October 16th, 2007


Working Hard or Hardly Working

Yesterday I finished a picture book text 
(supposedly the 1st draft, but I've saved it as Version 6 so my math is obviously wonky).

I started this piece last April and I really love the idea and the main character's name and her sister's name and on and on and on. 



I started it six months ago and I'm on Version 6 of the 1st draft.
It has been just the teensiest bit like squeezing blood from a stone.

Here's the thing. 
The three picture books I've sold so far all came to me like thunder -- in the middle of the night or out of a daydream.
They all moved in and took over and I had no choice but to ride out the storm.

Not to say that they didn't require work. 
All three begged for painstaking and obsessive attention -- somehow frenzied and careful at the same time. 
All three rest atop a teetering mountain of earlier versions and drafts.
All three drove me to well-deserved naps and pedicures as the final revisions wrapped up.

But the work, honestly, was kind of fun. 
It was work that was intuitive and impulse-based. 
It was work that followed some woo-woo pre-ordained path.
It was work that I was driven to do.

My other manuscripts (and I'm not gonna say how many there are because I'm worried someone may tell me to get a life) have been harder. From start to finish. 
They've all started with some sort of constructed G.I. (Great Idea).
Then I've applied what I know of the craft to said G.I. 
Then I've revised this or that version of the G.I.
Over and over and over again. 
Character, setting, dilemma. Character, setting, dilemma.
It's been, quite frankly, more like sausage making. 
And apparently not all the editors out there are sausage eaters, because these are the stories that haven't sold. 
Even though I'll stand by the G.I.s they sprung from. Truly, each one of them.

Which begs the questions: what am I supposed to do when I'm not being put upon by thunder? should I take up knitting? should I drop all the ideas that seem to take too much effort from the outset? should I keep a tape recorder by my bed and throw out my computer? should I keep working away when the work that is being most adored is that which feels less like work and more like love?

Should I?