Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Writing, a fun hobby, a professional hell

By
Linda LaRoche

I was asked by a neighbor recently about my writing. For those of you who don't know I'm back in California so I have a lot of catching up to do.  A decade is a long time. What I shared is that writing is something I have to do.  We are currently in a market generating more writers than demand can bear. Consequently, it's a tough market to crack. 

And it wasn’t an easy start. In my case, jumping into the corporate world was doable, working in the entertainment industry was doable, getting grants to work on independent creative projects was doable, being in commercials was doable, and even being a columnist was doable. When I say doable, I won't pretend the path was easy—it wasn't.  Nor was it clear; it was rugged; I encountered stones along the way but I was intent on removing obstacles, and it didn't take an inordinate amount of time to achieve my goal.

The ambition to be a writer begins early in life and is inspired by our favorite writers. I shared my aspiration with my wonderful sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Marshall.  He praised me for it.

I dreamt of sending manuscripts out into the world where they would become best-sellers and make me a reclusive millionaire.  I would hide out in some remote island wearing a sarong and submit more manuscripts and continue to dazzle the world, sort of an enigmatic figure like Harper Lee. 

The reality, was that I have chosen to gloss over my private demons and although you won't find in me a dual life, or in a state of alcoholism, drug addiction, persecution, hypertension, obesity, depression, estrangement, chronic pain, or with thoughts of suicide staring at me out of the barrel of a gun tucked under my pillow, I have chosen to encounter my trials by other means. But I will never forget the early struggles of rejection and penury that I initially wept over and came to triumph over. Those trials gave the determination to keep going today.

My writer’s story turned out differently than my idealized dream. For instance, I didn’t imagine that while acting, I would be under the curse of “guilt” that would bring me to turn on the computer and try to catch up to where the literary world had evolved. Living in a European country where I never fully mastered the language, made the words pile up like a walnut lodged in my throat. I never expected that acting would flow and that writing would be so torturous.  I spent years with uncertainty, not sure what to write about, and that delay kept me at arm's distance.

Then I found my muse.  Or I should say my muse found me. For the first time, I was noticed! It inspired me and good years followed.  I knocked and doors opened.  My spirit aroused, I wrote a screenplay and entered it into a competition.  It didn't win but garnered attention and made a sale. The validation I needed was reflected by my pocketbook. 

Equally satisfying was seeing my name in print. Writing for a city while living in it, I discovered the rich relationship a writer can have with her readers. Once that stopped, I mourned the loss.  I mourned the richness of experiences.  The loss of an audience, the loss of my words meaning anything to anyone. But with every closing door, there were others opening. A chance to use my imagination, greater than I had on any canvas, in front of a camera or through any other artistic interpretation.  After licking my wounds it was like a dam had burst and all that had been stored for years just gushed out.

I wrote my first manuscript.  But the publishing landscape had changed, drastically. Celebrities sold books I was told.  And there was no middle class in publishing anymore – there was a huge gulf between self-published and best-seller, and the only way to bridge the two was with a stroke of luck.

That was the model under which the authors I read had thrived, and now it was dying, supplanted by DIY publishing, POD, electronic media, free story sites, social media, and blogs like the one you are reading.

I went to writers conferences.  I was instructed by a Literary Agent to start this blog and to share my posts on Facebook. Readers’ comments and participation I was told would give me a “platform,” a following that was crucial for the modern writer.  I was reticent, wanting to keep my affairs private.

Then I began to teach creative writing, the joy of bringing others’ work out, to watch them stand on the podium reading from their stories gave me immense satisfaction. Like the mother I never became. I was doing my bit to restore the middle class in publishing. It turned something in me too.  I wrote a manuscript.  Along with what I told my students, I enthusiastically tried all the publishing models available, traditional and new, and discovered that they all had their pros and cons, but as their readerships’ were distinct, this lack of homogeneity helped plaster me all over Google, assuaging my guilt for having neglected “my gift.” There was no way I could hide out in a remote island, I realized; I had to be front and center in the global public domain a.k.a. the Internet. 

But I faced a darker side too: the rejection of shrunken classes, the even further shrunken attention spans, and the need for that source of income to fuel this one. None of this had been part of my dream.

So what did I do?  I wrote a guidebook for my students and a second manuscript to please myself.   

Having reader's support my writing by engaging in comments on my blog has been a far greater task than the average person that screams to be seen on Facebook. Sometimes in life, there are no pay-offs but to enjoy the ride.

I have accepted that my writer’s story is different from the one I had visualized– creative visualizers, take note: it doesn’t always turn out the way you paint it in your mind. But it can be a damn sight more interesting and surprising. Why go on a trip where every stopover is carefully laid out, predictable and boring? Where would the thrill of the unexpected lie? Isn’t that what writers try to create in our work – the unexpected?

Thank you reader for staying tuned.  Share this post with a friend and subscribe to my blog (www.lindalaroche.com/blog).  Your comments are welcome. So much of what I’ve learned in life comes from what others tell me about theirs.  I’m here to listen.  

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Linda LaRoche is a writer in various genres. Her background encompasses screenwriting, journalism, teaching, and public relations.  She is a writer guided by a simple philosophy that each genre feeds the other and that writing is writing is writing.

While working in the entertainment industry, she independently produced a film, The Trouble with Tonia, and won the Silver Star Award for Producer in the Houston Film Festival.  It also won best film award in the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain and is listed as one of the top 100 Hispanic-American films, on Chon A. Noriega’s, Film Institute's Top 100 List.

She plunged into acting while living in Europe and had a re-occurring role in Tri-Star's Berlin Break and appeared in the David Schlesinger film, The Innocent.

As a journalist, her work has appeared in a variety of periodicals including In Style magazine, The Los Angeles Weekly and the Pasadena Star-News.

As a creative writing teacher at the College of Southern Nevada, she mentored budding writers and was particularly good at helping others nurture their creative ideas from the abstract into polished execution. Her guidebook, How to Write Short Stories to be Proud Of is available on Amazon Kindle.

In 2017, she self-published her first novel, Dust unto Shadow and was lauded by Press as having sold more books at a public library than most authors sell in a traditional bookstore.

Currently, she is an independent public relations consultant representing clients in the arts and personal development.  Her books are available at:  http://www.lindalaroche.com/resume_linda_laroche.htm.  


2 comments:

Dipika Mukherjee said...

Umberto, I too, love train trips, and enjoyed reading this post very much. I need to get a copy of "Sometimes Ridiculous" soonest!

Marie-Thérèse Norris said...

As much as I thought I knew you, dear friend, and admired your creative talents, there is so much I did not know and now better appreciate. What a wonderful post this is, and how beautifully you have shed a little light on those shadowy corners of your life. We all have them, but it is only the gifted writer who dares to share them. Brava!!

Cheers, Marie-Thérèse