Jeff Seymour - Author of Fantasy, Literary Fiction, & c.: Rock Climbers

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Rock Climbers

It's Friday!

But today, I don't think I'll post a Wordle. Instead, I'd rather discuss a bit of an epiphany I had this week.

In each of the last four years, I've had the opportunity to go to a screening of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour. Twice in upstate New York, once in Dunedin, New Zealand, and this year in Boulder, Colorado. The Banff Mountain Film Festival is a nine-day-long love affair with outdoor documentaries (and now, apparently, outdoor books as well---hooray!) that takes place in the Canadian Rockies (right next to, I've just learned, a town called Anthracite. How cool!). Every year, some of the best films in the festival go on tour around the world, and every year since I started attending, they have inspired me.

There was something particularly hard-hitting for me about the films this year. I enjoyed them so much that for the first time I came home and bought some of them (plus some I didn't get to see but heard about at the screening) that night. I found myself extremely envious of the subjects of the films, who were racing up rock faces or kayaking never-before-navigated rivers or ice climbing in areas that appeared unclimbable. "That's the life I want, always pushing the boundaries and striving for something great," I kept thinking, "except that I want to do it with writing. Why don't have I it?"

Eventually, I figured it out. The climbers and paddlers in the films were just doing what they thought was great (at my most cynical, I could say they were made to appear that way, but I think people deserve the benefit of the doubt). They were doing things that inspired them. They weren't climbing to impress a huge corporation, or some mysterious cabal of starmakers, or anyone other than themselves and a close group of people that mattered to them. They weren't climbing to get rich or famous (though I think most of them were happy at least with the second). You got the impression every step of the way through the process that they were going to be doing these things whether or not a camera crew was there to record it and let them make some money from it. Some of them had already been trying the same thing for years before anyone ever showed up to document their efforts. The great act was their goal, always, and the film only a means to fund and share it.

That's what's been missing in my life this year. I've been spending all this time researching agents and crafting query letters and synopses and doing things that I think, quite frankly, are not great. I find them utterly uninspiring. The great thing I'm trying to do is tell a story, and the more time I spend agonizing over who I want to work with me, the more time I spend stressing over whether I'm ever going to make a living doing this, the less time I'm out there trying to do it.

I'm sure this happens to adventurers, too. These films show them at their best. But that's one of the great things about them--they can remind you of what you are at your best, too.

So if the old game plan was 1.) Find an agent. 2.) Make sure they're a good fit. 3.) Wait around for them to find you an editor who wants you. 4.) Make sure the deal you're offered is a good one. 5.) Jump through the thousand hoops of the publishing, marketing, and PR process, the new game plan is 1.) Submit to a few agents you respect. Do not agonize over the process, as it's more like speed-dating than a marriage proposal. 2.) Give it six months or so. 3.) Chuck the book up on KDP and BN.com so that it can be easily distributed to the people who matter to you and to whom it might matter. 4.) Go out and write your next great project.

There are a lot of other ideas on this subject bouncing around my head right now--about the role of money in publishing, and in my life particularly (the sudden drive to commercialize my writing coincided with a period of little to no income), about the role of statistics and large corporations in the book world, and about how unfair it is that rock climbers have a pretty fair standard of whether they're succeeding in their projects (they don't fall) versus failing (they fall) while writers pretty much just have to guess at it. I may write more about these later, or I may not.

If you'll excuse me, I have beautiful things to go create.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great post. Really insightful. Not much more I want to say, other than I'd love to talk to you about this, as I've been battling the same demons as you. And as the Exorcist has taught me, it takes more than one to exorcise a demon. ;-)

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