by Cathy Pickens
Karin’s suggested blog topic “Taking Your Writing to the Next Level” made me smile. I’ve done just that … except some would argue that the next level was a step down or backwards or sideways.
The paperback edition of the 5th Southern Fried mystery, Can’t Never Tell, appeared this month (yaayy!). It’s the last in my latest 3-book contract with St. Martin’s. I chose, many months ago, not to seek another contract in that series. “Are you crazy?” said one writer friend.“Who walks away?”
I don’t know who else walks away, but it was the right time for me to try something new. Even though it was my decision, I was sad for many months, knowing that I might never again spend lots of time with Avery and her great aunts and the quirky folks in imaginary Dacus. It was almost like a friend was on life-support. Not dead and gone, just not … there.
But a comment I heard years ago kept coming back to me: mystery novelist Sue Grafton said, “Enjoy writing your first book. It will never be like that again.” At the time, as an unpublished writer, I thought, “Yeah, right, easy for you to say, you’re published.”
Now I know exactly what she meant. Having a contract is great. Knowing that someone will publish the results of your labors is very comforting. But with a contract comes a deadline. Someone is expecting you to deliver. That brings pressure – a sense that you must produce on someone else’s schedule.
I am now without contract. And I can now remember with crystal clarity why I wanted to be a writer. I work on my latest (nonfiction) project for long hours, wanting to be as satisfied with it as possible. I spend time on research, tracking down one more anecdote or fact, playing with the organization.
The next level may be a step back – but an artist steps back from painting to gain perspective, to see the work as a whole. I’m enjoying the view from that place right now.
Wherever you are in your work – whatever that work may be – take time to enjoy it. Remember why you set out on that path. Take a step back, if only for a moment, and remember …