Let’s Talk Process: The Sophomore Effort

Shiri Sondheimer

Shiri Sondheimer

Bloginatrix and disembodied voice at The Last Chance Salon (lastchancepod.com). RN at the Department of Therapeutic Misadventures. Currently at work on Hero Handlers (Spring '15).

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2 Responses

  1. Tika says:

    Girl, I FEEL YOU. I don’t write books – those who can’t, criticize, right? This is going to get too long.

    One thing I disagree about is that other artists aren’t called out for sophomore efforts. Many a band has had a fantastic debut album, only to sink into obscurity after album #2 was less than earth-shattering. Many an artist has had a wildly successful first gallery opening, only to flop woefully in their next efforts to wow their audience. They maybe just didn’t make it onto your radar, or you thought to yourself, “hey, whatever DID happen to Cage the Elephant?” (They toured, smoked egregious amounts of weed, and their second damn-the-man effort went predictably flat. The world moved on, and I have not forgiven them for my favorite jacket getting stolen at their concert.)

    BUT, I can say that in my reasonably well-read opinion, a good second book does not rehash old ground. Write a one-off instead of a sequel. Short stories, maybe (The Ladies of Grace Adieu is, for lack of a better phrase, transcendently perfect. And I generally loathe short stories. Sidebar: dear Susanna Clarke, GET ON IT FFS). Take a poetry class. Read all of e.e. cummings works in a single sitting, and when your brains have stopped melting out of your ears, what’s left is once again worth something. Art and craft are a renewable resource, but an artist/crafter must tend her garden.

    I read a quote the other day that boiled down to: an artist should do twice as much looking as they do crafting because the ideas come from the world around us, then twist themselves into magic in our heads. But without the input, there’s no magic. Sophomore efforts are predictably bad because the artist has spent their *entire career* working up to their first success, and then turn around without pausing to repeat the feat, anticipating the same success.

    This is, as I said, too long already. BUT please note that I know that producers and editors and those responsible for artists are also culpable here. It might even be mostly their fault. But that’s another issue; artists need to be mature enough in their craft to elucidate their process and manage their expectations. It’s fucking hard enough when you’re painting in a garret by yourself, much less when someone who just sold your first painting for a million dollars is breathing down your neck for more.

    Anyway. This basically boils down to, “make more art, make different art, and damn the man.”

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