With my first novel scheduled for liftoff in a couple weeks (gulp), I’ve been so busy wrestling with the elusive octopus of pre-publication publicity that I’ve had little time to think about anything else. Nevertheless, in some dark, distant corner of my muddled brain lurks the awareness that I need to get to work on The Next Book. Of course I want to get to work on The Next Book, but wanting to and needing to are two different things, with different implications and vastly different spellings.
Nestled next to that awareness, though, crouching in the shadows like an insomniac telemarketer, is an unexpected and somewhat disconcerting question: When writing The Next Book should I consider any audience Ways of Leaving might draw?
I have never before written any fiction with the goal of appealing to a particular audience (this might be apparent to both my readers), and I can’t imagine doing it now, even if the audience is one I’ve somehow cultivated. When I write I try to trust the process, with all its pain, frustration, procrastination, napping, and binge-snacking, in the hope that what I produce, if it ever escapes into the atmosphere, will deserve, and ultimately earn, an appreciative audience.
But don’t I crave success? Don’t I want to people to read my work? Wouldn’t I like to earn lots of money so I can buy a bunch of cool stuff I don’t need and impress strangers? And if I begin to develop an audience with this book, doesn’t it make sense to at least attempt to satisfy and build on that audience?
But perhaps this is how the corruption begins, the same way the well-meaning activist runs for public office to generate positive change and then realizes, “Well, I have to remain in office to generate real change, so I’ll just compromise on this and that and back off on the other to keep my constituents happy so I’m voted in again and then I’ll fight for some R E A L change on serious issues, though I won’t go too far because this attention feels kind of good and, anyway, change takes time and if I’m not re-elected I won’t be able to do all that good work I vaguely recall caring about, though I think that might have to wait just a bit, because if I run for higher office I can generate R E A L change, although there is always re-election to consider and, gosh, people are listening to me, watching me, I’m important, I’ve got POWER.
Ahem, I mean power to make change … ”
Holy scumbag, Batman!
I do want people to read and appreciate my work, and I want to be compensated for my physical, mental, and emotional labor, but I’ve already written this fershlugginer book once. I sure as heck don’t want to write it again, I’m not sure I could replicate it if I tried, and I’m pretty sure that’s not how great, or even good art is created. So I guess I’ve answered that question.
Unfortunately there are a couple other questions that won’t be so easy to resolve.
What if The Next Book, like, totally sucks, dude?
What if I can’t even write a book that, like, totally sucks, dude?
But really, who needs cool stuff?
Not me, that’s who!
Nope. I’m going to stay true to my principles and get to work on my brand-spanking-new novel, tentatively entitled More Ways of Leaving That Are Even Funnier and Darker and More Compelling Than Those First Ones (With Extra Nudity and MORE GREAT SEX!).