Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Do I Really Need to Be Passionate About My Writing? – Lindquist

A few lines I read in a book recently took a huge load off my shoulders. Well, not literally. More accurately, they stopped my brain from pacing around and around in circles inside my skull. They opened a door in my mind and let all my anxious thoughts escape, freeing me.

For years, I’ve heard that you need to figure out who your target audience is and write books, blogs, articles, etc. all geared to that market. It’s called branding. And these days you hear it everywhere. In fact, I even tell people that myself. It’s good advice.

Donald Maass, literary agent and author of the book, Writing the Breakout Novel, says you need at least four novels that appeal to one particular audience before your audience starts to “know” you (i.e. you break out from the pack). I’ve heard other authors say it took them 5 or 6 or even 7 similar books to get known in their field.

It makes perfect sense. You want to be remembered, and it’s easier to be remembered if you have one dominant characteristic. When you think Tupperware, an image of good plastic storage bowls and other dishes comes to your mind. You don’t have to wonder if you’re talking about dishes or shelving or raincoats.

So when you think N. J. Lindquist, you should think… Ah, there’s the problem. What exactly should you think?

I’ve had a number of conversations with editors and agents who’ve asked me what I write, but when I started to tell them, held up their hands and said, “Just give me the one book you’re passionate about writing.”

And I flounder. I honestly don’t know which book I’m passionate about writing!

At this moment in time, I have no fewer than 20 partially written books.

I pull out the file folders and plastic bins they sit in, and I gather them on a table in front of me. At one time or another, I’ve obviously been passionate about all of them. But at this moment, do I feel any passion at all? No, mostly what I feel is bewilderment. What's wrong with me that I have 20 books I want to write? And why, when I start to think about working on one of them, do the rest all start shouting in my head, “What about me?” “Don’t forget about me?”And from not being passionate about any of them, all of a sudden I’m passionate about ALL of them, and I want to write them all, at once, right now.


So there I was a few weeks ago reading Barbara Sher’s book, Live the Life You Love (which I heartily recommend you read right after her other books I Could do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was, and, if you’re anything like me, Refuse to Choose: A Revolutionary Program for Doing All That You Love), and there on page 77, she said, "When you start doing the work you were born to do, you don’t feel passion. What you feel is that nothing is missing." (From Live the Life You Love, Barbara Sher, page 77)

Comfort? Like an old friend you can sit down beside and not have to worry whether you combed your hair or if you have stains on your shirt.

Comfort? Like the feeling that you're in the right place at the right time.

And I realize that this is exactly what I feel. Comfort. About each one of my 20 or so books. Comfort about not having to focus on one type of writing.

Maybe my brand should simply be “woman who has all sorts of interests and writes what she pleases.” So what if I never break out or have a best seller. So what if I'm not held up as an example of how a writer should behave. I have a feeling I'll have a lot of fun.

Now all I have left is to figure out how to write 20 – okay, what if we start with four? – books at the same time. One book on writing; one contemporary novel; one adult mystery; and one children’s fantasy chapter book. And I can keep up my blogs, too. After all, I have so much more to say about being healthy and loving your family and dressing for success and country music and baseball and elderly dogs and celebrating your creativity and… Oops getting a little lightheaded. But this is me!!!!

If you want to know what I’m thinking about life in general, read here.

If you’ve read my newest book Hot Apple Cider and want to comment, go here

To read the opening to my children’s fantasy, click here.

If you’re interested in my advice about writing, go here.

I recently blogged on "point of view" in fiction on Fiction Matters.

My regular column on the body of Christ is in the Maranatha News.

My main website is here.

P. S. The photo shown here was taken at the UrbanThink bookstore in Orlando Florida where I was signing my mystery novel, Glitter of Diamonds, a couple of weeks ago.

P. P. S. I will post pictures of my signing of Hot Apple Cider at ICRS in Orlando on the Hot Apple Cider site.

P. P. P. S. My teen books are feeling neglected, so here's a link to them.

Off to have fun and be comfortable. :)


MARILYN said...

Hi, NJ! Great to read your thoughts on this topic. You triggered some memories for me. Can I share briefly, just one? (If no, stop reading)

I had a writing teacher once tell me that "a good writer can take a subject s/he has little or no interest in and do a half decent job." This has helped me ride out the ups-and-downs of passion and "how I feel" many times.

You are right. While branding and all the other marketing strategies are worthwhile to know about and possibly apply, given too much sway they can sap the creativity energy out of any effort. We become overconcerned with the thing we feel we "should" write. (I hope I've, in some degree, captured the feeling you've expressed. Sorry if I just took it off on my own path.)

I appreciate your transparency on this issue because I think it's something most writers struggle with.

Keep writing! Your characters are waiting for you. They want to go somewhere! :-)

Lynda S. said...

Aha! “woman who has all sorts of interests and writes what she pleases.” My thoughts exactly.

I can relate, and thanks for saying what this little fish in a big writer's pond thought, but didn't dare say.

Lynda S

Peggy Blann Phifer said...

What Lynda said!

I've been wrestling with 2 mss and I want to write both of them! Not sure I can do two at a time, but I think I'm going to try. One is about 1/2 finished in rough draft, the other is still in the idea stage. Maybe when I get stuck with one, I can jump to the other.

Thanks for sharing, N.J.

Anonymous said...

Your words are so refreshing and freeing. Thanks for sharing. I'm going to check out some of your hyperlinks to learn more about what you are writing.
Janice Green

N. J. Lindquist said...

Marilyn, you're welcome to comment any time you like! And yes, you got it exactly. We get so overwhelmed trying to do everything we're told we should do, that sometimes we end up doing nothing.

Lynda, we're all little fish. Just need to keep swimming and be who we are.

Peg, go for it! At the very least you'll figure out which one you really want to do. And could be you'll get them both done!

N. J. Lindquist said...

Hi Janice. Thanks.

I may be crazy but I'm too happy to care. :)

Vonda Skelton said...

Amen, sister! I'm right there with you! Thanks for confirming that I'm not crazy to love so many things. ;-)

Fern said...

Thanks for the encouragement, N.J. The last two books I wrote were for children. I told my husband, "I don't think writing is supposed to be this much fun!" But I AM comfortable doing it. I'll stop telling myself I should be writing something more serious.

Fern Boldt

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