Monday, September 27, 2010

Managing Creative Expectations

I just finished reading Lit, the new memoir by Mary Karr. Her fist memoir The Liar's Club was her breakthrough childhood memoir. It was about a tough hard scrabble childhood in Texas where she lived with an alcoholic, among other things, mother and father. Her second volume Cherry about her wayward teenage years was also compelling. It had the added feature of making my teenage years seem tame by comparison. Although, wait a minute I just remembered she didn't have a murder trial or the FBI to deal with. Lit is about her own adult fight with alcoholism and her desperate attempt not to be the mother to her son that her mother had been to her. I really enjoyed Lit as well and finished it in one all night sitting. All three volumes are packed with Karr's amazing use of language and her ability to be really funny in a tragic situation.

The truth according to me ( that is why this blog is called GILDINER'S GOSPEL) is that the first volume,The Liar's Club, is the best of the three and I believe the sales will substantiate what I am saying. The same was true of Jill Kerr Conway's three volume biography. Her first The Road to Corrain was by far the best.

I am now facing the same issue with my three volume set of memoirs. My first is a childhood memoir called Too Close to the Falls. It was an international success and was on the best seller's list for years. The sequel, After the Falls my life as a teenager in the 60's has just come and the third, The Long Way Home, is close to finished.

I guess what you have to do is manage your expectations. It is hard to top a really successful book. It is also difficult to admit to yourself that your 'best work' may behind you. In the end all you can do is get up every day and write what your life was actually like. If you worry about outcome you are not a creative writer but you become a marketer. You can't pander to the public and that gets harder as you unconsciously want the second book to be as successful as the first.

Elizabeth Gilbert , the author of Eat,Pray,Love is facing the same situation. (Although her book was way more successful than mine. She had a sales phenomenon.) She has given the issue of creative expectations some interesting thought which she has shared in this video. it was serendipitous that I came upon it exactly when I was pondering the issue.

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