Craft, Career & Cheer: Brent Hartinger

Learn about Brent Hartinger.

What do you love most about your creative life? Why?

Isn’t it funny how our lives make so much sense in retrospect?

As a kid, I hated being told what to do. Whether it was my teachers or my parents, I was generally of the opinion that I knew far better than they did what was best for me (and you know what? I still think I was right!).

As an adult, I now know there is nothing else I could be doing other than a life in the arts, a life where I’m in control, I’m the one deciding what project to do next and how exactly to execute that project.

I absolutely love the exhilarating freedom that comes from being a writer. But that freedom comes at a very steep price, as you’ll see in my answer below.

How have you come to thrive in such a competitive, unpredictable industry?

The successful writers I know understand that it’s all a big wheel, and sometimes you’re up (or on the way up), and sometimes you’re down (or on the way down).

The scary thing is, because of the crazy, unpredictable nature of art (and the even crazier, unpredictable nature of publishing), we really don’t have that much say over which direction our careers are heading.

What was that I was saying about freedom in the answer above?

While it’s true we have complete control over our stories as writers, we have very little control over how people respond to them and how our careers are impacted by them.

Ironic, isn’t it?

This lack of career-control is scary for a lot of people — especially driven, bull-headed people like me. As a society, we like to believe that we control our fates — and in most cases, I honestly believe we do. Just not in the arts.

Literally, every non-insane, non-bitter artist I know accepts this. They don’t dwell on it, but they acknowledge it, and then they move on.

What does this mean exactly? That they don’t rant and rail when that “certain” book or movie deal falls through, or when the chains decide not to order a particular title of ours. They don’t fall into the deep spiral of depression, cursing God and saying, “Why me?”

Okay, maybe they do this a little. But they aren’t consumed by it.

Then they say, “I guess it was not to be. Now what shall my next book be?”

Every good writer knows that for a story to be engaging, the antagonist must be more powerful than the protagonist. That way, to defeat the antagonist, the protagonist must change: they must become more than whoever they were. If they don’t, they will be destroyed by whatever they’re confronting, if not literally, then spiritually.

Writers like to say that their lives, unlike the lives of their characters, are “boring,” but I’m not so sure this is so true. By choosing to be writers of books, we confront some pretty powerful obstacles. And if they defeat us, it isn’t pretty.

But we also have the option facing down the unpredictability of a life in the arts, of growing, of becoming stronger than who we were.

The question was, how do I thrive in this industry? I’m not sure I do. But I’m holding my own against the hurricane. And that alone is something of which I am very proud.

Cynsational Notes

The Craft, Career & Cheer series features conversations with children’s-YA book creators about positive aspects of their creative and professional lives.