Revising a Writing Life

4807-detail-aI showed my nine-year old grandson a picture of a record player in a catalog. It is new but made exactly like a portable one from the 50s and 60s. I asked if he knew what it was.

“Oh, yeah,” he replied with some eagerness. “It’s a microwave and…one of those things…uhm…one those things that plays music.”

“A record player. It’s just a portable record player, like they had when I was young.”

“Really?” he said, as if looking into outer-space.

I studied the photo of the portable record player. It did look a little like a microwave. Certainly today it seems so many of our contraptions do the work of two things or more. I can play games, listen to music, read or listen to books, take pictures and take notes all on my iPhone. Oh, yes, and make phone calls.

I returned the past Sunday from the Novelists Inc. writers’ conference. This is a conference devoted to the needs and interests of professional career authors. It is not about how to write, although certainly we talk about that in private networking. But the sessions are about how to be a writer in todays publishing world. It is about the business of writing novels, and covers everything from staying sane to selling books. It is intensive, and always inspiring. I have returned with a clearer idea of who I am as a writer, and I do feel pretty much like someone who has become a combination microwave-music-playing-thing.

I was there when the Novelists organization began, organized by five professional  and best-selling novelists of the time, and at that time everyone was published by large New York publishing houses. Traditionally published is what it is called today– or trad, as it was referred to at the conference. (With texting, does anyone use whole words anymore?)

The new statistics are startling: today eighty-five percent of the members of Novelists, Inc. are self-published. It is a whole new paradigm for today’s writer. (It is also called going Indie, again no whole words.)

This shift in the publishing world happened during my time of being a professional writer. For years I would not look at it. I liked the previous way of doing business as a writer. My image was of Eudora Welty, living a graceful life writing at the typewriter, sipping wine at night. I wanted to focus all my energy on writing and let the publishing house take care of printing, advertising and marketing the book and me. Unfortunately that framework for a writer had just about passed when I got into the business, and I wouldn’t look it in the face. I kept saying: “I don’t want to market. I don’t want to handle that. I don’t like it.”

Today I find not only the world of writing has changed, but all along I’ve been changing, too. Today I am interested in the business. I find I know far more about it that I ever realized. I am a bit flabbergasted to discover that I enjoy the challenge of running my website and learning all I need to know to get books out. I have become what is referred to as a hybrid. I have both traditionally published work and indie published work.

Today, rather than being daunted by it all, I’m enthused and inspired. As a writer today, I have vast opportunities in front of me. I can write what I want and put it out for people to read in many different ways. My goal can be to be a best-seller, or to just do what I’ve always wanted to do and write what I want to write.

As much as the writing business has changed, one thing remains the same: a writer, this writer, must write. The struggles remain the same, too, dedication to write every day, despite all the people who need pieces of me, focus to create and finish projects, and energy to do the business of publishing.

The writing life has changed, but what doesn’t change is that we get to design and live our own lives, always. For me to do this, my daily prayer to God is, “Help!”

It is never too late–in fiction or in life–to revise. ~ Nancy Thayer

Blessings,
CurtissAnn