My darling writers, I love you. But you are driving me nuts.
And not just a little nuts but pulling-my-hair-out-running-around-in-circles-and-drooling nuts.
Why? Because too many of you, these days, seem bent on dumping your REAL work in favor of constant, anxious gyrating over the state of the publishing industry.
Look, I totally understand that uncertainty throws us off-balance. I understand that this work we do is tough enough to show up for day after day. It takes an amazing force of will to align our talent, faith, and diligence with a level of craft that produces—by some miracle of alchemy—a BOOK. It’s absolutely hard enough as it is without the looming specter of change hovering over every click of the keyboard or stroke of the pen.
But here’s the thing: change is constant; it’s pretty much part of its definition. Storytelling, however, and our deep, absolutely molecular need to be moved and entertained? That is immemorial.
I like to say I don’t have a horse in any race—traditional or indie publishing, eBooks or print—but that’s not exactly true. I DO have a horse in the race, only it seems to be running on a completely different track these days. What I care about most—for myself as a writer and most certainly for my clients and students—is the integrity and richness of the story itself.
I care about excellent, evocative prose. About authentically realized and complex characters. About personal stakes that drive a protagonist and public stakes that make his or her personal quest matter to a larger fictive world. I care about world-building with rich, singular detail. I care about that dreamy, immersive, life-changing state created by the best works.
What I don’t care about is doomsday predicting. Or pie-in-the-sky claims of outrageous success in one form or another. Or story after story about “X” who earned “Y” by following path “Z.”
I understand how tough it is to keep our heads down and our eyes on the REAL prize of telling an excellent story. It’s like trying to rake a Japanese Zen garden in the middle of a hurricane.
But at the end of the day, you’re signing on to write a book, not read tarot cards at the county fair. Your commitment is to your characters and, more than that, to the future readers whose hearts and minds will be placed in your care. Your commitment is not, necessarily, to one format or another, to one future or another. That future will be whatever it is meant to be—and it’s very likely to be something none of our current prognosticators expect.
As difficult as it is, your job is to forget the final container and focus on the contents. To trust that when you’ve brewed an absolutely delicious and magical elixir, the perfect vessel will appear.
And it will. Because we need our stories. Because we need you. Not your anxiety. Not your predictions. Not your banner-waving. We need the pure, authentic storyteller in you to create something that will give us joy, make us think, reach inside and change us so that your words resonate within us for years and years.
At the end of the day, we—the readers—are your container.