I've been seeing a lot of posts lately about how hard it is to write book two of a series, especially if book one was well received. All that pressure to make the next book just as good, and under a deadline this time. (Here's one by Kameron Hurley, Patrick Rothfuss, Stina Leicht and Teresa Frohock.) I can only imagine how tough it is to write something new when you've been doing a series for so long (like the questions surrounding J. K. Rowling's new novel, and whether it will be able to compare with Harry Potter or even stand on its own merits). That makes this TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love), rather timely. She argues that putting so much creative pressure on authors/artists is harmful to the individual and suggests a way to relieve that pressure.
(Thanks to Janet Reid for posting this.) The video doesn't show up on google reader, so you'll either have to click through to watch or go to the source if you're using that.
When I watched the video I was struck by the idea of having your best work behind you, and what that knowledge would do to a creative individual. But all I could think about was the later medieval practice of creating your master work. This was the piece you made as a journeyman that showed your craftsman skills and allowed you to leave your master, the person who had trained you, and become a master in your own right. Those works had to be of high skill or you'd shame your teacher and not earn the right to open your own shop.
Think of your first published work as your master work, the work that proved you've done your apprenticeship. Now that you're taking your own commissions (ie contracts) you're under deadline and expected to perform at that skill level from now on. That's hard and, I'm sure, requires quite a shift in thought (I never made it this far with my own writing). But creating one masterpiece doesn't preclude you from creating others. And if you can take the pressure off, in the way Gilbert suggests or some other way, you'll probably be better able to create your next masterpiece.
Chatelaine has a great article this month about the Olympic competitors. Each one gives one piece of advice. These are athletes who train for hours and hours everyday to maintain their excellence. Their advice?
"Never give up." - Priscilla Lopes-Schliep
"Always have fun." - Christine Sinclair
"Don't underestimate yourself." - Clara Hughes
"Make small goals." - Catharine Pendrel
"Live with no regrets." - Heather Moyse
"Give 100 percent."- Jennifer Abel
"Ignore everything you can't control." - Emilie Heymans
"Wake up motivated." - Marie-Pier Boudreau-Gagnon
"Live your dream." - Michelle Stilwell
"Seek out mentors." - Robbi Weldon
"Roll with the punches." - Mary Spencer
And more (Article by Alanna Glassman*). Sounds like good advice, and definitely applicable to novels, second or otherwise.
* And if you want to read the whole article, it's in the August 2012 issue of Chatelaine entitled "Success Secrets from Canada's Wonder Women".
What do you think of Elizabeth Gilbert's idea?