First of all, it’s been too long. Life happens…and this time it pretty much swallowed me up. Well, at least as far as blogging is concerned. But here I am again…and glad to be back.
I have written before about diversifying your writing portfolio, and I’ve been in the midst of doing just that over the past few months, working to establish myself as a freelance writer. (Progress report: one article accepted so far and several more out there…waiting…). It’s a grueling struggle in some respects: doing this right, just like doing a novel right, takes persistence, patience, and a solid knowledge of the craft and business of writing. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen without a lot of work.
So, with that bit of background out of the way, let me move to my topic for this morning. In his sonnet, “When I Have Fears”, John Keats beautifully expressed in fourteen lines the fear that must lie in every writer’s heart: that he or she will never be able to write out everything in his or her “teeming brain”. It’s the “teeming” part that always catches me. It’s a good word. It doesn’t presume that all your ideas lie along one trajectory: that, if you write sci-fi/fantasy novels, this is all you think about, or that, if you write historical romance, you don’t dream of freelancing as a food critic. Teeming is…well, teeming. Brimming over. A superabundance. The difficulty is this: in a culture that specializes in specializing, and where every marketing guru will tell you to make a name for yourself in a particular genre (at least at first), is there a path to success for writers whose teeming brains refuse to be pigeon-holed?
To put it another way, there are two sides to the coin: write what you love and what inspires you, and write what you can sell. Those two aren’t always compatible, it seems. So this is the dilemma for all you writerly folk to consider as you build your own careers. When you are hit with an inspiring idea that seems completely outside your current modus scribendi, do you jump for it? Or do you dismiss it as practically impossible for platform and identity reasons and therefore toss it in the “insane” bin?
I was hit with an idea this morning, as I’ve been contemplating markets and avenues and audiences, that could certainly qualify as insane for a number of reasons. But I see a niche, an opportunity, a void to fill, and I am inspired to say, “Why not? Others have done it…why not I?” And yet, I hesitate. Am I losing focus? I have a novel to write — The Lords of Askalon is still in the works, behind my self-imposed schedule and deadlines. I’m writing an article under deadline…and am hoping earnestly to have this problem for a long time to come. I have books to review. I do not lack for projects…there is plenty to occupy my teeming brain for quite some time. Writing, I remind myself, is a discipline, and success (which is usually defined by completed projects, not half-baked ideas and half-cooked plots) depends in large part on focused energy.
It bears contemplation and reflection. And perhaps, a few months from now, I’ll have an announcement to make. But at the moment? I’m off to teach the kids their math lessons, run some errands, hash out the rest of Chapter 10 of The Lords of Askalon, and finish roughing out this article.
What will you do to glean your teeming brain today?