Saturday, 28 July 2012

The hardest yards in a new author's universe

We've all been there. That moment when you can feel that you are on the verge of something uniquely great. A tantalising taste of tangy triumph and possibility that makes you believe again in the rationality of your efforts. A glimpse of potential that brings everything into focus. A classic moment of clarity without a narcissistic prerequisite of debauchery and redemption.

Tonight, I've been having one of these moments following the progress of my project on Kickstarter. My blog has been neglected for more than a week because I've been preoccupied with the ungracious and untidy art of self-promotion. I've been fundraising on Kickstarter to get my novel, Primae Noctis, the independent editing support that it needs. Although the project is far from guaranteed success with just 10 days remaining, I feel reinvigorated by recent support from both friends and strangers. But this also brings to me a sense of foreboding and trepidation. With time growing short, the spectre of another setback looms on the horizon.

Words almost seem like they are too hard to sell these days. Especially when your words don't fit into a preferred or “saleable” preset of what many would suggest is expected from a new science fiction author.  Some voices that proclaim rigid requirements for new authors come from genuine concern for quality in a bedraggled and ill-treated genre, whilst others would seem to desire to preserve an antiquated vetting and hazing of new minds to enforce literary groupthink or collective mediocrity.  But what's the point of spending thousands of hours of your life creating a new universe when it will be exactly comparable to numerous other universes that have been created recently? Why recapture twenty-two points of a perversion of Lord Raglan's thesis in yet another pedantic work? As with most things, the simple, but ethically unacceptable answer is, money. But a selfish and sorrowful effort would fail to quench my thirst to develop and share new ideas.

The ultimate challenge for both old and new authors is not to sate demand for populist subject matter, but to create demand for new ideas and new iterations of possibility. The same goes for creating works that are eroded for the specific intent of being “more accessible” to a “wider audience”. You can bastardise your own idea, but you will sell your creative soul to some imagined devil of populism for all time.

Some might argue that this is a problem with not just today's literature, but also with the world in general. We lower expectations of ourselves and others rather than challenging ourselves and others to rise to the occasion to gain greater levels of insight and knowledge. We scorn those who build characters and write with painfully human or scientific detail. We criticise 10-cent words because we're growing too lazy to bother to expand our vocabularies. We mindlessly recite and share jingles and jargon, but have no patience for a moment at a dictionary to understand deeper meaning. Our rush to genericise and neuter challenge is also reducing innovation and intelligence in the greater population. With a world that is in desperate need of innovation and bravery on so many levels, it can be very easy to view compromise as a means to an end. Unfortunately, this sort of compromise is the end for many.

The hardest yards in the universe for a new author aren't the obvious ones. Because they are first ones that you cross in your mind to get a truly creative project moving, even though you have no surety of success. They are also the ones that you cross every day from your bedside to the mirror to reassure yourself that you need to keep trying.

As a new author, the hardest yards in the universe are also the ones that you will cross when faced with a setback. But you know that you will cross them to regroup and try again.

I know that I will keep crossing these hard yards until I don't need to look back.

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