In my early twenties, I had serious writers’ block. Somehow, by the time I reached thirty, I had conquered it, and now, the words just flow out of me like water through a faucet.
I just published the novel, What Happens to Us, http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DSSN5SU, and if nothing else, putting the novel out there was a supreme act of commitment.
I committed, for example, that I would write a novel in a certain highly polished and rewritten prose style like Margaret Atwood’s rather an unpolished, fresh, ragged one like Jack Kerouac’s.
I committed to an understandable style like Ernest Hemingway’s rather than a hip, obscure one like Raymond Carver’s.
I committed to a female protagonist when I’m a man. I committed to a side character who’s turning 100 years old, and risked losing the reader’s interest, first, because she’s so old, and second, because she’s only loosely and thematically tied to the center of the story, even though I find her issues intensely moving.
Naturally, these choices are all about risk, and that can freeze up your pipes. You may need a plumber. You may have to drink from the water hose.
When you commit to write in one way, you risk that people will think you should have written about it in a different way. Many criticize Dan Brown, for example, for writing in a less-than-credible style. That conspiracy, they say, is just too implausible. His massive fan base, however, are drawn to him precisely because of that incredibility. Wow, they say, I’ve never read such a gripping book!
The Japanese have a saying: The nail that sticks up its head gets hammered down.
Over the years, I’ve learned that when you publish, you stick your head up. It’s true in every endeavor: stepping onstage, publishing a blog, making a movie, sitting down at a piano and playing for people. People sometimes take pot shots at you.
In 1998, when my first book, Be a Street Magician!, was published, one guy in Boston went on a campaign against me. He was the administrator of a forum about street performing and posted a thread called, “Why Is David Groves Such a Wanker?” and then emailed me the link, trying to goad me into defending myself. He was a hammer.
With the publication of my newest book, I’ve had some detractors. One reviewer complained that all my characters “have issues.” Another didn’t like my antagonist because “he’s just a bully, and I prefer villains that you like in spite of yourself, such as Hannibal Lechter.” On the other hand, many others have come down on my side. A common assessment is that the novel is “a wild ride,” and one reader even affectionately called it “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.” Other phrases include “terrifyingly realistic,” “full of lots of nice twists and turns,” “a real page turner: well written and compelling,” and “a stroke of genius” (and that last one wasn’t from my mother!).
If you’re going to publish anything, you have to put yourself out there, commit to the artistic choices you’ve made, stand behind them. If you don’t, you’re headed in the direction of Block Boulevard.