The long view
Because David Gerrold was as good at predicting the imminent doom of my career as everything else he does, I’m busy planting the orchard on the little farm we’ve bought since that prediction. Just in case that doom finally arrives at the right address and gets delivered I want trees. I don’t understand it – Australia Post is actually remarkably reliable. You’d think they could manage a bit of doom. Mind you it’s not just Australia post. The US postal service seems to have failed him on Larry Correia’s doom. All it seems to have done is make us buy real estate. Is that what the Puppy-Kickers meant by ‘I hope they buy the farm’?
Anyway, if it all does go pear-shaped, I’ll have the pears to match. Well, I’ll have pears, apples, figs, grapes, cherries, peaches, nectarines, grapefruit, lemons, apricots and advocado pears (fruit-trees for the farm are what I asked for as birthday presents, and got)… not to mention the Banana Passionfruit. Er…
Well I’ll hopefully have them in a few years’ time. With the Chestnut trees, I should be long dead before they get up to full production. I’ve spent most of my adult life planting trees, especially fruit trees, that I have known I was going to leave behind. I’d like to have to enjoyed them, and others may chop them down – but I usually manage the long view. Someone needs to plant for the future.
We’ll probably have the banana passionfruit earlier.
I’ve nurtured it and several plants through several years in pots, waiting for enough of this kind of doom to allow us to buy our own place. It’s taken some vision, a lot of faith in my ability to write books popular enough to sell, to ride the storms of the industry. It’s part of the long view.
An orchard – pretty much like a novel, or a career as writer, really requires (for most of us, anyway) the long view. I suppose if you were rich enough, there are short-cuts – short cuts based on someone else’s long view, because you might be able to have fully grown trees delivered, someone had to grow them. But the real answer is that it’s something that rarely happens (or happens well, anyway) by accident and almost never fast. And it’s not just ‘plant it and forget it, and come back in 10 years’ either. You have to prep the ground, plant the right things in the right place, nurture, prune, water, AND exercise patience. Here you have to keep the wildlife from demolishing your plants, let alone your fruit. You can make a horse’s butt out of it and still do well, or get something at least. With the best laid plans, and hard work, it can all still go wrong, of course. The best chance, however, comes from the most effort, the most foresight, and the longest vision.
Which has a lot in common with writing (and possibly life). Look, our industry is in strife because it lacks the long view. You have editors buying the equivalent of tropical fruit to try and grow in Nebraska – because they happen to like tropical fruit. You have authors given no support (the equivalent of tossing an apple core in and hoping for a tree.) You have poor quality pruning (editing) and little or no watering (money). And of course there are vermin trying to destroy authors for little more than petty spite. There’s a lot of very short term thinking – the ten year view, let alone the hundred year view is not a feature that I have noticed. That’s what separates humans from most of the animals – we don’t need instincts to prepare for winter, we can figure it out. Inevitably, of course, some alarmists have to capitalize on this ability! And some sheep follow them.
Still, for most of us that long view is both what sustains us and saves us.
It’s been, to the day, 19 years since my first book was bought – probably the biggest birthday present I’ve ever had.
The long view back is quite different. It will be with your book too.
Cheers. I am off to drink a glass of wine and have special dinner.