Is your passion worth sacrificing?

Perhaps if I wore a latex bikini and waved around an oversized foam finger with one hand while I tapped on the keyboard with the other. . .I could make money as a writer. The first two seem to be working for Miley Cyrus. And she probably doesn’t have a clue that twerking became popular while she was still in diapers.

2013 MTV Video Music Awards - Show

(Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for MTV)

I seem to have a knack for choosing creative pursuits that aren’t lucrative…like teaching high school, bagel-dipping in Nutella, and writing. Maybe I should have actually read the book Do What You Love, The Money will Follow. But since I’d already discovered outlets that “fulfilled my needs, talents and passions,” I didn’t require direction, just affirmation, so I didn’t read more than the title.

Maybe I could write Fifty Shades of Blue Because I Didn’t Think of Fifty Shades of Gray Before She Did. Or The Sun Before Twilight. Or a prequel to the Harry Potter series. But that would be as successful as me at the age 61 attempting to twerk on-stage with Robin Thicke.

Word to the unwise…back away from your laptop if you’re pursuing fame and fortune as an author. I’ve experienced the wiggling excitement of being offered representation by agents, book contracts, seeing my name on the cover of a novel, finding myself in a bookstore and on Amazon. Yet I’ve invested oodles more in marketing, classes, and conferences than I’ve earned.

So, why do I continue to write?

Because I can’t not write, and that’s never been so clear to me as it has recently. I’d been officially retired for five months after having taught high school English for 25 years when my husband decided to open his own business. He’s a veterinarian.

This is what I do while I’m at work: I smile and say, “Hello. How are you?” or Hold on” and/or “I’ll find someone who can help you.” I’m entering inventory and clients in our database, shelving drugs with unpronounceable names, counting pills for prescriptions, mopping the floors every morning so the clinic won’t smell like the population it serves, answering the phone, leaving the house every morning at 6:30 and not returning home until after 7:00 pm, taking emergency calls with him and working almost every Saturday and often going in on Sundays to catch up from the week.

My consumption of Blue Bell ice cream is increasing in an inverse proportion to my hours of sleep and direct proportion to my depression. I went to bed at 7:30 last night and woke up at 4:00 in the morning to write this post. It’s the first writing I’ve attempted outside of chart notes and prescription labels in over thirty days.

When your passion is suddenly taken hostage, you eventually find a way to survive. To entertain it in your mind where it can’t be constrained. I mop and spin ideas of women once wealthy and powerful who assume false identities and hide out in low-end jobs to escape someone or something. I devise stories around clients who own ten dogs and/or cats. I name future characters after some of the clients’ pets. . . I try to not dwell in the land of, “if I’d written a blockbuster before this, I wouldn’t be wiping up unknown glick on the floor.”

I hope to be ransomed one day. In the meantime, I’m following the advice of my writer friends and keeping a journal. Maybe the glick on the floor will lead to a break-out book. Maybe not. But this I’ve learned: you can’t sacrifice your passion on the altar of someone else’s dreams.

Do what you love. If the money doesn’t follow, your sanity will.

What about you? Doing what you love?

A Helluva Authorial Reinvention

christaallanblogMy husband thinks I should try writing erotica. For someone whose books have been published by Christian publishing houses, that’s one hell of an authorial reinvention.

I tried to explain to him that the problem isn’t the genre. It’s my aptitude for writing it. Just working out the logistics of two people kissing when I write can be a challenge. Erotica? I’d have body parts flying all over the place. Not to mention the paradigm shift in our personal sex life. Making love with writer’s brain (this goes there, he does this, she does that, oops…that didn’t work), and thinking one of those speech recognition software programs would be useful at the time.

I have given serious thought to introducing erotica in Christian fiction. Rumor has it that there are Christians who are actually having married-to-one-another sex and enjoying it. And, have you read “Song of Solomon” in the Bible lately? Clearly, a study in metaphoric sex: “his abdomen is carved in ivory” and her “orchard” blossoms, and he’s attracted to her “garden”? Then there’s this illustration of the Song of Solomon, which serves to demonstrate some of the inherent problems with literal interpretations.

Even J.K. Rowling is reinventing herself as evidenced by the outing of her as Robert Galbraith, author of The Cuckoo’s Calling, a crime novel released in April “praised by critics,” according to NBC News. She called the pseudonym a “liberating experience,” because of not having to endure the hype or pressure of being always Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling. Not many seemed to mind that she published the Harry Potter series using the gender-neutal J.K. as opposed to her first name, Joanne.

But some think she may have pushed the boundaries of fabrication by claiming to be a married father-of-two and a former undercover police investigator.  The author bio on Amazon states, “After several years with the Royal Military Police, Robert Galbraith was attached to the SIB (Special Investigative Branch), the plain-clothes branch of the RMP. He left the military in 2003 and has been working since then in the civilian security industry. The idea for Cormoran Strike grew directly out of his own experiences and those of his military friends who returned to the civilian world.”

Does that mean there are boundaries to reinvention? You can assume a false name, but you can’t assume a false history related to your new identity? But, if fiction is, as Merriam-Webster defines it, “something invented by our imaginations,” are we going to restrict our reinventions? So, people are upset that she wasn’t honest about her alias? Seems rather oxymoronic or, at the very least, headache-inducing.

Female writers have hidden themselves under gender neutral or male names for centuries, even as recently as our own with Nora Roberts reinventing herself as J.D. Robb. Mary Ann Evans used George Eliot so that her work would be taken more seriously, Amantine Lucile Dupin published as George Sand, and even Harper Lee dropped her first name, Nellie. The author of The Outsiders, Susan Eliose Hinton, preceded Rowling as an author using only her initials, S.E.  Publisher’s Weekly wrote an article about male writers using women’s or gender-neutral names when writing romance.

It seems writers reinvent themselves because of reader perceptions, pre-conceived notions of males writing erotica or females writing grisly crime and detective stories. Or, as in centuries ago, readers not embracing women as writers. Sometimes it’s self-preseveration with publishing houses or even careers. When I taught high school, I don’t think parent conferences would have gone well if my name had been on the cover of Fifty Shades of Gray. Then again, if it had been, I wouldn’t need to be sitting in parent conferences…

I wonder, though, what our perceptions as writers are of readers that cause us to want to reinvent ourselves.

What happens when I decide to write outside of the genre that’s defined me for the five novels I’ve already written?

I’ll let you know.

In the meantime, do you feel duped by author pseudonyms? Would you follow a favorite author into any genre?