No, I haven’t forgotten.
No, this series “Novel Ideas” about my book in progress is NOT the proverbial sock stuffed into the back of the second dresser drawer from the bottom, collecting lint, collecting memories of smelly shoes gone by. The reason for my brief hiatus between the last blog post and this one is simple: I wanted to make sure I had something to say, record the very next step of book-writing and not the one in between.
So, where did we leave off on our Novel Ideas?
Last time I told you I was reading books (still am) and taking accountability for the progress of this project (still am, hence today’s post). I received a few comments on the previous post from writers who saw an entire book as too daunting an initiative to undertake. And like you, I find myself falling prey to the worried wordsmith genre of an unwritten book entitled, Can I Seriously Get This Done? The only reason I’ve been able to make *any* progress is because I’m not viewing this as a book but as a client, like any of the other clients I work with in my day-to-day business. When a client requests I write her a 6,000-word bio that spans thirty years, from an early childhood in war-torn Armenia to a prolific real estate career in Los Angeles, I do it. When a client bestows upon me high-resolution images of a garden-wrapped Cape Cod cottage on the edge of the Pacific Ocean and asks me to describe it to would-be buyers, I do.
What then makes these other client projects different from a book? Money.
But ugh. If the only thing separating the tasks done over the course of a workday from the passions left undone is a paycheck, there’s trouble in River City. I’ve written plenty of times about that precarious intersection between creativity and commerce but it’s an easier bridge to cross when the commerce outweighs the creativity. When we know we’re being financially rewarded for our work, it becomes just a regular Thing We Must Do. That’s the reality of life; we have to pay for the necessities of our human existence and to do that we must generate some means by which money flows. It’s not all that commercialized though, it’s exciting and motivating to know a creative skillset can translate into bills paid, groceries bought, and a roof over an artist’s head secured. Entrepreneurs talk about this all the time, the monetization of passion.
The whole affair becomes harder to complete when the creativity outweighs the commerce, at least in the beginning. When the scenario is reversed, the bridge is thin and spindly, a suspension type one stretched across two mountaintops, with a vast, green forest of tall pines looming in spiked menace thousands of feet below.
Forget the forest. Let me put this into concrete terms: To complete the book, I’ve added the exact same structure I would if I were getting paid to do it. Metaphorically, I secured the bridge. First, I created a timeline for completion and listed the tasks involved. Next, I took those tasks one by one and put deadlines around each. This is due Monday, this is due next Tuesday, this is due at 11:37 p.m. on Friday, October 18 … As an example, one of my preliminary tasks due by the end of this month involves conducting interviews with family members (the book is based on a true story of my family history), noting the places where I can draw out narrative, chipping away at the tale inside the block of marble made from untold anecdotes about Broadway and booze. (You’ll see.)
In the process, I’ve learned a lot about Broadway in the 1960s and how the business of theater worked, and also a lot about my family history I never knew before. It’s exciting to watch the story take shape, as if it’s writing me instead of the other way around.
More soon on Novel Ideas,