Thursday, September 03, 2009

Signs and Making Decisions

Do you believe in signs?

When you're making a major decision--whether to accept a job offer, move in with someone, get involved with a volunteer project--do you rely only mainly on facts or feelings? You might do research and weigh the pros/cons. Rely on an advisory board of friends/family. Listen to your gut or subconscience, if one of them tells you something you can understand. Maybe you pray to whatever power you believe in to send or help you choose the answer. Maybe you look for signs (a guy said he decided to date me instead of someone else because as he was driving and pondering, he saw a truck with my last name on it). Chances are you go with a combination of some or all of the above.

Sometimes the options seem overwhelming and outcomes difficult to predict. Maybe you're caught between a rock and a hard place, where no path looks promising. Or you fear making a huge mistake that can't be undone. Then you freeze, and do nothing. You hope the situation will change or resolve on its own, an obvious solution will surface. How do you handle lingering doubts so they don't get in your way? Have you ever known you were making the wrong decision, but went ahead with it?

Recall Albert Einstein's definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

In the past few months I've been struggling with much of the above as it relates to my writing. Should I start yet another new project...if so, which genre, which story to tell? Revise one(s) I have? Finish a non-fiction project? Keep submitting, believing it's all about 'right place, right time?' Believe one of the submissions already out there will lead to representation/a sale and show me the way? Just give up and get a day job?

I've sort of been pursuing all of these options, to cover my bases. Yet this approach makes me feel scattered, that I'm losing focus and not getting enough done. I thought the writers' conference I attended in July would re-inspire me, and/or perhaps I'd meet someone who'd help me move forward (a friend happened to choose a lunch table with an empty seat next to her...and the person who sat there is now her agent. I did talk a lot with a successful author I've known for years who offered to critique one of my partials; she sent comments on the first chapter and I'm deciding how to address her suggestions.)

I've already spent years working on getting published....insanity or persistence? In some respects taking the path of least resistance can be easier, whether or not that's really what you want or is your best choice. For me, right now, quitting, doing nothing are easiest. Submitting more isn't that hard. Revising, starting fresh or finishing projects is much more difficult and time consuming. What to do?

Maybe I just got a sign, in the form of a contest judge's comments on my latest opus. She wrote, in part, I’d love to see the writer – who is quite gifted with words, grammar, sentence structure, and generally good writing – come up with something fresher that’s never been done. Would love to see this author go totally off the deep end with a high concept story that will bowl over editors and agents. The writer obviously has a LOT of talent. Go deep...take wild and never know what will happen!

You have a great knack for the written just need a stronger story.... Keep working at’re almost there. I can sense it for you!

Is this just one published author's opinion, a red herring, or my new direction? Every aspiring author knows agents/editors want something fresh and high concept. A strong story. Obviously I think mine is all these things (and have received other feedback supporting my opinion), or I wouldn't have written/entered it. Is receiving this advice at this time the push I need to move forward? If so, how do I 'go totally off the deep end,' without pushing the envelope too far?

How do I know?


EilisFlynn said...

Depends on how you work. Some people don't use anything intuitive at all, but some rely on intuition a little -- the equivalent of a coin toss. If you don't like the results, that's your answer.

In any case, it's a big question. I know what I'd do, but that may not work for you. Good luck, Ruth.

Shannon McKelden said...

I've always made my decision to continue writing or not writing by asking myself what I would do instead. If I took writing out of the equation of my life right now, what would fill that space? And would I be truly happy doing it?

Since I'm still going, guess what my answer was? Like Eilis said, that might not be your answer, but it was definitely clear to me.

The comments were hugely encouraging, though, Ruth! I would definitely take that into consideration!