Great Expectations?

Soon after our recent “How we began” posts, Nina P. asked Mary Jo:

“Now, y’all have me wondering. In my experience, turning a hobby into a career, adding deadlines multiplied by new expectations, can sour the flavor of what was once loved. So how has becoming published changed your joy of writing? Did your beloved passion turn from fun to task in the beginning? How did you cope?”

This are excellent questions –– especially since, in a way, you’re asking a bunch of romance authors if WE, as writers, have managed to achieve that elusive “happily ever after.”

I have to begin with the usual disclaimer, that I can only answer for myself. Like most writers, I have an imagination that is so wild and untrammeled that it puts kudzu to shame. For me, life is more an endless source of speculation, rather than inspiration.

The tantalizing question “what if?” pretty much rules my life. Not just at the keyboard, mind you: I mean when I come up with a grocery shopping list, I’m seeing myself walking down the aisles of the store, what else is on the shelves, who I might meet, who I’d like to avoid, which checker is a “good” checker, and whether the floor will still be sticky where the JuicyJuice display fell over last week. I can’t help it; it’s just they way by overactive brain works, and yes, it can be powerfully exhausting.

(And a pain to everyone else, too. Ask any of my friends or family about why they don’t ever want to be behind me at the top of an escalator as I stand there paralyzed with my foot poised endlessly over the descending steps while my infamous imagination plays out in gory detail every possible horror scene involving escalators.)

Which is all a roundabout way of saying I had a very good notion of what to expect after I sold my first book. It wasn’t the RIGHT notion, but it was good, anyway. I thought I’d be rich. (hahaha!) I thought I’d see people reading my books everywhere I went. (thirty-some-odd books later, and that still hasn’t happened.) I’d quit my day job. Working at home, I’d be able to spend more of that famous Quality Time with my family. Most of all, I believed that the fun of story-telling would never, ever go away.

But reality has a way of pruning dreams into less fanciful topiary. After five books, I was able to quit my day job and write full-time. But as I soon discovered, writing novels is not so very different from a “real” job. When deadlines loom, it’s just like having to work overtime (finishing a book takes precedence over birthday parties.) The bosses (i.e., editors and agents) can be a delight, or soul-destroying ogres. Co-workers (copy-editors, line-editors, art directors) can sabotage all your hardest work, while the others in the same business (other writers) can be supportive friends, or ruthless competitors waiting to trip you up if you falter (dang, if I’d just submitted my manuscript with the vampire-frog-prince-in-jeopardy earlier, why, then my version would have been published before Jane XYZ’s, and I’d be at the top of the NYT list instead of her.) You face periodic performance reviews (royalty statements and book reviews) and performance evaluations (contract renewals). You can, cruelly, be fired, too. (They drop you.) You stay in a job (write books for a particular line or publisher) longer than you really want to because the mortgage company refuses to acknowledge muses.

In short, that first book you write is a glorious labor of love, meant to please only you. As soon as you sign a contract and cash the check, then it’s a job. A really, really fun job, but a job nonetheless.

But what about the “joy of writing?” Yep, that’s still there, and if anything, it’s bigger and better and fun-er than it was when I began. I still can’t wait to wait to write each day. Even on days when I’ve “excused” myself from writing, I’ll sneak off and scribble down a particularly good scrap of dialogue.

Because, like kudzu, imagination just can’t be stopped.

So what about you? Have you ever had a job, or a much anticipated event, turn out in a very different manner in which you’d expected?

18 thoughts on “Great Expectations?”

  1. Nina, that was a very good question! I’ve often wondered if writing is for me. I admit to being an extremely lazy person. Having to deal with all the bureaucracy involved with publishers and editors sounds like too much of a chore. It would rub the gilt off the edges after a while.

    Reply
  2. Nina, that was a very good question! I’ve often wondered if writing is for me. I admit to being an extremely lazy person. Having to deal with all the bureaucracy involved with publishers and editors sounds like too much of a chore. It would rub the gilt off the edges after a while.

    Reply
  3. Nina, that was a very good question! I’ve often wondered if writing is for me. I admit to being an extremely lazy person. Having to deal with all the bureaucracy involved with publishers and editors sounds like too much of a chore. It would rub the gilt off the edges after a while.

    Reply
  4. OK, once again you made me LOL and spit coffee at the keyboard. My family would be nodding sympathetically at yours…oh, my, the escalator thing. Oh, the overactive imagination thing, including in the supermarket. And yes, too, the cruel reality intruding on the novelist’s dream. A wonderful post, Susan/Miranda. You said it all.

    Reply
  5. OK, once again you made me LOL and spit coffee at the keyboard. My family would be nodding sympathetically at yours…oh, my, the escalator thing. Oh, the overactive imagination thing, including in the supermarket. And yes, too, the cruel reality intruding on the novelist’s dream. A wonderful post, Susan/Miranda. You said it all.

    Reply
  6. OK, once again you made me LOL and spit coffee at the keyboard. My family would be nodding sympathetically at yours…oh, my, the escalator thing. Oh, the overactive imagination thing, including in the supermarket. And yes, too, the cruel reality intruding on the novelist’s dream. A wonderful post, Susan/Miranda. You said it all.

    Reply
  7. Jaclyne–Yes, I agree, bureaucracy rub the gilt off just about everything, doesn’t it? But if you enjoy writing, then don’t be discouraged. Writing is a wonderful thing — it’s the BUSINESS of writing that’s a whole other kettle of fish….!

    Reply
  8. Jaclyne–Yes, I agree, bureaucracy rub the gilt off just about everything, doesn’t it? But if you enjoy writing, then don’t be discouraged. Writing is a wonderful thing — it’s the BUSINESS of writing that’s a whole other kettle of fish….!

    Reply
  9. Jaclyne–Yes, I agree, bureaucracy rub the gilt off just about everything, doesn’t it? But if you enjoy writing, then don’t be discouraged. Writing is a wonderful thing — it’s the BUSINESS of writing that’s a whole other kettle of fish….!

    Reply
  10. Oh, Loretta, I didn’t MEAN to make you spew your coffee! But it’s so reassuring to hear you have the same, ah, difficulty with escalators. I look at those rows of greedy metal teeth, and I SEE the carnage, waiting to happen!!
    Obviously another Twin Girl thing.
    We can take the stairs together. *g*

    Reply
  11. Oh, Loretta, I didn’t MEAN to make you spew your coffee! But it’s so reassuring to hear you have the same, ah, difficulty with escalators. I look at those rows of greedy metal teeth, and I SEE the carnage, waiting to happen!!
    Obviously another Twin Girl thing.
    We can take the stairs together. *g*

    Reply
  12. Oh, Loretta, I didn’t MEAN to make you spew your coffee! But it’s so reassuring to hear you have the same, ah, difficulty with escalators. I look at those rows of greedy metal teeth, and I SEE the carnage, waiting to happen!!
    Obviously another Twin Girl thing.
    We can take the stairs together. *g*

    Reply
  13. I have that escalator thing too. They just look like they’re waiting to chomp…. An overactive imagination is practically a prerequisite for writing fiction. *g*
    Achieving a dream of publishing is a fabulous feeling and a real accomplishment, and the burnish never wears off. Once the pattern is settled and it becomes a job, it’s not quite a day job, but more the 24/7/52/365 variety, because even if you’re not working, the story and the characters are in your head, or at least at the back of your mind.
    And new stories and characters are likely to bubble up at any moment. Add that to working at home–it can seem like we’re always at work.
    Of course this has its good and okay-not-so-hot aspects, but on the whole, it’s a pretty unique and a pretty neat job….
    Susan Sarah

    Reply
  14. I have that escalator thing too. They just look like they’re waiting to chomp…. An overactive imagination is practically a prerequisite for writing fiction. *g*
    Achieving a dream of publishing is a fabulous feeling and a real accomplishment, and the burnish never wears off. Once the pattern is settled and it becomes a job, it’s not quite a day job, but more the 24/7/52/365 variety, because even if you’re not working, the story and the characters are in your head, or at least at the back of your mind.
    And new stories and characters are likely to bubble up at any moment. Add that to working at home–it can seem like we’re always at work.
    Of course this has its good and okay-not-so-hot aspects, but on the whole, it’s a pretty unique and a pretty neat job….
    Susan Sarah

    Reply
  15. I have that escalator thing too. They just look like they’re waiting to chomp…. An overactive imagination is practically a prerequisite for writing fiction. *g*
    Achieving a dream of publishing is a fabulous feeling and a real accomplishment, and the burnish never wears off. Once the pattern is settled and it becomes a job, it’s not quite a day job, but more the 24/7/52/365 variety, because even if you’re not working, the story and the characters are in your head, or at least at the back of your mind.
    And new stories and characters are likely to bubble up at any moment. Add that to working at home–it can seem like we’re always at work.
    Of course this has its good and okay-not-so-hot aspects, but on the whole, it’s a pretty unique and a pretty neat job….
    Susan Sarah

    Reply
  16. Thank you, Susan/Miranda, for answering my questions. And thank you, MJ, for passing them along. It’s good to know writing does stay fun… in spite of all that corporate/business stuff. *g* Also sounds like it takes an incredible amount of bare knuckled tenacity to stay in the biz.
    But those active imaginations… I don’t think I’ll ever look at an escalator the same way again. [shutter]
    My problem is, every time I go into a chain restaurant like Appleby’s or Ruby Tuesday’s, I’m forever making up odd-ball stories about the sour faces plastered across the fake old time photos they hang for decoration. And, of course, the ideas can’t just stay in my head. They have to fall out of my mouth. Gets alot of strange looks from the neighboring tables. Ah well…
    Nina, looking forward to hearing the other Wenches’ stories too.

    Reply
  17. Thank you, Susan/Miranda, for answering my questions. And thank you, MJ, for passing them along. It’s good to know writing does stay fun… in spite of all that corporate/business stuff. *g* Also sounds like it takes an incredible amount of bare knuckled tenacity to stay in the biz.
    But those active imaginations… I don’t think I’ll ever look at an escalator the same way again. [shutter]
    My problem is, every time I go into a chain restaurant like Appleby’s or Ruby Tuesday’s, I’m forever making up odd-ball stories about the sour faces plastered across the fake old time photos they hang for decoration. And, of course, the ideas can’t just stay in my head. They have to fall out of my mouth. Gets alot of strange looks from the neighboring tables. Ah well…
    Nina, looking forward to hearing the other Wenches’ stories too.

    Reply
  18. Thank you, Susan/Miranda, for answering my questions. And thank you, MJ, for passing them along. It’s good to know writing does stay fun… in spite of all that corporate/business stuff. *g* Also sounds like it takes an incredible amount of bare knuckled tenacity to stay in the biz.
    But those active imaginations… I don’t think I’ll ever look at an escalator the same way again. [shutter]
    My problem is, every time I go into a chain restaurant like Appleby’s or Ruby Tuesday’s, I’m forever making up odd-ball stories about the sour faces plastered across the fake old time photos they hang for decoration. And, of course, the ideas can’t just stay in my head. They have to fall out of my mouth. Gets alot of strange looks from the neighboring tables. Ah well…
    Nina, looking forward to hearing the other Wenches’ stories too.

    Reply

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