WIPs Have Their Own Agendas

Sometimes I think WIPs have their own agendas, even a kind of life, that is independent of my priorities and ideas about what I should be working on. At the moment, Camp Expendable is waiting for me to stop dawdling and get it formatted, converted, and published. I had planned to get it out of my hair by the middle of the month, and that’s tomorrow. But I haven’t touched it for over a week, so that’s clearly not going to happen.

What shoved it out of the way? The story that is least likely to find readers, but has its grip on my mind and won’t let go. No matter what else I’m working on, Bentham’s Dream shoves its way to the front and demands that I get on with it. Who’s going to want to read a novella (which is what it’s turning into, from a short story) that takes place in a mysterious prison where the most horrific criminals are condemned to a life in solitary confinement. Even worse, there are only two protagonists, who spend all their time talking — about the problems and ethics of maintaining such a prison. Very exciting stuff.

It’s that kind of obsessiveness, willingness to let the stories dictate to the writer rather than the other way around, that separates some of us from the mainstream. We not only don’t write to market, we can’t write to market. We are internally inspired, driven, and motivated, whereas most writers seem to be externally driven and motivated. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re always going to write books without any chance of success in the marketplace. It does mean that we will put every bit of our creativity, and months or years of effort into book that we know very well will remain obscure and unloved.

Money is always welcome. Even a little bit of fame would be nice. But we’re willing to sacrifice all that for something that has meaning for us, even if that meaning may sometimes be obscure. It’s like a quest with an uncertain outcome, something you have to do whether or not it makes sense to anyone else.

7 thoughts on “WIPs Have Their Own Agendas

  1. I agree entirely with what you said in this post, especially about some of us being internally rather than externally motivated! That’s why I never took a creative class. I can’t write about somebody else’s idea.

    1. I’ve never taken any writing classes either. I figure I got a pretty good education from the thousands of books I’ve read over the years. Only recently have I even read books on writing. Some of them have had useful information, but I’d already learned most of it on my own. Just the way writers used to do.

  2. I think your line, We’re willing to sacrifice all that for something that has meaning for us – is the clue. What has meaning for us is our creative vision. What has meaning for someone else might be fame, money, etc. As you and Alicia point out, it’s internal rather than external morivation.

  3. Hey! We can too be rich. Maybe. After spending fifteen years obsessed by the same idea, I finally published Book 1 of Pride’s Children – and am working on the other two volumes. You measure the obsession by what you DO with it – as I said in the description (the book is about an obsession, and who is allowed to want what).

    It is going to do well – some day. I have FANS who tell me so.

    Meanwhile, Book 2 isn’t writing itself. For some reason, it is taking a lot out of me. Probably because I know where it goes, and have been trying to find a way to get to the end of Book 3 without having Book 2 go there – but that’s where it’s going. Ayyy! These obsessions have a mind of their own.

    1. Alicia, you undoubtedly have a much better chance of getting rich than I have, but I know that isn’t your goal any more than it is mine. I don’t think I could deal with the struggle you’re going through. One book is hard enough. A series would sink me. We have to be grateful for our obsessions.

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