Wednesday, July 08, 2015

The Trojan Horse

There are any number of reasons to watch the movie Troy - the one starring Brad Pitt, Sean Bean, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom and the absolutely amazing Peter O'Toole. You'll notice I didn't name any of the female stars. They were all great in their roles as well, but frankly, very little compares to all that masculine beauty. Brad Pitt's butt. Eric Bana's butt. Sean Bean's chest. Orlando Bloom's butt. Peter O' Toole's voice and those incredible eyes. Oh yes, and there's a story in there. A really great story. An ancient story or heroes, honor, perseverance and cunning.

Writing is a great deal like the Trojan Wars. Some guy - usually your hero - talks you into packing up your ego and all of the weapons in your writing arsenal to go after some girl - your heroine. Some days it's smooth sailing. Some days you get your ass kicked. Some days you wade to shore under a barrage of arrows hoping one doesn't catch you between the eyes.

The difference is, many times you are the one kicking your own ass. And you are the one shooting all of the arrows at you. I'm not saying reviewers, readers, agents, editors, your own computer and any number of other enemies don't take their best shots at you. And God knows the world is running over with people, places and things doing their damnedest to keep you from writing. Some distractions work a lot like those pretty sirens sitting on the rocks luring you to your doom. Okay, so maybe those sirens look like Channing Tatum or Shemar Moore or a nekkid Gerard Butler, but that is entirely beside the point. And looking as those photos is research. Yeah. Right. Research. Hmmmmmmm. Oh yes, where was I?

Kicking your own ass. There is a great deal of that in writing. Ad each of us has our own Achille's heel. Hell, some of us have an entire CLOSET of Achille's heels. And when they are out there in front of us, we have the option to go around them, ignore them or beat the crap out of them.

It's the ones we can't see, however, that do the most damage. The one's we keep hidden from ourselves. The ones we choose to ignore. Those are the dangerous ones. Those are the ones you drag into your city and allow to sit there until you go to sleep. Sometimes you even worship them as some sort of writer's deity.

It's part of being a writer. 

I'm suffering for my art.

It's out of my control.

Suffering makes my work better.

Did I hear an AMEN ! Sorry, my "bullshit monitor" was going off so loudly I couldn't hear you. Sun Tzu said "It is impossible to defeat an enemy with outposts in your head." Smart guy. Ulysses was a smart guy too. He got into the Trojans' heads, figured out what would make them let their guards down, and then he got into their city.

There is so much information out there about the publishing industry these days. And there are so many stories of people who write one book, self publish it, and make a fortune with it or sign with a huge traditional publisher because of it. It's just information, you say? Nope. Sorry, you just lost your entire city to a big ole Trojan Horse! If you let all of this "information" set up housekeeping in your mind - even in the back corner storage shed of your mind - eventually everything in that Trojan Horse is going to creep out into your thoughts and whisper in your ear like Channing Tatum until it is too late and you realize you are up to your butt in Greeks with swords and you are standing there wearing a loincloth and a smile.

It's perfectly fine to read these stories. It is even fine to ponder how they did it. It is not okay to wonder why you haven't done it. It is not okay to think you will never do it. NOT. O. KAY.

If all of the weapons in your writing arsenal the most powerful and most vulnerable weapon you have is the one between your ears. That is your impregnable fortress. That is your shining city. Be very careful what you allow yourself to drag behind those walls. Those Trojan Horses are sneaky little bastards and once they get behind the walls nothing short of a scorched earth campaign will get them out. Brad Pitt might be busy, and you don't want to fight them alone.

I'm going to close by quoting a post by my RWA Roomie and dear friend, Andrea Stein. You might want to print these words out and keep them handy. I happen to think they kick Trojan Horse Ass!

Andrea Stein

When you are a totally self-published author without the benefit of a "hybrid" career (a traditional and self-pub mix), there are a few realities that sink in over a period of time.

1 - This is a long game, not for the faint of heart or impatient.

2 - This is a labor of love. I could make a best-seller list and still not recoup much more than minimum wage for the hundreds of hours I pour into each of my books. The get-rich-quick circuit has very few seats, and a mob of people are already there who will hip-check you off the platform.

3 - I've had many jobs over the years, some of them in respectable publishing circles. But none of them is as satisfying as self-publishing.

4 - If you believe in "Writer's Block," you will not make it. You have to just sit down and write. You need to produce at least 3-4 titles per year to beat the above-mentioned odds. I do have a small edge there after 30 years as a newspaper writer and editor.

5 - Social media will not get you where you want to go. It can give you followers who will recognize you once you get there, but only great writing will get you there. Write. Read. Repeat.

What are the Trojan Horses that show up in your writing day? What do you do to keep them from getting into your head? What do you do to kick them to the curb when they do get in?


Meda White said...

I love your post. Knew it was you before I got to the end. Love the advice from your friend too. Thanks for sharing. Now I'm going to bed thinking about Brad Pitt's butt. ☺️

Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks so much, Meda! And there are worse things to think about than Brad Pitt's butt. :)

Carla Swafford said...

Number five is what I've been saying ever since Facebook became The Thing. :-)

Good one, Louisa. My Trojan Horse is my self-doubt. I have to push that sucker out of the gate every day. Just won't stay there.

Louisa Cornell said...

I know exactly what you mean, Carla! My self doubt is the Clydesdale of Trojan Horses! I told some friends the other day it is hard as hell for me to say "I'm pretty damned good at this!" One of these days I'm going to push that sucker out of the gate, set him on fire and dance in the ashes! You will too!

Susan said...

Such a great post! Thank you!

Ali Hubbard said...

I always love your posts! Sidenote: happy coincidence that Troy released on HBO when I was home on maternity leave. My poor husband came home every day to me watching it. lolololol)

The Trojan horse changes for me.

I'm lucky that I don't really have the fear or self-doubt. I've "failed" so many times in my life and it always led to something better. lol. "Failing" at being a lawyer led me to the automotive industry, where I found a true passion for the work. (Note: I was never actually a lawyer, but that was my path...until I worked for a law office and realized it wasn't for me. Parents weren't happy that I never started law school that next fall, but my life is better for that decision).

So, if I "fail" at a first draft, then I just assume the second will be better. lol. Same with self-publishing. If I "fail" as I define it, then it will lead me to something else and that will be fine. I actually worry that my LACK of fear of failure will cause me to change directions too soon, before giving writing a good chance. I digress...

The Trojan horse is a great way to think about it. What gets beyond your walls?

For me, it was initially the day job, which could be super unpredictable. Especially when I had to travel. Then it was my family (I help with my mother to a certain degree and leaving my day job resulted in people thinking I was "home doing nothing" so I should be able to help them with stuff). A medication change, which impacted me more than I wish. Money. Whatever. So, the lesson for me is that it's ALWAYS SOMETHING. And suddenly I've gone weeks without any new words on a page.

I love the advice on self-publishing. I know it's a long game. And I've had to revise my plan a million times because I'm just not where I need to be as far as craft is concerned and a big part of that is the time I'm NOT putting into it. I let myself get distracted by things. By pretty Trojan horses.

Louisa Cornell said...

You are welcome, Susan! I am so glad you enjoyed it!

Louisa Cornell said...

There is something about that film that simply craves watching it over and over, isn't there! ;)

What a great attitude to have! I haven't always thought like you do and I can see the advantage to doing so. I have recently made peace with some things going on in my day job to the point I refuse to let it stress me out any longer. Something far better has to be on the horizon and I am going to work very hard to remember that.

And yes, those pretty Trojan Horse Distractions are legion and shiny !!

Suzanne Johnson said...

You mean it isn't research???? No.....

LOL. Great post. Honestly, I don't think I have many Trojan Horses. If I'm being a slacker I pretty much acknowledge it. If I'm blaming the day job but realize I've found time to binge-watch back-seasons of "Project Runway," I'll call myself on it. I think it comes from the journalism background. I work well on deadlines and deadlines will CURE "writer's block," or you will not pay your mortgage. Or something like that :-). Not that my writing pays my mortgage (damn you, evil day job), but maybe someday...

Ella Quinn - Romance Novelist said...

I love your posts, Louisa! Keep writing! Shared.

Louisa Cornell said...

You have definitely conquered your Trojan Horses, Suzanne! Great way to look at it. And I can only hope I can start setting some deadlines and meeting them as if they are life or death, because in a way they are.

And OF COURSE watching Troy is research! That's my story and I am sticking to it!

Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks, Ella! Having you in my corner makes so much difference!