Keep haulin’, keep haulin,
Whatever your storm or your rocks may be,
Keep haulin’ boys. Keep hauling Fishermen’s Friends
I see some of the staff at Hachette have demanded that JK Rowlings’s fairy story, THE ICHABOG, be cancelled. Not because anything is wrong with the story, but that Rowlings dared express an insufficiently woke opinion about ‘trans-people’ in an entirely separate context. They have threatened to quit otherwise. They’re plainly so woke their privilege checks them. Well, I give them the same advice I give to myself and other writers: keep hauling. If it’s what you truly believe in, give it your best and stick to it.
I also see Hachette have suddenly and belatedly discovered that they believe in freedom of speech, and hold forth that what someone says in a separate context should have no impact on how their work is treated. Amazing. Perhaps they’d like to explain that to all their publisher friends and their hangers-on, who seem to have an entirely different opinion? I am sure however the threat of the loss of a bunch of wokesters will bring Hachette’s management to their senses. After all, one finds multi-million selling authors under every bush, sometimes two at a time. Staff at publishing houses on the other hand are so talented and terribly, terribly rare that they cannot be replaced. Keep hauling wokesters! If that is ACTAULLY what you believe in, not just a virtue-signal to your little chums, I am sure you’ll come to a bright sunrise. Possibly on a park bench, but hey, that’s what the rest of us may well face, sticking to our convictions.
Anyone want to bet that they’ll fold and look for a softer target? Not learn, or change, or be rational, all of which might help. But pick on someone in a weaker position next time. The world of traditional publishing is very fluid at the moment. Sort of like the second part of bowel-prep fluid (I refer purely to the consistency, of course. I would never dream of comparing the industry to anything quite so nasty. It’s merely full of suspicious bubbles, gurgles and general unease.) If things get worse – at moment it’s been survive by selling the family silver – e-books of older books, and audio rights — we may see all sorts of sudden movements of staff and other expenses. Interesting times. For the last forty years it’s been a case of if you were sufficiently woke and failed, you failed upwards (I can think of editors who killed a sequence of magazines and imprints still being feted and still getting work). I wonder what happens if they run out of spaces?
Anyway, back to the writer’s aspect of today’s post. There are times when writing is easy. There are even, for a lucky few, occasions when making good money out of that has also been easy. It happens, and like stories of the new miner finding gold in generous lumps kept gold rushes going – which made those made prospectors their business (not gold-hunting) rich — these stories have fed publishing. Most prospectors, of course, made fairly little, if anything. If you took the one or two got lucky and had it easy stories out, even those who found payable gold and maybe did well or all right out of it, worked long and hard… AND were lucky. Working long and hard didn’t make you lucky, but it did increase the chances you would be.
A lot of that was just keep haulin’. (I see this as a fisherman would, pulling ropes, long lines and nets. Man, there are times when that seems endless, and hard and heavy.) It’s not necessarily that there is something – particularly – you’re doing wrong. Possibly many things – we can all improve – and possibly nothing much at all. Getting lucky, being in the right place at the right time, and seizing that chance, all need to happen. I’ve stuffed up the last one several times, but also taken that chance successfully a few times.
The one thing you mostly can’t do without is that ‘keep haulin’. It’s not going to happen that that twenty year old manuscript suddenly gets discovered in an editor’s drawer, and she says ‘why, this is better than JK Rowlings, let me contact this person and tell them they are rich and famous’. Which means keeping faith in yourself. Your work may have great virtue, in that it is a good and wonderful read, but until readers start telling you that (and not your mum or girlfriend or best friend – who could well be telling you absolute truth, rather than being loving and kind), the only person that counts to keep you going… is you. Sometimes – like the Hachette employees if they actually did believe in their rightness and stood for their beliefs and quit if the publisher doesn’t cancel JK Rowlings book– it doesn’t work out quite the way you hope. The industry is full of weasels who stood for what they thought the mob would like. Sometimes that works for a while…
But not for me. And I don’t believe they do for producing the great books that stay on the comfort read shelf. for those you give your best – and your heart stays true.
Keep hauling. And that’s where I am with the present couple of books I am working on. Gaining ground by the inch with a long hard haul to go.