money" stuff provided that it finds the right audience. And on the tail end are projects that will never justify the amount of effort it would require to see them though to completion.

In general, if you want to make money as a novelist, you go for romance, mystery and action, sci-fi, and other genres will lots of potential customers.

What you don't do is decide to focus on a niche of a niche of a niche. Not that common sense ever applies to my actions. In my case, I had a publisher once consider some of the books I wanted to write for the occult market--the projects went nowhere because I was told that at best, I could hope for a hundred customers.

And that was not even taking into account that piracy would have on my potential audience and customer base. One of the harsh bits of reality is that the occult market is really small, and a simple act of piracy can completely empty it before you sell a second copy of your book. The insult to injury, in my opinion, is that many occult book pirates believe that occult writers owe society free occult books and that it is the duty of occult writers to write for free (never charging for even a single copy) because access to esoteric knowledge improves society.

[Got an opinion about whether or not occult writers and artists should be paid? Denver Witch Quarterly is looking for submissions on that topic, as well as the usual mix of stuff.]

If I had to survive on passion projects alone, I would be in trouble. No, I survive on pure stubbornness, screaming that the universe will obey my command to make me a famous writer, even if I have to beat it with a stick.

Having the idea is not the hard part.
There are people who believe that having a good idea is the hardest part of being a writer. These are the type of people that walk up to you at a party and say, "I have an idea for a book. Tell you what. You write the book, and we will split the profit 50/50." I might have made a promise to myself that I am going to punch the next person to say such to me.

Honestly, I have no shortage of ideas. My cup flows over in the idea department. The idea factory could shut down right now, and I would still have enough ideas stockpiled to keep me busy for a century. (Yes, there is an idea factory, and you can get a big monthly box full of ideas from them for the low, low cost of being willing to be at the keyboard until your fingers start to bleed.)

Now whether or not, they are good ideas that I am passionate about, or think will make money, is a higher decision, just like my ability to execute them is a lower matter. But overall, I am most comfortable in the waterly world of idea generation. 

99.9999999999% of the writing process is pain.
If one has decided that being a novelist (or an occult writer) is a good idea, you spend a lot of time working with the Air stage of the writing process. There are rough drafts, editing, chopping, cutting, adding, remixing, formatting, beta readers, research, yada yada dippity do.

Here is where you deal with your writer's block (the quickest way to develop writer's block is to allow perfectionism to run amok). And what educated writing looks like. And whether that really entertaining sentence needs to be dragged out and buried. And what is the ideal length for what you are writing.

And at some point (when I was in the world of passion and potential profit), I decided that I would rather spend 24/7/365 in this self-made hell than flipping burgers...because I am happier doing this than anything else I ever tried my hand at.

And this whole bloody process doesn't end until you finally scream, "Good enough for government work." It is only when you hit publish that this tedious process ends. 

[Note that if you are aiming to be published by traditional legacy publishing, you have to survive all three elemental steps again that you have already dealt with. And there is a definite chance that you are going to have to go the entire process of writing and editing your book all over again based on what a publisher believes will sell.]

Getting eyeballs and bookshelf space is like selling burgers. Or farming. Or playing the stock market.
Now, bear in mind that none of this is an exact science. But if I have managed to get though all the previous stages, and finally have a project finished, then and only then can the Earth stage happen. Quite simply to have any hope of making money as a writer, you have to have a product to sell.

So now I have to deal with the uploading, advertising, sales copy, marketing, begging that comes with actually moving copies. And it is as hard as digging ditches for a living--at least in my case (I did not inherit my father's ability to sell stuff), especially if you are asking people to pay you good money for your work.

(If you are willing to write for free, you will never run out of stuff to write. But don't expect "free" to become "paid." If you want to earn money writing, you have to draw a line and say, "I write for money." It doesn't stop you from doing projects that you are passionate about, but it helps you to avoid never having a project that might make some money. At some point, you need a product that you can slap a price tag on.)

If I allow myself, I can remain in the previous three stages forever, especially if I am not on bipolar meds. I literally cycle though the other three stages constantly and never finish a damn thing. During really rough times, I will spend a day on a project, abandon it, and never come back to it, or any other project for that matter. I have thousands of unfinished projects.

I second guess myself a lot. This is partially because of upbringing, and partially because I (erroneously) believe that I should be making significant money right out of the gate. At the moment, I am still struggling with my inner demons. Other people get to have cool spiritual adventures, visions, and unicorns--I get inner voices saying "That will never make money," and "What would your poor mother think," and "Other writers would be far more suitable to work with this idea."

It is no wonder that so much housework got done before I started working on this post. I am still processing a heap-load of internal trash that says that I am unworthy of being a success as a writer. And this bloody blog post just brings it all up to the surface. How can I best foster the energies of the Aces? Hell if I know.

There are some tricks I have learned. Most of which involve deadlines and saying "fuck it--it's done."

My current favorite story of hacking my way though the four stages of writing comes from last year: a writer/publisher friend of mine (who I have never met at a party, despite living in the same state) decided to do an anthology of short horror stories by actual working magicians. First, I debated whether I was really a working magician. Then I had this perfect plan in my mind for the story. Followed by a case of really fine writer's block. With the deadline breathing down my neck, I hacked out a story that did not include several scenes that I originally planned and was shorter than I originally intended it to be. Then after it was completed, I thought about not submitting it because I mentioned politics in the story and because my friend was going to get far better stories than this one. In the end, I submitted it because it was done, and I am stubborn.

(It was actually accepted--the anthology Into the Abyss can be brought on Amazon.

And honestly, it is  probably one of my better short stories. But boy did I struggle with my inner demons while completing it. I am not sure if this is the best way to foster the energies of the Aces, but it is the only way I know how.

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7 comments:

Alison said...

A good reminder of how much hard work can be involved in nurturing a seed - but worth the pain in the end!

Ania said...

But surely writing isn't a real job, it's just a hobby! *ducks* :D

Olivia Destrades said...

I love that last part when you discuss all of the doubts that could potentially prevent you from submitting your work....but you do it anyway and it is selected for publishing. That on its own is a great message!

Joy Vernon said...

Congrats on getting in the anthology--that's awesome! Nice take on the Aces--and it is like that, each step being like starting something new--I have an idea, now I just need to start writing. I got the writing done, now I just need to start editing. I got the editing done, now I just need to start formatting it for publication. And now I better start all over again if I want to hit the next deadline! One other conundrum to add to the mix is writing to try to sell something else--I would rather write something unpaid if it got me tarot clients or students over writing something paid that was a side gig and not in my particular field of interest. But how do I really know what's bringing in clients? What's worth it? Thoughts that fry my brain.

Joanne Sprott said...

Brilliant, as always, regardless of what you think (I live with a bipolar partner, so I've got some idea...). A wonderful sense of the struggle with all the aces in all the elements which are needed to produce a creative work. Thanks for writing in spite of, or because of all of the energies in your head. Wonderful. :)

Tarot By Arwen said...

I loved the way you walked us through the process of this. Thank you. :D

Inner Whispers said...

Ha ha, when you got to the Cups, I thought it was going to be the blood, sweat and tears you cried in the creation process. Love the overflowing idea factory, full of watery emotions that make the writing moving :)