How to be successful and create your own ‘Misery’
By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published for the 1976-themed issue of the Other Press. January 13, 2016
Young author George R. R. Martin’s first collection of novellas and short stories, A Song for Lya, is being published this year. There is probably not going to be a big launch party. There is probably not going to be coverage from multiple media sources. And there are probably not going to be lineups outside the bookstore. It is probably going to be a modest event with reserved excitement.
For a writer, there doesn’t need to be a big event, because there is nothing more exhilarating than seeing one’s works there, visible on shelves at a local bookstore. It must be the same sensation musicians feel when they hear their song on the radio, or how actors feel when they see their face on the screens.
Yet, at what point does that thrill fade? As artists, your profession is also your passion, right? That’s why when I see an artist with an insipid attitude towards their craft, I wonder: Why pursue this daunting, critical, often thankless, often highly demanding, sometimes soul-crushing, most often a poor return of investment brand of work? Why climb Mount Everest if you dislike heights?
Hopefully, this young Martin fellow can recall that initial sensation of accomplishment for having been published if he continues to write, and will never feel resentful towards any fame or success he gains.
My advice to Martin and to other young writers is to always be carefully aware of the scope of one’s craft—what it will mean to you, and what it will mean to the greater public. If you create something people love, what responsibility do you have to continue delivering? How much do you owe to those who have raised you to such prowess?
I was speaking with Stephen King, another young writer, and we were bouncing ideas around. He had this outline for a novel called Misery. It’s about an author who is captured by an obsessed fan and held hostage in an attempt to get him to write another book. That’s the risk of being beloved; you are not actually loved. I hope King gets around to writing that book soon. I think it’ll be good.
Let’s hope we never do the same thing to Martin. We love his work, but we don’t care about him as a human being. He won’t win us over with his delightful personality or his literary, sci-fi, or fantasy expertise. We’ll respect him for the awesome work he will surely produce. But if we want more, he’ll have to supply it or find someone to help.
Artists need to think of their work like starting a franchise. Books are the business. Understandably, when it comes to artworks, the artists get personally attached, because writing is, in essence, a birthing process. But if they’re not able to maintain their franchise, the artists should sell their rights to their work or hand the reigns to trustworthy partners. Although it would be tough to give their art up for adoption, if the author does not have the capability to raise it properly, would the right thing to do not be giving it up for the fan’s sake?