idee fixe

Never let it be said that I don’t provide a play-by-play of the life of the wanna-be writer.

My recent submission to a fantasy magazine was rejected. The editor’s reasons were sound, and I have no qualms. However, his comments have, once again, made me question the merits of my project and my writing as a whole. When it comes to fantasy writing–at least, traditional fantasy, i.e. fantasy set in a time of primitive technology–my mind may be hopelessly muddled by genre conventions and cliches.

Many writers tend to degrade their own writing, while secretly thinking it’s much better than a lot of what they read. I’ve never been sure either way. I’ve gotten praise and a good helping of criticism for my writing. The one thing I can be sure of is that I simply haven’t done enough writing, and certainly haven’t paid my dues by submitting continuously and involving myself in the industry.

Complicating things is my mild tendency toward obsessiveness. I’ll often become intensely interested in a topic or genre, start some long epic–often a novel–in that genre, then lose interest months, weeks, or even days down the line. I have at least five or six unfinished semi-novels, all in the 50-100 page range. I almost invariably return to the interest later, but I have difficulty juggling two interests at once. However, if I can sustain the interest long enough to complete a project, the results tend to be fairly good.

I suppose there are many people who have this problem to some degree, but I find it hard to be in, say, a science fiction mindset, then casually switch to fantasy or horror. I tend to prefer to be immersed in one or another. I’ve worked on this over the years, but it still happens (on a more modest level).

I wonder whether there are other people out there who struggle with this, particularly writers. I emailed a well-known author recently, who works in many different genres, who told me he can work on a fantasy novel, a science fiction novel, and a superhero comic script in the same day.

I just can’t do that. At least, not yet. But we writers are an idiosyncratic bunch. Some are nonstop workaholics who can write in a dozen different genres, others put out one book every five years (if that). I suppose, for me, the trick will be learning to harness the obsessiveness and manipulate it properly (which I’ve learned to do somewhat), rather than just trying to fight it.

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