Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Each writer is a living paradox.  Emotionally vulnerable, we squeeze our blood onto the page.  And yet we must be thick skinned to face our weaknesses and elbow our way past rejection.

Most of us are introverts.  We spend a lot of time alone.  The keyboard, the cat, and a cup of coffee are company enough.  But we are also expected to taut ourselves, “turn on” to pitch at conferences, stay active on social media, sign books and work our way up to being keynote speakers.

We need to steadily move forward, butt in seat hands on keyboard.  We also need patience.  Some agents take months to respond.  Some don’t at all.  We have to withstand the paradox: hurry up and wait.

Stick to a formula or try something new?  Janet Evanovich’s editor would have screamed had she written two Stephanie Plum mysteries then switched gears to write a western sans humor.  But formula be damned; we grow by trying new genres.  A romance author writes sharp pithy dialogue after trying a screenplay.  A mainstream author absorbs lessons learned from a suspense detour. 

While we want our own goals to be within reach, our characters’ goals should be damn near impossible to reach. 

Our readers force paradox upon us.  They want bigger than life characters, conflicts with impossible goals and story arcs.  Ironically, those same readers expect believable characters, relatable situations, and inevitable resolutions.  They want to hate the antagonists, but also want them to be heroes of their own stories with a soft side.  Readers want bad guys to get their comeuppance.  On the other hand, they relish redemption.

We can't please them all.  Typical readers seek breezy page turners, but Pulitzer Prize judges wallow in complicated, lyrical works.  Readers want to be surprised, appalled, and tickled.  They want to see the world anew through strange eyes.  Paradoxically, they also want to close the book and realize they’ve just read about themselves.

Inkpot wonders: can you think of any job that is more paradoxical?


  1. War: fighting for peace.

  2. Raising kids? We have them and nurture them so they'll be strong enough to leave home. Thanks for the thought-provoking blog, Inkpot.

  3. So very true. I can very much relate as I twist my brain around two totally different creative jobs done simultaneously. Paradoxical indeed. Great blog!

  4. Medicine. Basically, it's the study of how to stay alive when we're going to cash out anyway.

    But there's a forged set of steps and an internship for doctors. Not for authors. That's where it's really unfair.

    Gutsy Gusto

  5. Too true. You captured the contradictions perfectly.

  6. Thanks for the invite to visit your blog. I enjoyed your paradox piece, and can certainly identify. For me, it helps to pay attention to my biorhythms - do the marketing/extroverted stuff when the moon is waxing, and my body is responding to that "call to greet the world." When the moon is waning, when my body is in a natural "drawing in" phase, that's the time for the introverted writing phase. It helps.

    Page Lambert

  7. So true. Great Blog. Then there's the critique groups. A writer must be open-minded enough to take advice (and criticism), yet know when to reject that advice.

    And the wondering. Instead of writing, I could be cooking, or spending time at work, taking a bubble bath or making money. Why am I doing this?

    I'm doing it because there's a story I want to tell, and a world out there waiting to hear it.

    Thank you to everyone helping me on this journey.
    Barb Holub

  8. Thanks, you stated the many paradoxes of being a writer so well! For me it's about moving outside my comfort zone, pushing the edge, letting go of perceived limitations not just in writing but consciousness itself.