Consider the phrase having a “defining moment” in life. Ronald Reagan at the Berlin Wall. Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier. Nadia Comaneci’s first Perfect 10.0…Politics. Science. Sports. Those are examples of the things, words or accomplishments for which people are remembered.
And then there are also bad ones that can define us. Bill Clinton’s ‘I did not have sex…’ Lest you think me pious for saying that about good ol’ Mr. 42nd, let me share something brutally, darkly honest and personal:
During my second student-teaching a long time ago, I forgot, honestly just forgot, one of my responsibilities with two of my students: I didn’t fetch them from class to the Resource Room or didn’t get them back on time, for some activity or something. It caused big problems for those students.
So what explanation did I give to my supervising teacher? Did I rise to the situation and act all noble and honest, confessing that it was my error? After all, these were deaf 5th graders!
Even though I did confess and ask forgiveness soon after, and everyone made-nice about it, my honor never fully recovered. Mistrust’s grimy shadow hung between us from that point on. It was a dark defining moment that showed me how truly low I could go as a person. It haunts me to this day, as you can see from my writing about it.
Defining moments seem to be that way, either for the good or the veryvery bad. Let’s move on to more positive ideas –and one that might transform how you view your creations: What will be your Definitive Work in the Literary World? (Yes, you may call it a Legacy if you want to; I think it’s a rather scary word, perhaps even cliché…)
What do you want it to be? Which work-in-progress (“WIP”) or finished work are you most proud of? Which is most popular with your readers and critiquers, the one they won’t let alone, the one they ask you questions about most often, the one they want to read more of, even after ‘The End’?
That just might be the one, you know. Or the that becomes a Classic Bestseller after you’re gone (sorry for that rather depressing reality)
Will it depend on if it’s a bestseller or if it tanks in the ranks on Amazon or Publishers Weekly? Is it enough to have a small but devoted cadre of fans? Or is private, a manuscript you cherish but won’t share with the waiting world? (And why the heck won’t you, btw?)
It’s taken me half a century and less than a decade of serious “career” writing – a drop in the literary time bucket if you will – but I’m getting closer to knowing what mine will be. Or what I hope it will be.
Think of your favorite authors and their Defining Works. Take J.R.R. Tolkien. Of course he’s renowned for The Lord of the Rings. But have you heard of Leaf by Niggle? (Tolkien nerds, this isn’t talking to you)
Or Children of Hurin? You think GOT is dark? Baby, it’s got nothing over J.R.’s incestuous, murderous & tragic story. And C.S. Lewis is made immortal by his Narnia. And Diana Gabaldon. She will be forever known by the Outlander series. But have you heard of her Lord John series? (again, you G-nerds are excluded).
I latched onto this defining-work idea a few years ago, while struggling with the lifelong concept of: What the heck am I here for–in the authorial sense, anyway? This is taking SO LONG to finish. It’s taking TOO long. Waaaah.
Then guess what? I read that the classics of both Narnia and Middle Earth took over 10 years each for the authors to write. And since the idea of LOTR was birthed just after J.R.R’s WWI experiences and Lewis’ talking animals idea started in his childhood, we’re talking a very long process.
It made me feel better. I gotta keep pluggin’ along…no matter how freakin’ long this takes. So do you, fellow writer and aspiring author, so do YOU.
The more I write, the more the answer surprises me. In so many ways.
Word Count for the Fantasy, Bk 1