Friday, January 22, 2010

Defying Gravity

I posted on my Facebook profile not too long ago that I was going to try defying gravity. Based on the responses I got, none of my friends are Broadway fans. Or Glee fans, for that matter. I think they had images of me trying to jump off my roof and fly or something.

Its actually a reference to a song from the musical Wicked. Elphaba, later known to be the Wicked Witch of the West, has turned against the corrupt Wizard and her friend Glinda is trying to talk her into apologizing and getting back in his good graces, but she refuses. She asks Glinda to come with her, but Glinda thinks Elphaba is delusional to go against the Wizard and can't support her decision.

What, you might ask, does this have to do with anything? Uh... well... the song Elphaba sings - Defying Gravity - was used in a recent episode of Glee. I found the song to be particularly poignant at this point in my career. Like Angel, the last two years have had the highest highs and the lowest lows. Frustrations. Dead ends. Opportunities have slipped through my fingers so many times that I've gotten down about the idea it will ever happen. For a while, I stopped writing. It's been about two months since I put a significant amount of words to the page. I was clipping along in NaNo quite well, then found out my proposal had been passed along to someone else. I hit a point where I realized I didn't know what kind of book I was writing anymore. Should I up the suspense? Darken the paranormal atmosphere? Add some sultry love scenes? It all depends on where I land, if I land at all. I got confused, discouraged, then decided to just set it aside.

I should be happy that I haven't been outright rejected, but at the same time I feel like a literary hot potato. I can't write without direction and at this point, I don't know where I'm going. And before the well-meaning encourage me to write what I want to write and not worry about where it will end up, I want to mention I've got a hard drive full of wonderful books I wanted to write that are miserably homeless. That advice is great, I think, for new authors who are trying to forge their voice and get tripped up in the mysterious writing rules. I'm past that. I can write a book. A decent one, too, but I'm at a point where the business side is what I'm struggling with. They're great stories, but completely unmarketable. I don't fit in the tidy little box. Neither do all these great popular authors, you say. That's good for them. But I'm willing to bet that ten years ago when they crossed the chasm to being published authors, they played the game. They wrote something safe and built up to writing their current style. Neither editors or agents are willing to take on a risk like me in this crappy market.

So I kept trying to think of a story that fits in this neat area that editors are looking for with their untried authors. I help the others plot 'normal' books without a problem, but when I tried to come up with my own... nothing. I mean, seriously nothing. I have an invite to submit to a line that is actively acquiring and selling well and I couldn't come up with an elevator pitch, much less fifty thousand words. My brain is worn down. The most inspired idea I've had in the last six months has involved a heroine afraid of condiments and a hero detective posing as a hot dog vendor. Oh, or the ventriloquist with the kidnapped dummy. Like I said, outside the box. Hell, I can't even see the box from here. Unmarketable. Unpublishable. Almost eight years of trying and nine books later, I'd ridden on the edge so long I've got a bitch of a papercut.

Might be the wrong choice not to write, but that's where my head has been. I chose not to get kicked in the head by my dreams on a daily basis. At least until I get kicked hard enough that I forget about the aggravation and try again.

So, then I heard this song be performed on Glee. It's a beautiful song. It's inspiring. Making your own rules, living without limits, aiming for the impossible. It struck a chord with me and I ran out and bought the Glee soundtrack. I'm afraid the singer of this song is braver than I am, but hoped if I sang it enough, it might boost me up to head back into battle. Its been about two weeks so far, and although not a full recovery, I have to say I'm feeling better. I have two plots in my head that are close enough to normal for an editor's taste. I think I might be ready to try defying gravity once again.

DEFYING GRAVITY by Stephen Schwartz
Something has changed within me, something is not the same
I'm through with playing by the rules of someone else's game
Too late for second-guessing, too late to go back to sleep
It's time to trust my instincts, close my eyes and leap

It's time to try defying gravity
I think I'll try defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye, I'm defying gravity
And you can't bring me down!


I'm through accepting limits cause someone says they're so
Some things I cannot change but till I try, I'll never know
Too long I've been afraid of losing love I guess I've lost
Well, if that's love it comes at much too high a cost

I'd sooner buy defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye, I'm defying gravity
I think I'll try defying gravity
And you won't bring me down.

Any Glee or Wicked fans out there? Got any uplifting songs to perk you up when you're feeling down?
SP

P.S. In more uplifting news, Angel is hosting a Q&A session over on the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood today. If you are a writer, stop by and talk about the writing and publishing world with her and her fellow Golden Heart finalists!

PPS: PC here with a winner to announce. JANE! You stumped me with your characters. Send me your snail mail addy (Problemchild@writingplayground.com)

12 comments:

Problem Child said...

You have to write what you love to write, SP. You won't be happy otherwise.

I sing Mary Chapin Carpenter for uplift: "I Take My Chances" and "The Bug" (Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug.)

Playground Monitor said...

I'm reminded of Sammy Davis Jr's song "I've Gotta Be Me."

Whether I'm right or whether I'm wrong
Whether I find a place in this world or never belong
I gotta be me, I've gotta be me
What else can I be but what I am

I want to live, not merely survive
And I won't give up this dream
Of life that keeps me alive
I gotta be me, I gotta be me
The dream that I see makes me what I am

That far-away prize, a world of success
Is waiting for me if I heed the call
I won't settle down, won't settle for less
As long as there's a chance that I can have it all

I'll go it alone, that's how it must be
I can't be right for somebody else
If I'm not right for me
I gotta be free, I've gotta be free
Daring to try, to do it or die
I've gotta be me

I'll go it alone, that's how it must be
I can't be right for somebody else
If I'm not right for me
I gotta be free, I just gotta be free
Daring to try, to do it or die
I gotta be me


Hang in there. PC's right about writing what you love.

Julie Miller said...

I LOVE the show WICKED!! There have been many times where I've boosted myself up by putting on the CD and belting out "Defying Gravity" (much to the dog's chagrin ;)

Martina McBride's "Anyway" (sing it anyway, do it anyway, etc. when the world's against you and times are tough) is another motivational song that'll get me to writing.

Hang in there, SP. Writing ain't for sissies. You'll be flying your broomstick to success sooner than you think,I bet.

Smarty Pants said...

I'm not writing something I don't like. I've just got to find a compromise. I doubt anything I write will ever be entirely normal. It will always have my voice and my characterization, which is a big portion of what I think makes my writing special.

If you had to choose between playing the game, being safe and selling now, or staying true to yourself with nothing but the hope you might sell one day in the distant future, what would you pick?

Maven Linda said...

It's strategy, and I'm lucky in that I have a commercial voice -- BUT -- I'd do what I had to do to get my foot in the door. Then, once I was in, I'd start doing it my way.

Sometimes you have to take a step back so you can position yourself to move sideways, which then clears a path forward. Does that make sense?

Problem Child said...

Honey, you know how I feel about this. I totally understand the need to sell -- something, anything, whatever they want. It's very tempting to try to be what they want -- whatever that may be.

But, in retrospect, I'm glad for all those rejections over the years, because it lead me to a "home" I'm happy with. (Maybe I should burst into "God Bless the Broken Road" at this point.)

You can't defy gravity with a heavy heart.

You will find your home. You know you're a good enough writer, now it's a matter of finding a place that fits you -- not you trying to twist yourself into a new mold.

I will quit being inspirational now.

Instigator said...

You know, there are two sides to this business. Everyone has to find a way to make both sides work together along with their voice. I say do what you have to do. I know you. No matter what you write your wit and dry sense of humor will shine through. You might focus your attention over here for a little while but that doesn't mean that you've given up on what's over there.

I like Maven Linda's words of wisdom. Getting your foot in the door is always a good thing. If you can do it without compromising yourself and your voice. And I know you can.

Instigator

Angel said...

I think I have to agree with Linda and Instigator. I didn't, at first. I love your quirkiness and I don't want you to lose that. But there are authors who write one thing for one publisher and something for another. Paranormals and contemporary, historical and paranormals, erotic and inspirational (just kidding!). As long as you are staying true to your voice and not forcing yourself to write something you hate (because you will have to write it over and over), then you are on the right track.

Despite the fact that it is Miley Cyrus, I love "The Climb". I'll have to listen to Defying Gravity. I've never heard it before.

Having been through my own struggles lately, I think it is important for each person to figure out what they must do to move forward, and how that forward motion will occur. It might not be the same choice as the next person, but as long as it works for them, that's all that matters.

I also learned after my miscarriages that it is important to be true to your feelings. Not to wallow in them, but to honestly acknowledge them. There can be no moving forward without it. What's the point of smiling when you are crying inside (except to make the people around you more comfortable). I moved through the grief process much quicker when I cried when I needed to (not when other people needed me to), when I honored the pain of seeing other people with babies (I didn't go to a baby shower for a couple of years), and each time just picking myself back up and finding the next plan of attack.

I'm learning to do the same with my writing career. And I think it is important for other unpublished authors to know they aren't alone in those struggles. Too often, we celebrate the successes but hide the struggles like a dirty secret. :) Not good. Purge it and take the next step forward.

Okay, I'm off my soap box for today.

Angel

gigi said...

I love Don't Stop Believing I know they wore it out when Glee first can out but I loved that song way back when I was a teenager.

I am not a writer but like anything else you probably got to kiss up and do what the people on the business end want then after you get a reputation for great stories you venture out and write what makes you happy.
I hate to say it but it seems in this day and age its not 'what' you know but 'who' you know that helps you get somewhere.

Jane said...

I love "Glee." I wish I could have caught "Wicked" when Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel were in the cast.

Liza said...

"Defying Gravity" is one of my most favorite songs ever! I listen to the Wicked soundtrack all the time. Got hooked back on Glee because of that episode too. You know that Idina Menzel is joining the cast of Glee this year. I can't wait!

Christine said...

Love WICKED. Love GLEE. Love the song.

I know your struggle and have danced with that demon myself. I am trying to stretch my wings again and go for a different target. You're right. It's not enough to write what we love if we can't get anywhere with it -- but I also think we can't chase trends, either. That's like trying to catch distant waves and running to them in slow motion.

No can do.

I am revising my current book and making it a single title mainly because I think that's where I ultimately want to be as a writer, but also because I want an agent. And it's really hard to find an agent in category unless you're published. That was a HARD decision for me. I got really good at writing short, snappy books. But I don't fit a mold.

And I hate being caged in.

That being said, I'm still submitting to my first choice because I love category and if I ever got the opportunity to write them and get paid... well, I'd be thrilled!

So pursue your dreams, think about each book as to how it can fit one or another pair of writing pants, and then write.

Good luck!!