Hopelessly Devoted

If you’re an Olivia Newton-John fan, you recognized that the title is part of the title of a song she sang on the Grease soundtrack—“Hopelessly Devoted to You.” And perhaps right now, that song is going through your head like it’s going through mine. If that bugs you, I’m sorry. Let’s move on. (Unless you really want to hear the song. Here’s a link to a video.)

A fairweather-fan isn’t exactly brimming with hopeless devotion. More than likely, you know a fair-weather fan or two. They come out in droves when a team is winning and readily buy the T-shirts and bumper stickers. But when a team is in a slump, they’re nowhere to be found.

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That’s why I have to admire fans of the Chicago Cubs. In the past years, when the team failed to bring home a championship, the fans still cheered.

In 2005, when the White Sox won the World Series, a Chicago Cubs fan admitted to me that he still couldn’t cheer for the Sox. After all, he was a Cubs fan. Though a Sox fan, I understood his dedication to the Cubs. I also understood my need to gloat.

Recently author Robin LaFevers wrote an article entitled, “On Discipline, Dedication, and Devotion” for Writer Unboxed. It was kind of her to write it, since I had planned to write this post on the subject. Now I can be lazy and piggyback off what she wrote. Thank you, Robin. You might read Robin’s post here, especially since she explains the difference between discipline, dedication, and devotion to writing.

I can’t help latching on to this quote from that post:

When we are devoted to something, there simply are few things on earth we’d rather do or spend our time with. It’s not just about what you want to say or create, but involves the very act of creating itself.

Lately, I’ve been evaluating whether I’m disciplined, dedicated, or devoted in my writing. If I’m devoted, to what exactly am I devoted? Though I’ve read and loved many kinds of fiction, I’ve generally felt a pull toward fantasy writing. I’ve never been to LeakyCon (the Harry Potter convention), the Discworld convention, or Comic-Con though. Some devoted fans might say I’m not devoted enough to fantasy. (I try to go to the Bristol Renaissance Faire each year, however.)

Those devoted to a team, a person, or to something else they consider dear sometimes test the devotion of others who profess a similar interest. If you’re truly devoted, you’ll hit all of the benchmarks of devotion. This is very true of fantasy fans.

Whenever I mention a love for fantasy, I’m generally asked, “Have you read George R. R. Martin’s series? Tolkien’s books? Tad Williams’s books? Robert Jordan’s/Brandon Sanderson’s Wheel of Time? Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series? Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series? Patrick Rothfuss’s Name of the Wind or The Wise Man’s Fear? Harry Potter? [No one ever asks, “Have you read J. K. Rowling’s series?” It’s always, “Have you read Harry Potter?”] Kristin Cashore’s series? Rick Riordan’s series? Any of Jasper Fforde’s series? Anything by Neil Gaiman, Patricia McKillip, Lois McMaster Bujold, George MacDonald, C. S. Lewis, or Juliet Marillier?” These are “benchmark” fantasy authors and series. And there are many others, of course (like Raymond Feist, Sharon Shinn, and Garth Nix for example). Though I’ve read books by all of the above (um, I quit at book 7 for Wheel of Time; I’ll probably return to it at some point), I still have to question whether I’m dedicated or devoted in light of Robin’s definition. After all, I’m not just a reader of fantasy. I’m a writer of it.

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I look at a writer like Charles Yallowitz, and I see devotion. He has his Legends of Windemere site and series (two of his books are shown below) and poetry, and already planned several other books in the series. On his blog, he regularly talks about his characters and magic and includes excerpts from his books and character sketches. He writes guest posts for other blogs as well. See? That’s devotion.

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And then there are the participants in the WIPpet Wednesdays, hosted by K. L. Schwengel. Many post excerpts from more than one fantasy novel.

Do I have that level of devotion? If I allow myself to be stopped by rejections, procrastination, or anything else, I can’t say that I do. Take for instance the other day. Instead of continuing to work on the magic system for my novel—a necessary activity—I sat and played Harvest Moon: The Tale of Two Towns. Why? Because I had a moment of self-doubt. Finally, disgusted with myself, I quit procrastinating and returned to the world building. And you know what? I felt better.

That incident prompts me to ask myself: Am I dedicated or devoted to my own series? Or, am I content to be entertained by the hard efforts of other people (like Charles or Lois or J. K. Rowling)? What about you? Are you disciplined, dedicated, or devoted? To what? How do you show it?

Book covers from Goodreads.

33 thoughts on “Hopelessly Devoted

  1. Admission: I got frustrated with a writing section last Friday, so I played Legend of Zelda for an afternoon. Even devotion to a craft or team doesn’t clear you of days where you need to step away and recoup. In fact, I think it happens more often because one’s dedication makes you more critical of what you’re doing.

  2. First of all, thank you VERY much, that song is going to be stuck in my head all day. 😉

    I find myself in each of those mindsets at different times. The biggest problem is that I lack discipline in all areas of life, and even when I want to write, when the stories and characters won’t leave me alone, I’m easily distracted. I can’t focus. I procrastinate. It’s not that I don’t want to write, it’s just that with that one cog out of place, the machine can’t run efficiently. This is why NaNoWriMo is so great for me.

    As for devotion… I’d say I’m devoted to my worlds, my stories, and my characters a lot of the time. I cant get enough of them. I believe in them, even when they’re the Cubs, even when discipline fails me and the words don’t get out. My stories often take place in Fantasy settings, but I wouldn’t say I’m devoted to Fantasy as a genre. I haven’t read half of the books you’ve listed, because I find Fantasy incredibly boring when it takes itself too seriously, and I don’t usually like the “a man, an elf, a dwarf and a wizard on a quest” format. I do have a few of those on my shelf, and will be getting to them soon (though from what I’ve heard, I won’t like The Wheel of Time at all). I have been enjoying more modern Fantasy, though.

    Referring to the other article, I definitely have this going for me right now: “The story becoming the most important thing — the characters, the truth, the world—are all more important to you than your publishing contract, critical acclaim, or sales figures.” Even on days when I think about never publishing, I’m still devoted to my stories. It’s just that darned discipline (I totally understand your Harvest Moon issue, though I have my own distractions). 🙂

    I should get back to work. Thanks for a great post!

    • Did you finish your toy commissions? Do you usually get a lot of them before the holiday?

      I’m glad the post was useful, Kate. I think we all struggle to walk a tightrope between devotion to our craft and, well, normal life. We all know people who can only talk about one thing endlessly, not caring if others are bored to death. We don’t want to be those people. Yet, sometimes, I admit that I am that person, especially if I really like something. But I find that I need balance. I need to sometimes leave fantasy reading behind and pick up nonfiction. I need to get away for a cup of imaginary tea with the daughter of a friend. 🙂

      Sorry about the Olivia song. It’s stuck in my head, if that’s any consolation. It probably isn’t much of one.

      • Could be a lot worse. Have you heard that “What does the fox say” song? Now THAT’S an ear worm! And I always get “Call Me Maybe” stuck in my head when I hear it. Olivia’s not so bad. 😉

  3. Being a New Englander, I am devoted to the Red Sox!!! And while growing up, I swore I WAS Olivia Newton John and sang all her songs in front of a mirror. 🙂

    I think Robin’s quote about feeling like there “simply are few things on earth we’d rather do or spend our time with” describes it the best. That’s how I feel about my writing. That’s how my son feels about fishing. It’s a passion and a calling. But like you, I need breaks and often times need to engage in other things. Great post. 🙂

  4. Yes, the song will be playing in my head all day. I loved Grease as a kid and still I enjoy watching it now and then.

    I agree with Kate. NaNoWriMo works for me every time as far as keeping me disciplined. I’m very structured and disciplined in all areas of my life, but not always with my writing.

    Oh, I loath fair-weather fans. Pick your team and stick with them!

    • Sorry about that!
      I haven’t yet had the nerve to NaNo. And since I’ll still be working on my current novel, I probably won’t go that route this year either. Are you going to do it?

  5. MTM stayed devoted to the Brewers through 6 years in Chicago………….

    Keep writing, and don’t think about it too much. That’s what I do, and it mostly works well to keep me motivated.

    • Wow. Now, that’s devotion! I have some friends though who are Vikings fans, rather than the Bears.
      I will follow your advice, Andra. 🙂

  6. I remained a City supporter through the very, very dark days of the nineties, relegations into the old third division, whilst United across the city were winning everything two divisions above us. I blamed my Dad for my allegiance but stuck with them.
    Didn’t stop me indoctrinating my kids though. Said I always hoped that my kids would see some success in their lifetimes. But then suddenly-EVERYTHING changes. We are took over by rich Arabs. Major investment with a vision.
    “I take it back-I want success in my lifetime!!” And now I’ve experienced some, with the promise of more. Never lose hope, always dare to dream. Our club song, ‘Blue Moon’ changed from a lament to a triumphant anthem.
    Sorry. I just had to get that out. 🙂

  7. I’m going to ComicCon this year! It’s my first time, and I’m so excited. But then my husband sent me a video that a sociologist did, analyzing ComicCon attendees, and it made a point about the competitiveness of fandom. I find that aspect of devotion difficult to deal with because the important thing is to be devoted to whatever it is, not to compete against all the other devotees. I guess it’s similar to an athlete competing to win versus one competing to beat his or her previous time (which I suppose is what you can do if you enjoy participating in the sport but you’re never actually going to win). Anyway, here’s my favorite quote from the post: “The story becoming the most important thing — the characters, the truth, the world—are all more important to you than your publishing contract, critical acclaim, or sales figures.”

    • I’m glad you get to go, Lyn!!! Have you read Gene Yang’s Boxers & Saints yet? You might take a look, since you’re writing a graphic novel. I think he goes to ComicCon.

  8. O.o Evidently I am NOT a true fan of fantasy. I don’t even know who most of those people are. Let’s see… I’ll just have to say I’m a true fan of mythology and folklore. I’ve read more traditional stories from more cultures than most people.

    • I love mythology as well. I think a study of folklore is very important to fantasy writing!! Look at how a study of Norse mythology inspired the creation of Lord of the Rings.

  9. Wow! I always love Robin’s posts, but I think I especially needed to read this today. I’m going to think long and hard about what these three concepts mean to me. I know I’ve struggled a lot this year with writing feeling like work more than play and I’d like to get back to that place of devotion.

  10. Its so hard to keep on writing when faced with rejections and radio silence, but keep on writing! I keep thinking my demons of self doubt may take shape in one of my books yet.

    • Naomi, I’m there with you. And we’re in good company. I keep rereading articles on Madeleine L’Engle and J. K. Rowling’s rejections and feel a little bit encouraged.

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