From Copyright To “Writer’s Block”

Dame Lili
Dame Lili
Still can’t run. A sharp jolt of pain up my leg from the sprained toe dissuades me. However, the pain isn’t as sharp as it was yesterday. I’ll give myself the weekend, then dammit, I’m running again. I don’t care if it hurts.

Last night I was at the PNBA Nightcapper event. The volunteers were awesome, especially Patti, who stood next to me and handed me books, soothing me all the while. I got to shake Greg Bear‘s hand again. (I did not pass out this time!) I also got to actually see, converse with, and touch the hand of Patricia Briggs. (Where I was near to passing out, I love her stuff so much.) You know, I am still a squeeing fangirl on the inside sometimes.

I signed a few books, saw a few booksellers I recognized, and got to tell an utterly cool punk-rock librarian that her library system (Pierce County) had literally saved my life. Not once, but again and again through years. Libraries have always been safe places.

This week’s been monumentally busy, and I am deep in the wilds of revision. True to form, as soon as I start working on another project, the current novel gets jealous and wants to take center stage again. I have often compared novels to cats–they don’t want to be petted unless one is looking at something else. Little stinkers.

So, today you get linkspam in lieu of a regular Friday post. If you can, spare a vote for my cookies-and-dismemberment T-shirt! Check out yesterday’s post on writer’s magic, too.

* Mike Briggs (Patricia Briggs’s husband) on Copyright and Free. I didn’t get a chance to tell Ms. Briggs that I nodded so hard I almost got whiplash while reading this.

The basic idea seems to be that authors are somehow unconscionably greedy, working for a few months and then living a life of luxury forever, while honest folks work for wages every day. Naturally, the only way to fix the situation is to take the author’s work for free.

The fact is that most authors never manage to make a living wage despite the excessively long copyright terms. It takes many months, often years to craft a good novel and get it published. Authors don’t get paid an hourly wage, so the sales of the final product need to compensate for hundreds or thousands of hours of labor. At fifty cents or so per book, it can take a long time to make writing a profitable venture. (Mike Briggs)

He approaches other arguments I’ve heard people make ad nauseum, and gently shows why they’re not, well, good arguments. It all boils down to: “You want writers to produce that content you love, great. Don’t steal from them. That makes it harder.”

* Ilona Andrews on publishing and marketing. Several good things in here. In particular, she demolishes one huge myth:

There are no mythical editors who sit there before a stack of manuscripts and think, “Yep, have to guard the gate.” When an editor sits down before the pile of submissions, he or she most likely think, “I hope I find an awesome book and I hope it will be a bestseller.” They want to find somebody to publish. That’s how they stay in business. (Ilona Andrews)

* Mary Pearson, on what YA Lit is and isn’t. Can I just say AMEN and HALLELUJAH?

But all of this is neither here nor there. The bottom line is that YA books are not meant to raise children. They are everything any adult book is. They are entertainment. They are a place to see ourselves. They are a place to get lost for a few hours. They are a place to make us think and wonder and imagine. They are a place to evoke anger, disagreement, discussion, and maybe tears. Books have no other responsibility than not to make the reader hate reading. (Mary Pearson)

* Josh Olson, screenwriter for (among other things) A History of Violence, saying why I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script.

You are not owed a read from a professional, even if you think you have an in, and even if you think it’s not a huge imposition. It’s not your choice to make. This needs to be clear–when you ask a professional for their take on your material, you’re not just asking them to take an hour or two out of their life, you’re asking them to give you–gratis–the acquired knowledge, insight, and skill of years of work. It is no different than asking your friend the house painter to paint your living room during his off hours. (Josh Olson)

It may sound harsh and it may offend people, but goddammit, it’s true. You have to do the work yourself, not imagine you can piggyback on someone else’s. It’s amazing how many Speshul Snowflakes, entitled to the max, believe they can climb up on someone else’s back because the world Owes It To Them. And it just ain’t necessarily so, sugar.

* And finally, because I’ve been asked three times about it in the last two days (no, AngryBrit, you were not the first or the last, I promise), here is a piece I wrote two years ago about writer’s block. Specifically, how I don’t believe it exists.

Write this out in letters ten feet high and underline it in neon: It does not matter WHAT you write. It matters THAT you write, dammit. Just sitting down and producing every day is the important thing here. It is the habit, the discipline, that will carry you through the rough patches when the fear threatens to eat your soul and the laziness and loneliness threaten to finish off the rest of you. Just sitting down and doing it, no matter what, is the cure. (October 2007)

I have very little patience with the “oh, I’m blooooocked…” whine. I have never suffered writer’s block. I need to pay rent and feed my kids too badly to indulge in that little luxury. If one piece of work isn’t coming along, I switch to something that is. When I’ve got to buckle down and get the work done, dammit, it’s time to buckle down and get the work done. My deadlines, hence my livelihood, depend on it. My babies and my landlord and my ability to visit the grocery store depend on it as well. I like eating and having a place to live.

There is this persistent idea that writers and other artists are at the mercy of the magical mythical Muse. I do blog about the Muse in a tongue-in-cheek manner, but let me tell you something: I expect that bitch to work or I’ll hold auditions for a new one. Her part of the job is simple: to supply the magic dust. I don’t care where she gets it, that’s her problem.

My part of the job is to be here to catch that dust when it falls. To show up, every day, just as if this was a Real Job. Because it is. Maybe someone who doesn’t depend on this for a living can afford to be blocked, but I’m not that person.

But then, you knew that.

Over and out.