Sunday, September 15, 2013

Resisting Temptation

Those who've been here for a while - both of you - know of my antipathy for the traditional publishing world.  Ever since becoming more educated about the disadvantages of getting an agent or trying to publish at the traditional level, I've grown increasingly disdainful for that world.  However, let's posit a scenario - could I legitimately resist the temptation of someone trying to sign me if it came out of the blue, without solicitation?

The answer is...I hope so.

Some of you will call me a mealy-mouthed coward who can't commit, but that's not the case at all.  Rather, it's a simple recognition of reality.  It's very easy for me to sit here behind my computer, no one trying to sign me, and declare that I would never fall into that trap.  However, a lot of married people say the same thing when sitting on their couch with their spouse, yet affairs are at an all time high.  I'm sure that some people out there are lying, but I also believe that most people who say that really mean it at the time.  Where it really matters is in the moment, where the rubber meets the road, and some of us aren't as true to our principles as we'd like to pretend.

Imagine that you're puttering along(yes, puttering...I'm getting old, so I've started to putter) and someone recognizes just how good you are.  At our core, we writers want people to love our stuff, to validate our talent.  And even though me might not want to admit it, one of those yearnings is to be validated by someone "in authority."  Agents and publishers are that authority in our world.  We may hate them and think they're stifling real books, but they're the folks the public gives credence to when it comes to quality.  If one of them came up to me and said, "Russ, I've read your work and think you're awesome.  I want to (represent you/offer you a multi-book contract)," the first thing I'd feel is extremely flattered.  The second thing I'd feel is tempted...sorely tempted.

I know the path I want to take.  I think it offers me more freedom to do what I want, but such a thing would give me a marker of success.  And since our emotions sometimes overwhelm our good sense, might such a moment overwhelm what it is we think we want?  Not only would the validation tempt us, but the pressure to not pass up such an opportunity would be enormous.

Again, it's easy to resist when you don't seek representation or a publishing contract, just like it's easy to resist not cheating when you don't go bar hopping.  It's another thing altogether if someone reads your stuff somehow and comes after you, kind of like that excited feeling you probably would get if an attractive person put an arm around you and told you they thought you were super-sexy.

At that moment, I hope my principles would hold, but not being in that situation, I can't say that with 100% certainty.  Would I succumb and scream like a ten year old girl?  Or could I muster the fortitude to tell them, nicely, to take a hike?  I hope so, but I won't know unless it happens.  The odds are slim, but that doesn't mean zero.

As great as our principles are, most of us never truly get tested.  If we were tempted more regularly, we'd really know just what kind of character we have versus the one we like to project.

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