Wednesday evening this week marks the beginning of Passover. It's my favorite holiday. I prepare for days for the seder — a traditional meal and home-based spiritual service — and usually invite more than a dozen guests for the first evening.
While I cook and clean house, I have plenty of time to think about many of the biggest themes of Pesach including: the Exodus, religious persecution, the shedding of unnecessary items in one's life, slavery — present and past, and what freedom truly means.
This year my thoughts also turn to my own creativity and professional life. I found out recently that my publisher, The University of New Mexico Press, is making some major personnel cuts that will impact its ability to market, promote books, and serve its various customers. I won't go into the specifics of what's happening there, but you can read more here.
Alex wrote a wonderful piece on Saturday about finishing what you start and I commented that I agreed with her almost completely. However, given what I know about the Press, I've decided not to finish my new Sasha book.
And, boy, does it hurt.
The truth is that writing takes time for me. I can slam out a rough draft in a matter of months and end up with a nice blob of text that will someday be a good book. The bulk of my work comes during the editing and rewriting. Though I adore Sasha, I'm not willing to go through the tremendous effort to hone a novel when I don't have the confidence it'll be introduced and supported effectively in the national market by the publisher.
Which brings me back to freedom . . .
Slavery is a fascinating subject and the source of much conversation during the seders at my home. We talk about its tangible manifestations in horrid businesses such as the international child trade as well as its mental/emotional ones. This year, I'm interested to know what my guests think of the new laws vis a vis women in Afghanistan.
I've been thinking about my own creative fetters. This topic has been stewing, bubbling uncomfortably, for months now. It may sound strange given that I'm a two-time Agatha Award nominee, but I've always fought the traditional mystery "formula" because I've been more interested in character development than the placing of clues and the puzzle of solved crimes. It's not that I dislike these components of the novels; I just don't naturally write them.
Have I been imprisoning myself?
With all the talk of conforming to genre, have I forced myself into writing things that I'm not as passionate about because I have to meet some amorphous expectation of how it's supposed to be done?
I don't know.
What I do know is that I'm feeling uneasy and adrift.
And at the same time, I'm excited.
I love my new series (and hope my agent feels the same way). It's a cross between mystery and fantasy and has the kind of female character I love to write. I've just started a new book that I don't know how to categorize yet — comedy? suspense? It's a project I've deferred in favor of others for years and now, because of my decision vis a vis Sasha, I'm going to finally pursue. I also have ideas for a women's fiction/mainstream novel AND a YA.
So . . .
This week while I prepare the matzo balls and chicken soup; poach the salmon; cook the pot roast; whip up the chopped liver and mock chopped liver; and wait for those meringues to warm to perfection, I'll be examining my self-imposed shackles. Where are they in my creative life? How can I free myself from the ones that most limit me?
Today I'd like to know:
What's one of your own creative manacles?
And I'll ask you to think about this for your private consideration: Is there a way for you to free yourself from that restraint's insidious hold?
Of note: Will Bereswill, a frequent commenter here at Murderati and a new novelist, asked me to mention that he has a guest author and a really embarrassing video up at http://www.workingstiffs.blogspot.com today. I, for one, am in the mood to be amused.
On the subject of freedom, Murderati will be migrating to a new blog host starting next Monday, April 13. We're doing this for a variety of reasons. Most of all we hope the new site will be more convenient for you — and for us.
In order to get up and running, we'll need to close down Murderati for two days — April 11 and 12 — during Easter weekend. We hope you'll join us on the 13th and that you'll like the new look.