Thursday, March 29, 2007

The constant pressure to be creative

While in school I took a lot of editorial illustration classes. That’s what I thought I’d do with myself after graduation. Coming up with a dynamic piece of art that sums up an article in one image is a tough job. I’m sure it’s similar to coming up with a good book cover. But somehow I usually pulled it off—my illustrations were usually attention grabbing and most of the time they fitted the text in some way (most not all).

Here’s the problem—I’m not an editorial illustrator. I’m an author and illustrator. That’s a double whammy. Right now I’m feeling some pressure. I can’t come up with text that will work with my story idea that I’ve already sold. I keep thinking—once I come up with text that will work the rest will be really easy. This isn’t always the case but I can usually pull it off. On the other hand, I usually say that the writing part is easiest. But is it? Obviously not this time. Part of the reason I’m finding writing text more difficult than I used to is that I’m doing nonfiction. I can’t change or bend anything—nonfiction is nonfiction.

I was listening to a wonderful radio interview this Sunday on NPR with Roz Chast (fellow RISD grad!). I was surprised to hear how many cartoons she submits to the New Yorker each week. I think she said it was four or five or some such. I admit that I was also cleaning and wasn’t paying absolute attention but 4 or 5? If I’m right about that number… wow. I thought to myself “How can she keep coming up with new ideas that work? Doesn’t she get tired of it?”

Then I thought of myself. How do *I* keep coming up with ideas that work? Don’t I get sick of it? The answers—I don’t know and yes.

This may be a long semi-cohesive stream of consciousness strung together with paragraphs but these are my thoughts for the day. I will conclude with this—what is WORST about being an author is the fact that to pay for rent and eat you have to keep coming up with new ideas. You can’t have lazy moments when you drag your half-awake sorry self into the office and decide to figure it all out once you get there. If I don’t figure out my current book debacle I won’t get paid. If I don’t get paid I will have two choices—1) start only eating pasta again and using the good old credit card or 2) become a full time worker as a cahier. Neither option is looking too pretty.



Anna Alter said...

I know how you feel Meghan! That is probably the hardest part of the biz for me too... coming up with something new. I know some writers have too many ideas, they pop up all over the place, and their problem is how to streamline them. But for me, developing and crafting the idea once I have it comes naturally, its getting the ball rolling that is the scary part... especially when you've got bills to pay!

Meghan McCarthy said...

Well, I do have plenty of ideas. But what do you do when they don't work out?

Anonymous said...

I think sometimes I have 1/2 ideas. Just a start, maybe a character and a piece of a story, something exciting, but how do I find the other
1/2, the part that can carry it all to an end?
That is always my problem.
oh yeah, and the earning a living part too.

Anonymous said...

If authors didn't have to come up with ideas in order to pay for room and board half the books now published (at least) would never have been published. Embrace fear and necessity! They are the great motivators.