by Pari Noskin Taichert
If it did not seem crazy to talk to oneself, there is not a day when I would not be heard growling at myself, "Confounded fool." Montaigne
I’ve got a question for you: Which came first, the need to write or the need to be read?
After Alex’s and Mike’s wonderful posts this weekend, I’ve been thinking again about writing as a business. That’s sure been the biggest lesson for me during these last four years. All of my fantasies — those Technicolor visions of multi-million-dollar contracts, fans swooning at my feet, international critical acclaim and interviews on Charlie Rose have been eclipsed by the sheer day-to-dayness of sustaining a novelist’s career.
In Repetitive Virginity, I wrote about the fact that when each new book comes out, I fall into the same wide-eyed traps: the fantasies, the giddiness and anxiety, the deep awareness of wanting my work to be read by an ever-growing audience.
This is a good thing. It reminds me of the blessing of not remembering the physical pain of childbirth. Without that amnesia, population growth would be at a standstill.
Without repetitive literary virginity, I’m certain far fewer books would be written.
We need to hold on to some of our Panglossian world views — our faith in the rightness of outcomes — to continue writing for audience.
Sometimes, I wonder how I got into this purposeful track in the first place. When did writing for audience overtake the simple act of writing for personal pleasure? I know these aren’t mutually exclusive, but, for me, the experience of writing now has a different quality.
I struggle with creating novels because of my internal judges and editors (yes, there are more than one of each). But, the sheer act of putting words on paper, finding a new story, meeting characters for the first time and having all of it come together into a viable manuscript is an absolute rush. Seeing that manuscript become a book is heaven. Meeting readers is bliss.
I also love the research. Last week, I took the kids down to Las Cruces to poke around for my fourth Sasha Solomon book. It was one of those blessed trips wehre everything fell into place. I met the right people, had opportunities to see things I never expected to be able to see and ate some fine food. I even met a woman at the farmer’s market there who had read my books and was a true, dumbstruck fan. Talk about a great and unexpected ego boost.
But, most of time as a novelist is spent in front of the computer talking to myself, getting frustrated because I don’t think the story is moving well, feeling irritated that my first drafts read like lousy Dick and Janes.
At this point in my career, I do factor in different considerations than I did when I was younger and wrote only for myself. I CARE about what other people think, how my words might affect them. That doesn’t mean I try to write to other people’s expectations — my books are far too quirky for that — but I want my works to work for strangers rather than for my own self-indulgence.
What madness is this?
Why write for an audience?
If you don’t have answers for those questions, how about these?
What fantasies did you harbor before you started writing fiction?
What fantasies sustain you now?
Readers: What’s your take on this craziness?