Thursday, September 22, 2011
The Challenge Authors Face
I've noticed that fiction authors face a disadvantage to our craft which other creative folk don't share. My husband is a saxophone player and my twelve-year-old daughter is a budding artist. Here is an observation I've made. It's harder for fiction authors to share with others what we've created.
An artist may paint a gorgeous landscape or mold a sculpture, and people take one glance and say, "Wow, look at that. You have such a lovely talent."
A musician may play a few bars of a song, and they say, "That's wonderful. You have the power to really move people."
But when a novelist completes a longstanding project and it's finally published and delivered, people say, "Hopefully I'll find enough time to read it one day but my life's pretty hectic at the moment. The blurb sounds interesting. Good on you for giving it a go."
They might go so far as to tell others, "My friend here writes novels," but when we ask down the track, "Have you read any yet?" they pull sheepish faces and say, "The last one you gave me is still in the pile on my shelf."
Unlike the artist or musician, we can't just present our work in front of peoples' eyes or ears. A little effort is required from their end too. They need to choose to set aside a block of time to actually open up our books and read them. A good two thirds of well-wishers may find this difficult to do. This is the problem which makes authors unique from other creative types.
Apart from the tremendous achievement of writing our books, we need to come up with catchy one-liners to convince people that they may like to read our work. And sometimes we find ourselves thanking friends or acquaintances profusely when they've done us the favor of reading our books and giving us feedback, forgetting that we've also done them a favor, by providing them a heart-touching, potentially life-changing story to whisk them away from their mundane duties for awhile.
How do we handle the frustration of this aspect of our work? By frequently reminding ourselves to focus on the larger picture. We need to zoom out our vision to consider places and hearts our books may have penetrated which we have no idea about. Sometimes God gives us a glimpse, like a wink from heaven. My niece saw somebody reading my novel, "Best Forgotten" in the lunch room at work. They told her they'd bought it from a Christian bookshop and it was a really great story.
We think of the future and how the work we do is still making fresh impact on others years after we've finished a project. I love receiving the occasional email telling me how an older book such as, "A Design of Gold" or "The Risky Way Home" or one my fantasy adventures has impacted somebody's heart as they've related to a character they've found similar. I love to know that the work my novels were designed to do is still taking place, and may be fifty, eighty, even one hundred years down the track.
Let's not focus on short term lack of feedback, as if this is all our work is designed for. We won't ever know the full impact it has made, or even the impact it may be having now, until we get to heaven.
Paula Vince is a homeschooling mother and award winning fiction author who lives in South Australia's beautiful Adelaide Hills with her husband and three children. She likes to work at her computer with the sound of the washing machine and dishwasher in the background, as it gives her the illusion she is multi-tasking.