Mark Terry

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Is Writing Fun?

January 31, 2010
I spent most of the weekend at the Winter Retreat for Sanchin-ryu, the karate style I have been studying for over five years. It was at a former Holiday Inn Conference Center near Lansing, Michigan and involved 3 two-hour workouts on Saturday and a two-hour workout Sunday morning, which I didn't attend because I was more intent on sleep, breakfast, driving home, and the fact that I felt as creaky as a 90-year-old grandma.

I learned a tremendous amount. Chief Grand Master Robert Dearman, who developed the style, noted that we weren't expected to learn everything, we should keep an open mind and whatever percolated to the top of our heads was ours. Luckily, I think a lot was percolating up, from fairly esoteric things like foot placement after star steps and new approaches to a number of forms, etc.

During one of his talks (CGM Dearman does love to talk) during one of the workouts he talked about how sometimes people will say, "Well, when it stops being fun I'll quit."

He then went on to say that his response to that is, if that's how you really feel, you should just quit now and save yourself the time and trouble, because eventually, it's inevitable that you won't have any fun. Sanchin-ryu, he noted, like many things (including marriage, one of his common reference points) is not always fun. It has its ups-and-downs. It's rewarding, often entertaining, but not always fun.

Wow, I bet you clever folk know where I'm going with this.

Granted, I'm really, really tired today. I slept like crap last night after 6-hours of workouts because, well, I often sleep like crap in hotels these days, plus there seemed to be a wild party and lots of screaming children going on all throughout the hotel pretty much all night long. Whether it was Sanchin-ryu folks, the other group having a conference, or something to do with Vegas Night being held there, I don't know.

Anyway, in case you haven't heard, there's a very large brou-ha-ha (how often do you get to use that word?) going on between Amazon and publisher MacMillan over eBook pricing, to the extent that apparently Amazon, rather than negotiating, made it impossible for people to order eBooks published by MacMillan. (Which hurts MacMillan, but has the potential to totally fuck over writers, so thanks Amazon--I order the majority of the books I buy from you, but I may be reconsidering that, and I'm not even published by MacMillan; but why should I order books from a bully when I have other options?)

My reaction to this--and yes, I'm tired--was, Aw, I'm too tired to deal with all this shit. This shit being: arranging my busy schedule to write fiction, go through the rejection process continually, make precious little money off it, throw money at marketing and promotion, etc., etc., etc., ad nauseum.

And I did think about CGM Dearman's comments about it not always being fun. And friends, novel writing isn't always fun. Even the words-on-screen/paper aspect, which I love. But the business end, the fact that we're currently in the middle of an enormous implosion of the publishing industry as we know it ... it makes me want to just throw up my hands and say, "Christ, let the publishers work it out. I'm going to go concentrate on the stuff that works for me."

But I won't. I'll keep hammering away at it, probably. Because, although not always fun, it's usually pretty rewarding.


Blogger Natasha Fondren said...

I used to say that all the time: that learning piano was so rewarding that it will often seem like fun, but if you're going into it "just" to have fun, forget it.

I'm in the minority. I'm thankful Amazon tried to get me cheap prices. I can't afford $15 ebooks, period, unless this here in my purse is the winning lottery ticket. And Amazon's new deal means I'll make double the royalties next year from the books that are on Kindle.

I don't see why an ebook should cost more than a paperback.

5:55 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Actually, I think eBooks SHOULD be priced $9.99 or lower. But I also understand how a publisher putting out a hardcover (let's call it the luxury car of the book world) at $24.95 doesn't want the same product to come out simultaneously in an eBook format at $9.99. It'll eat into their profits. It's why they bring out paperbacks a year or so later at a lower price. MacMillan says they want that kind of tiered pricing.

And as a retailer, of course Amazon can sell their products at a loss if they want to. But their ham-handed approach to just shutting down the Buy Buttons to make their point that they're the biggest gorilla in the room is not cool and hurts authors more than the publisher.

4:36 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

I think the queston isn't whether something we are doing is always fun but whether we are getting something out of it that we consider worthwhile. When I was running, some days I felt miserable and worn out and running was hard. But on the whole I felt better, my running measurably improved and I was able to participate in races so all in all I enjoyed the activity. Running, unlike trying to write professionally, is pretty much a self-directed (self indulgent?) activity. Most runners try to improve. Or just try to feel healthier. They don't try to win races. So for the most part your satisfaction from running comes from how you feel about your performance. I could feel great about finishing in the middle of the pack because for me just participating in a race -- just covering the distance - was satisfying. If you aim to write professionaly though, your aim is to "win" (i.e. sell) and editors and agents determine whether you are successful (i.e. sell) and it is harder, to find satisfaction in your efforts. Well, unless you sell everything your write.

7:54 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I'm sure at least part of my problem (besides, you know, being hopelessly neurotic) is that as a professional freelance writer the majority of things I write I get paid for. I don't often write articles on spec--haven't in a very long time--although I still apply for gigs I don't get, still send out queries that fall into a black hole. But generally speaking, anything of any length is done on contract or assignment and I know I'll get paid for it. And generally speaking, the amount I'm paid seems reasonable for what I'm doing.

Then you turn to fiction and, well, it turns into: I'm writing it on spec, it may or may not sell, if it does sell it may or may not make much money, if it does get published, I am expected or strongly encouraged to spend a lot of time and money to make sure it sells... etc, etc, etc. There's not only a different mindset going on, but a different business model.

This weekend at the karate retreat, I gave a copy of The Serpent's Kiss to Chief Grand Master Dearman because one of the characters studies Sanchin-Ryu karate. He was very pleased. Then I donated 9 books--3 sets of the Derek Stillwater novels--to their silent auction to raise money for the organization to help send kids to their summer camp (which my son has gone to 3 years and loves it). All for a good cause and a simple thing to do and everyone involved seemed quite grateful that I did it.

But as I later commented to my wife, the business model for my fiction lately seems to be to give my work away. It's a nice enough thing to do for charitable events and I suppose it creates some awareness on the part of potential book buyers, but it's not what I'd call a sustainable business model.

8:06 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

I find it increasingly difficult to force myself to write fiction that probably won't sell, and will therefor be a total waste of my time, or won't pay much if it does sell, and will therefor be a partial waste of my time. Now some people write for their own satisfaction but for me writing has always been a way to connect with an audience and when it comes to fiction, for the most part, you need a real publisher to connect you to an audience.

10:22 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...


"I find it increasingly difficult to force myself to write fiction that probably won't sell, and will therefor be a total waste of my time, or won't pay much if it does sell, and will therefor be a partial waste of my time."

Bingo! I don't know if it means I'm getting crass and money-fixated (getting?), or if I'm just getting older and more aware of the time flying by, but either way, there it is.

10:42 AM  
Blogger sex scenes at starbucks said...

I'm facing a non-fun writing day, so I needed this peptalk. Thanks.

6:54 AM  

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