Interesting discussion going on tonight on the Shocklines blog about the career of director John Carpenter. Doesn't matter what kind of fiction you write or direct, the pressure's the same. What happens when the creative moment you dread happens to YOU--you can't put together a book anybody's interested in or you publish book after book that shows how far you've drifted from your best work.
Carpenter is a sad example of this. Even if he's as hostile as some reports insist--and that may have some effect on how he's perceived these days--he did turn the psychological suspense genre upside down with Halloween. And, lest we forget, he did give us several other excelent movies, not least being The Thing.
So you wonder what could've happened to him. And you wonder if it could happen to you. Or if it's already happened to you and you just don't know it.
I remember Evan Hunter/Ed McBain noting in Mystery Scene a long time ago that he didn't like to talk much about the process of writing because it was this gift you were granted and it was best not to examine it too carefully. A lot of us who write fiction believe this, I think. Is my talent, small or large, a payday loan or do I own it lifelong? To quote Joanie Mitchell: "I've seen some hard hard places come down to smoke and ash."
Scan the past decade of bestselling fiction and you'll see a fair number of careers faded or vanished altogether. Any number of things could have caused these careers to falter, of course. Illness, age, bad agenting, fear of the machine.
But whatever it is it's the ghost that haunts a good number of us. You sit down at the machine and nothing happens. Or something comes out but it's not a good something.
Carpenter gets kicked around a lot these days. But let's be fair to him. He did some damned good work early on and maybe he's still got one or two good films left in him now.