Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Martha Resolves To Stop Defending Herself

If you know me, you know this: I'm unapologetically ME.

No, I don't want to have kids. So what?
No, I don't like watching sunsets or taking hikes. Nature sucks.
No, I'm not interested in my husband's last name. It's lame.

But for some reason, I constantly defend my decision to be a writer and the time I put into writing, critiquing, and networking.

I had previously blogged about how Friend Z asked me, a few months into my decision to write young adult novels, "How long until you quit? Six months? A year?"

The question is reasonable for a person who doesn't understand the publishing industry. But to those of us in the know, it's absurd, and I bristled from it and said, "I would quit you before I quit writing."

In the year since, I wrote a manuscript, got an agent, got rejected by editors, began another manuscript, joined this blog and two critique groups, attended two writing conferences and countless author events, interned for a local agent as her reader, honed my craft and forged relationships.

Through it all, I dealt with questions from many fronts. "Why do you need critique groups?" "Isn't blogging a waste of time - who will read it?" "Are you doing another writing thing?" "Can't you just write the book right the first time?"

I answered those questions, defensively. I want to be clear: the people who asked me these questions are wonderful, caring people in my life. As writers, we find questions like these insulting, but from their perspective, they're trying to understand me.

This past weekend, to kick off 2010, I had a pie party for my writing friends who brought other Bay Area writers.

In addition to eating ridiculous amounts of yummy pie, I met several new faces, connected with authors I'd only known online, and scored tons of ARCs (woohoo!).

The next day, Friend Z said to me, "I thought you should know. Friend A just sold her book, and she did it without having a pie party."

The implication being that I was wasting my time with all this social networking.

I got defensive. I explained why I did the networking. Not because it leads to sales. I network because people like Friend Z don't get it - and by it, I mean writing life. Therefore, I had to go out and find people who did get it, and therefore, got me.

Explaining this exhausted me. Maybe I was having a bad day. Maybe I was tired from the holidays. I just felt like I'd been answering the same questions from the same people without any tangible benefit. Again, this is not about Friend Z. This is about me. My reaction.

So I resolved something. Which came in handy since this blog post on resolutions was due and I didn't know what I was going to write about.

I resolved to not defend my writing lifestyle anymore.

So you can ask me if you want.

Why am I going to another conference? Why do I have to meet my critique group so often? Why am I going to an author signing? Why do I waste my time on a blog?

Here's my new answer for you:

It doesn't matter why. It's my life. I get to choose what I do with it.

Sidenote: Big congrats to Friend A! She signed with an amazing editor, and I look forward to her book. For those of you out there who are decrying, "Whaaa? She sold a book in complete solitude?" No, of course not. She completed an MFA program during which she wrote her manuscript. She joined a critique group. She found her agent via a personal connection instead of blind query. She hosts a literary performance salon where she gets to rub shoulders with New York Times bestselling authors and get featured in the San Francisco Examiner. I think we all know that's just as much work as a pie party.


tina ambury said...

Never, ever feel the need to defend your decision to be a writer. Your dedication acts as a beacon to dreamers like me.
Oh, and what are blogs for?
Inspiring others amongst a miriad of other, equally valid - including pure, unadulterated fun - reasons.

Rachael Herron said...

More than time spent, I find myself defending the whole romance thing. But you know what? "It doesn't matter why. It's my life. I get to choose what I do with it."

Thank you.

Nita Van Zandt said...

Great line! A great thing to have written! :-)
I'm a sketcher and hobby painter--and either get "why don't you show in galleries?" or "why do you spend all that time drawing?" (implying -- "for no money")

IF I deign to answer, I say, "because I'm having fun this way." And if they have a problem wondering why I like to have fun (serious, productive fun of time well spent)--then they'll never understand me anyway.

Juliet Blackwell said...

First just let me say -- I'm SO bummed I missed out on pie!!!
Second, I agree with the others: making one's life a joyful, compelling, magical journey is nothing to apologize for. We writers and artists (and scientists and academics and others who set aside the standard sort of life) confuse people who would rather not put themselves out in such ways.
Revel in your craziness!

L.G.C. Smith said...

Hear, hear! Just yesterday, someone who really knows better said to me, "Why don't you just send that book off as it is and let the editors fix it?" I tried to explain, thought of all my writer friends who would get it, and ended up saying whatever. Thank God for pie parties.

Anonymous said...

I love this post, Martha! And really, who needs to defend pie?, I mean, writing.....

Sophie Littlefield said...

ahhhh, wish i'd figure all that out a couple of decades ago....

Anonymous said...

"I network because people like Friend Z don't get it - and by it, I mean writing life."

Amen, Martha! I've finally learned to stop talking writers with non-writers because it only leads to the urge to drink heavily or bang your head against a brick wall, sometimes both. I live for RWA Nationals (and other such conferences) because you get days of people around you who get it. It's like a drug.

Thanks for a fabulous post!

Heidi R. Kling said...


Jill said...

Two things: 1) You write because you love it, and that's why we all love you. 2) Pie party?! Where was this idea 13 years ago? I would totally eat pie in support of your writing (or anything else you wanted to do - I just like pie).

And though I get that it's not about Friend Z, it is good to know who will or won't be able to understand what you're passionate about. You never have to convince someone that your chosen profession is important, as long as you know it's important. Trust me, I know on this one.

Lala said...

To be fair, Friend Z sounds like kind of a bitch. Just saying.

Martha Flynn said...

Holy crap, a lot of ya'all really care about pie! :)

First, apologies to Jill for being a late bloomer on the pie party. We had to contend ourselves with Michelinas frozen dinners. We've come so far! Second, it can't possibly be 13 years since I've seen you/graduated from college because I am but a blushing twenty three years old. Ahem.

To all, thank you - and trust me - there will be pie parties in the future! (Tina/Nita/Pam - are you close enough for a pie party? Bay Area based? Fingers crossed that you are!)

Veronica Wolff said...

Writing life and choices aside, I have serious misgivings about a person who doesn't try to integrate pie into their lives as frequently as possible. hmph.

Tom Neely said...

I'm with Lala.

People like friend Z, at least in my world, don't sound like friends. they sound like jerks. friends by my definition are supportive and understanding. those that are neither don't get to bare the distinction of being called a friend. my best friend in the world isn't a musician but she understands that being a musician or a writer isn't a passing phase and that finding success takes an unforseeably long time. that's why i married her, among other reasons.

oh and next time you have a pie party, invite your favorite local songwriter/guest blogger for god's sake :^D

Poppy said...

Z doesn't seem like a friend worth bothering with. Writer socializing isn't about selling a book, it's about having friends we can talk to about what consumes most of our waking hours. When non-writing friends ask about writing, they either get the same stock answer I give over and over, or I'm just explaining. It's not a conversation.

Anonymous said...

I'm late to the party, but I'm adding another hearty AMEN, sister! Great post. I've gotten to the point where I don't really speak to my non-writing friends about writing. During NaNoWriMo they just think I've fallen off the face of the earth.

Oh, and Friend Z just sounds snarky and clueless, not awful. Although I do question anyone who questions the need for a pie party.

Anonymous said...

I'm late to the party, but I had to add a hearty AMEN, sister. I've stopped talking to non-writing friends about writing. During NaNo, they all just think I'm sleeping a lot.

Oh, and Friend Z just sounds snarky and clueless, not awful. Though I do question anyone who questions the need for a pie party.

Unknown said...

Have been thinking a lot about this concept "frenemy," and how friends and family can actually have a sabotaging agenda and not even know it. Telling frenemies from folks who are just afraid that if I succeed, they'll lose me as a friend is beyond my current emotional intelligence, but I'm sure I'll get it someday.

There isn't a single person in my life who dares question my writing commitments and activities (except to challenge me to do more). I can't imagine having people in my life who say the things that Friend Z says. Perhaps this is why my circle of friends is kinda small?

Anyway, brave writer Martha, hearty congrats on all your successes last year. Isn't it amazing when you can look back over your shoulder, and the terrain you see behind you has been transformed into something entirely new up ahead? I love that feeling!

Martha Flynn said...

I promise, Lala, Friend Z is lovely. Although, yes, she does have quite the witty/catty tongue. But I do, too. :)

Tom, you're right - my pie party was definitely in need of a songwriter! And Veronica, Poppy and Bethany (do you see that picture of pie, ladies?? that's what you missed! although, yes, Bethany was hella sick.)

Mysti - I think the girls and I should add "frenemy" to our list of tpics!!!

Anonymous said...

Martha, you must be a very good friend to stay friends with Z. I wouldn't.

The pie party was FANTABULOUS for everything you mentioned. (And I can't have pie.) But you forgot one thing - Apples to Apples. Thanks for that, and of course for the fine company.

Jeanne B. said...

Friend Z is just jealous. :-) You get to write, be creative, and eat pie with a great bunch of writerly friends! Hey--I think *I* might be jealous! ;-)

Adrienne Bell said...

I think the big disconnect with non-writers is that they only hear us talk about the occasional pie party or cocktail hour at a conference, the exciting stuff. They never hear us saying, "Ya, I spent six hours alone in a room staring at a blank word document today after I got off work and took care of the kids. The only conversation came from the characters in my head." I don't even think of it as social networking; I think of it as reminding myself that there is a world with real people in it.

Unknown said...

M-you are a good friend. I am so glad you are into pie instead of performance salons. I would rather eat pie.
ps-nothing against salons, used to play the piano at a music salon once a month :)

Angie said...

Excellent post. Validation is important, not that we NEED it, but life is so much nicer with it.

Pie, YUM!