Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Is that all you've got?

I watched a documentary on Harper Lee and the legacy of To Kill A Mockingbird recently. One of the topics discussed was the singularity of the novel, as Lee never again released another work of fiction. They speculated of reasons for this, whether it was the pressure of a debut novel winning the Pulitzer and attracting the attention of Hollywood, or perhaps this was evidence of a different author of the novel (some speculate Truman Capote, a longtime friend of Lee and the inspiration for the character Dill). The reigning belief was that Harper simply never wanted to be a public figure, a celebrity, and thus wished to retreat from the fame she had begrudgingly won.

In the back of my mind, this discussion raised a question that I had been avoiding for some time. How many good books do I have inside of me that I can write?

Granted, I currently have one book with an agent, another being written, and a folder on my computer with five or six more embryos working steadily toward maturation. I also have a notebook of scribbled loglines, some good,some not-so-good, that haven't been fully conceived yet, which give me a measure of hope.

But what after that? I want to be a career writer, and that inevitably means writing more books than I have ideas for at this point, at least I hope that's what it means. How will I maintain creative integrity, avoid recycling plots and characters, and still generate appealing stories that are worth telling? Should I even be worried about that right now?

The answer is, no, I shouldn't be. Even with only one book to her name, Harper Lee is still one of the most successful writers in recent history. More than that, she was happy with what she had done. Truly, at every stage of the writer's life, that is all that matters.

Be happy with where you are right now, and let the future take care of itself.


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