So Crusie sent Lani and me an email yesterday which set off a whole bunch of thinking. If I could choose what I'd do for the rest of my life (or even for a couple of years) and have no repercussions, financially or in terms of future career options, what would I do? I'm having a little trouble getting started on the new book, I'm feeling like I'm juggling too many things, and I'm basically not accomplishing anything and feeling guilty about it. So if I didn't have to feel guilty, what would I choose to do? Would I turn my back on writing, just for a year, or a few months, or the rest of my life? I've been writing my entire life, professionally since 1971, and god knows I'm so disgusted with publishing and editors I once trusted that I'd be justified in blowing everything off.
But ... I suddenly remembered why I began writing professionally (and really, why I wrote fan fiction in my teen years before fan fiction was invented).
Recently (as in the last few years) I was thinking it was because there were stories I wanted to tell. That I had these stories inside me that I needed to write down, and money and success had nothing to do with it. The stories just kept coming and I needed to write them down.
Well, that's part of it.
But I suddenly remembered why I made the decision to write my first book that I wanted published. It's because other writers weren't keeping up with my need for story. There weren't enough writers writing the books I wanted to read. If I wanted to read the story that spoke to my fantasies then I had to write it.
Which is why I made my first mistake, and wrote a first-person Gothic in the early 1970s. There weren't enough being published, so I had to fill the gap. But the reason there weren't enough being published is that the market in them had crashed (too many weak books, too fast) and editors weren't buying them.
I still managed to sell my first five books before the market tanked completely, but by then I'd moved on to Regencies because Georgette Heyer was dead and I needed more regencies (that heyday lasted a second and a half) and I've been able to write what I love since then. What I loved most seldom happened to be the flavor of the month, though there were occasional times when they coincided, but at least I wrote and sold.
If I stopped writing now I don't think there'd be enough books to transport me. I'm fairly picky -- there are a great many massively beloved writers who leave me cold. Now maybe if Laura Kinsale, Loretta Chase, Sherry Thomas, Jeaniene Frost, Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs, Lisa Kleypas, Elizabeth Hoyt, Mary Stewart, Georgette Heyer, Eloisa James, Linda Howard, et al were all writing enough to keep me happy (and all of them are of course not equal in my esteem, but I devour all of them) then maybe that would be enough.
But I don't think that would be true either. Because when I read a really good book it fills me with a kind of restless, creative energy that I need to expend. A great story just makes me want to tell my own great story, with the hero doing and saying exactly what i want him to do or say. With the sex and redemption and despair and love and all that good stuff going on.
My mother wrote until her mid-nineties, and she wasn't even a story-teller. Her stuff was more character-driven, and she loved playing with words. And yet she kept working.
I need stories, my own and others, to survive. So when I'm sitting there in my recliner (or whatever they'll have in 30 or so years) I'll be making up stories because I have to. Without them something inside of me dries up and twists and dies.
So I guess there's no way I'll ever be free from the compulsion to write. And because writing is communication (I passed the fan fiction around to my friends in high school) I suppose I'm always going to want to see things published. Basically there's no way off this fucking merry-go-round.
Which is all right. I just to work on my Zen a bit. Life is a journey, not a destination. Accept the things you cannot change, change the things you can. Enjoy the ride.
Stop bitching (or silently mourning) the things I cannot have, or haven't had. Grab what I've got, the amazing gift I was given. Okay, it's not Mary Stewart, but hey, it's Anne Stuart and there's only one of her, and er ... she's really my favorite writer because she speaks to me directly.
And I can have as many Anne Stuart novels as I want. Laura Kinsale and Sharon and Tom Curtis and Judith Ivory may have stopped writing, and I can't be Kathy Bates in Misery and go after them with a sledgehammer. But I can make Anne Stuart write, and do it with joy.
Which is exactly what I'm going to do. Starting today.