Wild Imaginings

Wild Imaginings

The other night, I had trouble getting to sleep. This isn’t unusual. It’s horribly common for me to lie awake, despite being exhausted, and yet unable to drop off into a refreshing slumber. In this case, it was a strange mood of unaccustomed but also unspecific optimism.

I wouldn’t call myself a pessimist; I’d term myself a realist with a dash of hope. I don’t automatically expect either a good or a bad outcome for events; however I am good at seeing where things are going, which makes me a terrible person to watch a film with. (NB, with friends and family I now tend to watch complete with metaphorical duct tape over my big mouth)

I’ve spent the last years as a self published author observing and monitoring trends, tropes and movements and given the freedom inherent in self publishing, it’s all the more remarkable how rapidly the whole thing has become tied up with mimicking the mainstream in every particular. It’s seeped into my unconscious and conscious mind and it’s filled me with nothing but dread and sadness. There are tens of thousands of blogs devoted to how we must all pull up our big girl (or boy) panties, embrace the business model that sees out books as products to be hawked, and chase the dream of being able to live off our writing. It’s usually followed by masses of advice, of business plans and links to sites that will advertise your books for a small (or huge fee).

Well, the other night, my soul (which is a better judge of these things than my mind) took a big sideways step and said “Bubbles to all that!” Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing remotely wrong with wanting to achieve financial success from writing. What bothers me is the actual costs of doing so. I’m not talking about fees for services (whether advertising, formatting, or any one of the Boomtown businesses that have sprung up to aid authors) but the esoteric costs.

Yeah, I’m going to get airy-fairy, hippy-dippy on you. What do you expect from a writer like me?

I’ll tell you what the pursuit of financial success has cost me. My joy in writing, for a start. My innate belief in the power of imagination. My hope that people are seeking to connect with their own souls. Yeah, I know. None of these things pay the bills and we all have bills. But the odds are so far against any individual writer that it’s occurred to me that the various things we all do to try and bend those odds in our own favour are a total waste of energy. You actually have more chance of winning the Lottery than of somehow making it as a big time successful writer.

On Boxing Day I visited my parents. Dad and I were talking as we did the lunch and we got onto talking about science fiction, his favourite genre (I bought him Lifeform Three by Roz Morris for Christmas) and one of the things we discussed was how science fiction has been one of the driving forces of science. “If no one imagines it, no one can seek to discover or create it,” he said. I was struck by this. Everything that we have built or discovered started first in the mind, as a wild imagining. The kind of thing people think, “How absurd. That’s not even possible,” but some people think, “I wonder if I can make it possible.”

All movements, all revolutions, start the same way, with a huge What if, and then people hold that shining vision of what might be, and work towards making it what is. This is what kept me from sleeping the other night, this vague but shining vision of something entirely different from what I’ve been chasing before. It’s too easy to get repeatedly bogged down with the question of how do I sell more books; I’ve been foundering in that quicksand for long enough. There’s probably NOTHING I can do to create greater sales. I know that my work appeals to a very select bunch of people and because Philippa Rees commented about imagining an audience, I’ve begun to think about that audience.

DSCI0342This is where my Wild Imaginings begin.

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24 thoughts on “Wild Imaginings

  1. “My joy in writing… My innate belief in the power of imagination. My hope that people are seeking to connect with their own souls.” THAT is exactly why I love your books and where they take me. Please do more of that. x

  2. Absolutely right on! I remember being told years ago by an agent that reading the manuscript of my memoir had changed her life–but she wouldn’t represent it/me because it wouldn’t sell enough copies. She’d just had that experience with a publisher…. Unless I had survived massive abuse, was famous, or had participated in some outrageous event, my life story just wouldn’t interest enough people, even if it “had changed her life” to read about it. After first shock and then anger, I laughed a lot. Lesson: Write what you want to write–what you NEED to write–and keep putting it out there. It will change lives that you don’t even know have been touched.

    • ‘ It will change lives that you don’t even know have been touched.’
      That is so true. I happened to google myself last night and found that some of my poems were all over the place. I’m not sure where they were found or how they got their way onto other websites but they are out there affecting those who read them totally unbeknownst to me. It is a world where thought has power.

    • I got the same sort of letters/calls too and it drove me mad. I take heart that you feel that writing what you need to write will touch lives.

  3. Lovely post, Viv. I recently wrote about the advice that seasoned authors would give to newer writers, and the points that really struck a chord was this: separate your publishing progress from your writing progress.
    When I’m getting exasperated by the difficulties of publishing, I remind myself that I chose to pursue writing because I am so moved by the work of other writers. Good books are as real as places I’ve visited and people I’ve known.
    Science fiction is one of the purest expressions of this idea. In the early days, it was called ‘speculative fiction’, a term that emphasised the ‘what-if’ rather than the ‘what’. It’s not about a new thingy or gadget. It’s about exploring ourselves in new conditions. Ray Bradbury wrote to a fan in 1974: ‘I am not afraid of robots… I am afraid of people.’
    I love that idea that science might get its guiding light from SF. Until someone thinks it, it can’t happen. I was rereading Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 recently and marveling at the inventions he casually invented to create his futuristic world – tiny white earphones for listening to music; TV soap operas whose characters become as real as actual people, and dominate the news. Decades later, we have those things. You could say Bradbury invented them by understanding human nature and what we would do if we could. (Let’s hope we’re smart enough not to do everything he envisaged in Fahrenheit 451.)
    Thanks for this post, Viv. It’s a lovely manifesto for arranging our priorities this year. And I’m very honoured that you gave my book to your dad.

    • Dad said he’d let me know what he thought but given that my mum isn’t well and he’s her main carer, I don’t know when that will be. My memories of sci fi influencing real life also include Huxley’s Brave new World: we’re getting all that he envisaged now, the feelies in their early days with iMax and 4D cinema.
      I find it very difficult to compartmentalise my writing life so it means that I often get hopelessly upset and then paralysed.

  4. Your dad’s a wizard … “If no one imagines it, no one can seek to discover or create it.” I’ve been observing my conditioned thinking again this week, to that effect. It needs a nudge here and there to get back on track.

  5. Thank you Viv, for imagining that my contribution is relevant to anything! Yet if thought creates (as I believe it does despite the time lag for its manifestations- as in Ray Bradbury’s and the seminal early scifi authors like H.G.Wells) than all thought, all creative interpretations must enter the ‘field’ and change it, whether we get the affirmations or not. Only this belief will keep me writing, and only abandoning the pursuit of sales will enable me to write at all. I share all your understanding of what ‘selling’ does to creativity, and wonder whether mine has survived at all!

    This realisation has been very recent, and was pointed by an offer to help me remarket a book for a substantial fee that would include a total new edit. It may well need a ‘total new edit’ but I would have been more easily persuaded had there been a glimpse at the book first! Nothing pointed the gulf between a writer and their market more clearly than that blanket assumption!

    Somehow we have to redeem our self-confidence, and wrest it from the ‘commodity’ merchants.

  6. Reblogged this on Love's Last Refuge and commented:
    I’m not being lazy (much), taking advantage of the thoughts and musings by others of my acquaintance, but what I am finding is a stream of consciousness, of an awareness of How. Things. Are. and a shared perception or lack thereof if how it impacts our passions and our dreams.
    Vivienne looks at a problem I’ve been mulling over for some time. She stops and begins at a place similar to my own.

  7. Nicely done, Viv. I have stepped back from writing, too. For various reasons but one is that I’m tired of the endless litany of how to make a sale, how to write a better book, what all successful writers should do and the rest. I honestly don’t care anymore. I do not advertise. I don’t have an author page. My work’s out there. If readers want to read, thanks and enjoy.

    And oh, by the way, what you said about imagination. That’s why I read (and write) SF.

  8. Thanks Viv, lovely post. The simplest is often the truest, ie writing for the sake of loving it. It’s an extremely real form of self-expression and exercising the imagining brain cells. If others also enjoy it, this is good. Never ever would I forsake my soul or my health for bigger better sales etc … maybe in part because I don’t know how; and I’m a tad lazy in that regard. Perhaps if my circumstances were different I would be more active in the self promotion arena … think JK Rowling.

  9. We’ll probably never know how many people we’ve helped by our writing. We just have to do our best. Many writers and artists never saw money while they were alive. If my work makes money afterward, I figure it may, at least, help my children, or not. At least, they’ll know I tried and that’s worth something. I’m doing what I enjoy and that also counts for a lot. Happy New Year to you and yours, Vivienne. 🙂 — Suzanne

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