Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The Magic Project

Some of us don't love what we do, but are doing it to pay the bills or for any number of other reasons. And some of us do love what we do, whether that's writing for a living or making a career out of a love of fashion, or running a bookshop because we love reading. And I'll bet the former group envy the hell out of the latter.

But if you're one of the latter, you probably know that loving what you do isn't always enough. Sometimes your job is just plain hard work. Stressful. Anxiety-ridden. Causes you to doubt yourself and start to question whether or not the sun does rise in the east.

There are some days when - no matter how much I love to write and no matter how lucky I feel that I will be published after working towards it for years - I feel drained. Exhausted.

Days when, believe it or not, I hate it. I hate writing because it's such hard work and it's so stressful and it's so uncertain. The questions drive me crazy. Will I be able to do a good enough job with my revisions? Will I disappoint everyone who's taken a chance on me? Will I drive myself - and my husband - into financial ruin because my job's not one of those well-paid, certain, steady things? Will my book sell?

Yeah, I hate those questions. I hate the days when the questions clutter my head up, because on those days I hate what I do.

Then there's the business side of things. Like it or not, if you're making a career out of something you love, you have to deal with business. Figures. Accounts. Taxes. And none of that is fun unless you're a mathematical whiz with a passion for accounts, in which case I'd like very much to kill you because you're so bloody lucky.

So even if you love what you do, sometimes it's pure work. And it's easy to forget how much you love it.

Which is why you need the Magic Project.

With the Magic Project, you can do whatever you want. You can write a book in a wildly different genre with swear words and lots of graphic and gratuitous sex. You can design a dress that only a stripper would be caught dead in. You can close your bookshop for a day and curl up in bed with books you love to read, not the ones you've got to read to decide whether or not you want to buy and stock them.

You can do whatever you want. Because it's the project you work on when the Work becomes too much for you.

I received my edit letter for WOVEN (that title will probably change, by the way) last week and have since been working on revisions. And the pressure scares the heck out of me. The stress. It's so much fun, it's so exciting, but it's also work. And those sneaky self-doubting questions won't leave me alone.

But I have a Magic Project. It's a YA dystopian I'd love to make something serious out of, but right now it's just for me. My agent knows it exists but hasn't seen a word of it, Steve's read chapters but never pressures me to write any more (much as he'd like to - he hates having to wait for the next bit!), and I do what I want with it. When revisions stress me out beyond a certain point, I stop and fiddle with the Magic Project and it instantly relaxes me. When the questions get too loud in my head, I write a few paragraphs of Magic Project - or even just think about the characters and what they might do next - and I feel better.

I think everyone needs this. A project that's totally, completely pressure-free (at least until you show it to your agent!). Something you can do just for fun, something that has no figures or accounting or fear attached to it.

Something that reminds you just why you love this thing you're doing so much.


  1. It will sell! I'm going to buy lots of copies and distribute them around in a lavish fashion.

    I don't have a Magic Project as such but I do have an ongoing daydream saga type affair that is very fun to dip in and out of. I want to write it down but I fear that I can't write it as well as I can think it...

  2. Yay for magic projects! I think it's importan to retain your love of writing, despite all the stresses that come with it.

  3. This is so true!! I never even thought of a Magic Project. And by the way, it's wonderful that you are so honest about the process of writing even after you know you will be published. It shows the rest of us that the work aspect is truly never done! I'm sure your Magic Project is wonderful. You've inspired me to start one of my own :)

  4. I think that's why I play guitar. Yes, I practice known songs, but I've created several riffs just for me. And that's my no-pressure Magic Project.

  5. Hmm... I neither love what I do nor envy those who do.

    I suppose a "magic project" might seem necessary for those who want to accomplish something. Perhpas my magic project is enjoying what time I have left (in a non-dramatic existential sense) to the utmost.

    Perhaps what it boils down to is that everyone needs to have fun... And when you make a living out of what you enjoy doing most, you have to find a way (ie magic project) of preserving some of the fun lest you spoil it for yourself (unless you exceptionally obsessed/driven).

  6. OMG I NEED a magic project.... oh no wait... I have too many of those already.

    *sigh* Complete #TESSAfail. Seriously.