Reality Skimming

Ethics in SF #18: Justine Graykin

Ethics in SF: A series of interviews, articles and debates on the Reality Skimming blog, hosted by Lynda Williams, author of the Okal Rel Saga.

Justine GraykinJustine Graykin is a writer and free-lance philosopher sustained by her deep, abiding faith in Science and Humanity -- well, Science, anyway –- and the belief that humor is the best anti-gravity device. She lives with 1 husband, 2 kids, 2 dogs, too many cats and a flock of chickens on 50 acres in New Hampshire, occasionally disappearing into the White Mountains with a backpack. Further details, diatribes, and antidystopian fiction can be found on her website, and on her LiveJournal.


I came across one of my old blogs. The first line read, “It's easy to become a successful writer, if that's the only thing you want.” It's a reference to a quote from Citizen Kane about getting rich. The message is essentially the same.

We hear a lot about the great opportunities that new media and technology offer for writers. Maybe so. But it's a double-edged sword. It means that more people are trying to get published than ever before, at a time that demand lags far behind the supply. Never has the competition been more fierce. Still, success can be yours. If that's the only thing you want.

There are only so many hours in the day. You can spend the morning with your children, reading picture books, watching dragonflies, listening to the birds singing, playing with them in the sandbox or on the grass. Or you can catch up on the latest blogs by key people in the business about new trends in the market. You can take the time to prepare a good meal from wholesome foods, and then relax and enjoy it, or you can just throw something on quick and eat it at your desk while you research which publisher or agency to send your manuscript to next. You can go to a movie with a good friend and then go out afterwards and talk about it, or you can stay home and work on revisions. You can volunteer to coach a team, help out at the local library or school, put in some hours at a soup kitchen. Or you can invest your time carefully crafting cover letters, writing queries and refining your pitch. You can go to your family reunion and meet your new nieces and nephews, or to a convention and make important connections with agents and editors.

Decisions about how to allocate your time and attention come every day. Each time you choose family or friends over your writing career, you lose a little bit of your edge. Of course you can try to balance the different aspects of your life, since rich life experiences will make you a better writer. But someone else out there is making a different choice, putting in more hours blogging, networking, seeking out the latest hot trend in publishing and burning the midnight oil to capitalize on it, following up leads and meeting deadlines. Your book may be every bit as good or better, but it takes more than that to rise to the top.

So perhaps you won't be as successful as a writer as you hoped. Fame and best-seller lists may elude you. Perhaps you are doomed to labor in obscurity.

But you will have spent mornings with your children reading picture books, watching dragonflies, listening to the birds singing. You will have helped out at the local library or school, and put in hours at a soup kitchen. You'll have gone to movies with good friends and spent time with them afterwards laughing and talking. You'll have gone to the family reunion and met your nieces and nephews.

It all depends on what you want.

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