Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Good and Bad of Writing in the Ivory Tower

I haven't posted an update on my writing projects in a while, so I am taking some space at the beginning of this post to do just that.

April is still chugging along with my writing a poem a day for NaPoWriMo. The poems need editing, of course, but I'm surprised to see that most of them have a solid emotional turn that I can develop into something more substantial. I'm also pleased to see that my "theme" seems to be working, more or less, which was to write poems inspired by horror art. A nice set of the poems are coming out with a strong emotional connection to one another, and I think a chapbook of a dozen or so pieces may be the result. That would be a great outcome - I have not tried to produce a chapbook before. All the poetry I've published so far, about two dozen or so pieces, has appeared individually or as features in small press markets.

Still, publishing poetry wasn't actually what I was trying to accomplish since I set my mind to publishing my fiction late last year. But poetry gets in your blood ... you can't stop it. I'm beginning to realize that I can't put that kind of a constraint on the muse, "Okay, you there, only short stories for now. And all fantasy. Got that?" Har har.

But I shouldn't be too upset with all the poetry, it has inspired me to do some work with the SFPA on a possible poetry contest. I'll have to see where that leads, but for the moment, it looks like it is going someplace interesting. When/if it becomes more concrete, I'll post about it.

And the story writing and publishing is still going along. Poetry seems to get me to sit down at the computer, but it is the fiction writing that keeps me there. Especially when the internet connection goes down. I put in 10K words yesterday, in spite of the withdrawal symptoms from no intarwebs.

Anyway, about the ivory tower. What I mean to discuss are a couple of the pros and cons of writing in isolation. I spent several years very deep into my "day job," and did not do much reading or even movie watching. So anything I wrote in that time was written in isolation of whatever was going on with other writers in the genre. In fact, it was written in isolation of anything in the popular culture, as well, since even now I do not watch TV, read the newspaper, or look for headlines on the internet. Before that time, I was very involved with the genre, and now am in the process of reading much more, and keeping an eye on what is getting published and what isn't. So that in comparison with the in between time has given me a look at the pros and cons of writing in one's own ivory tower.

The major 'pro' of this, from my perspective, is that my ideas were not largely influenced by what others were writing. Most of my ideas came from inside, not outside, so I could generate some unique concepts. Another 'pro' is being able to avoid the pressure of writing what is popular or trendy. I still write only what really interests me, and that's it. And another 'pro' - keeping myself somewhat secluded helps me concentrate on what I am doing, not someone else.

Each of these has an associated 'con' and then some. There are ideas which are so pervasive, and so obvious, that many people think of them with no cross-talk necessary. There were times I imagined I had a neat angle on an old theme, and then found out I'd accidentally joined a bandwagon. And while I like ignoring the trends and writing whatever I want, that is not necessarily a good approach to getting published. I like to write Space Opera, for example. Some people are kind of sick of it. So I don't know yet what success I might have in publishing those pieces. 

And the last major con, as I see it, is that isolation is lonely. I enjoy working with people and I like to be a member of a community. That was part of the reason why I started this blog, and started looking for like-minded writers. Of course, every minute we are not writing is ... well ... is a minute we are not writing. But I'm no longer at the point where I begrudge that. I simply want to make sure my non-writing time is as fruitful and enjoyable as possible.

How about you? What is your philosophy on isolation versus immersion? Do you try to keep your pulse on the genre at all times? Do you go on writing retreats? How do you keep up to date?  How to you separate yourself when you need to?


Image Credit:  The work "Monoptropolis" is used with generous permission from the artist BlueRogueVyse on deviantArt

My comments: Looking at the scale of the buildings on the hill, it seems that these towers are actually cities unto themselves. In spite of a manufactured origin, they seem to remain so organic, growing up from the rock and having abundant vegetation. Are these reserved as cities of the gods, or are they the common cities of normal mortals? What in their culture inspired this kind of architecture? And what is it that is lurking, almost out of view, in the skies above?


Kay said...

Love the artwork.

Bryce Ellicott said...

Me too - I went looking for a piece to express isolation without being depressing or dark, and then spotted this. Gorgeous.