I have been searching for something in my writing, even in my life, since they inform each other to an absurd degree only other obsessed writers can understand. And yet, focusing just on writing at the expense of a larger life is limiting. As Julia Cameron says, you can’t spend your entire life fishing in the same pond or eventually it will empty. Creativity needs to be replenished and sometimes that happens in unexpected ways.
Yesterday I did something I always dread. I went into the marketplace and sold my books to real people. This was not a safe writerly enclave of a conference or a workshop but a retail store that sells furniture, candy, and candles. Also gloves and purses and paintings. It used to be a roller skating rink. Something about the charm of Leon & Lulu’s (the young woman who served the writers coffee came to collect our mugs on roller skates) inspired me in ways I was not expecting. It really had nothing to do with selling my books, although I did that too.
There is a sort of electricity in the air when a group of writers comes together, especially when we are placed in an unfamiliar setting. For once, our animation comes off the page and greets other people face to face. We exchange stories and snap photos and, perhaps inadvertently, reveal secrets. Insatiable curiosity about people and the meaning of life is what keeps me writing, and while someone once said a writer has all the experiences she needs by the time she graduates high school, it’s just not true for me. I need to replenish that fishing hole.
And that’s what unexpectedly happened yesterday. Maybe it was the way the shop scattered the writers over the vignettes that make up the store. I was against a wall with a large abstract painting above a sofa, a nicely upholstered chair to the side, and a huge coffee table full of my books. Other writers were just as creativity enfolded into the setting as I was. The store fed us hot dogs and popcorn from the original machines used in the old rink and later came around offering wine for a job well done.
In fact, it was less than work and more like a social occasion as so many of my friends came to see me. Some of them even bought my book. I struck up a friendship with the guy across the aisle and he introduced me to his friend, the star of the show who sold probably as many books as the rest of us put together. His was the fertile story that grabbed me and started an avalanche of ideas bubbling up from my suddenly overflowing imagination.
This star-of-the-day author wrote four books before he hit upon the idea to set one of his mystery novels in Detroit…in Greektown, a popular destination for metro Detroiters. The books prior to the Greektown series didn’t sell like the new books. Not even close. One smart marketing move was using the word Greektown in the titles. I lost count of how many people I saw carrying those books around. Maybe it helped that his was the first display as you entered the front door, but I have a feeling people just gravitate to the familiar and fun.
Which got me thinking about my own books, sales, marketing and more. I started thinking about my life in general, about how I have been coasting as if on roller skates since I retired. I still write, but after a lifetime of fitting writing in I’m finding it hard to transition into just writing, only writing. I need to do more with my life. I wasn’t sure what that could be until this morning when I woke up brimming with ideas like a freshly stocked fish pond. It will take me some time to sort out all of this stuff. I want to carefully consider my next move before I plunge into it, and plus, the holidays are coming!
Still, I’m very happy I ignored my introverted dread of the marketplace and just went ahead and splashed right into the middle of it.