serinde: (Syringa vulgaris)
[personal profile] serinde
For as long as I can remember, people have told me that I should be a writer. Which makes it every flavor of ironic that I have never made any advancement whatsoever in such a direction. --I lie; there is a carefully-hidden plastic binder containing a number of scrawled pages produced at approximately age 14 that embody the worst type of Mary Sue-ified teenage crap you can imagine; and even at that tender age I couldn't re-read them without cringing. But other than that minor fit, no. Why should that be? I'm certainly a more-than-competent wordsmith; why have I never made a conscious decision to focus on that skill?

First and foremost, I've realized, is that I've been for years carrying around the unconscious assumption that the "only" kind of writing is fiction. (Pause for laughter.) Only in the last several years, as I've started hanging out with Serious Academics doing Serious Business, has this notion been challenged. So why not fiction? Because, at the base of it, I don't seem to have any stories in me. Years ago, when we first got the DVDs of Neverwhere, there's an interview with Gaiman at the end; and something he said struck me most forcibly--that there were all these stories in his head, and he wanted to tell them. I've since heard similar sentiments from other authors I respect. And...I have an empty where they have that. It seems to me like me trying to write fiction without that fountain would be to build a body with no soul.

Academic writing is a new thought to me, and is not off the table. It would require a pretty serious life commitment, I think, and one which I'm not ready to make yet. (There is also the subclass of "historical non-fiction pepped up for digestion by the masses", and indeed I did a short essay of that ilk for Celtic Silliness many years ago; I'm not sure what I think about putting more of that on the over-burdened shoulders of the world right now.)

Then there is the humble blog, much in vogue these days. I had, when I lived on 66th St., toyed with the idea of starting a blog about life in the neighborhood, as I was not able to find any except one, which was frankly kinda crap; and more recently [livejournal.com profile] nedlnthred has been agitating for us (for variable values of "us") to start a blog about...things. Food, wine, cocktails, sewing, knitting, sex, I dunno, the everything. My excuse for not having done this, either solo or in company, is that to succeed at it is, again, a time commitment; and if you are not updating regularly, your readership falls away and you are just another faceless, nameless biped in the vast herd of the blogosphere.

This forks off another consideration: for whom does one write? The hidden blurt behind nearly any excuse I have to not write is, "no one wants to hear what I have to say". [N.B.: Please do not fill my comment thread with well-meant affirmations. That is not the point of the exercise.] I have the usual not-a-writer diffidence of believing that the thoughts I have to share are not interesting to others. Undoubtedly this is true in some cases and not in others. But whether or no, it is a difficult blurt to put your head down and butt your way through--particularly since, in nearly any writing endeavor, one's first works are not going to be met with universal attention, let alone acclaim. And I think that's part of what makes the best fiction writers so successful; they aren't writing, at least for the most part, with a continual chorus of "what if no one likes it?"; the noise in their head is chiefly "GET THIS STORY OUT OF BRAIN ONTO PAPER". Academics can dodge this because it's not whether anyone cares about uterine scars in shrews, but rather how solid your research and conclusions are. Blogging and friends, though, there you are definitely writing for an audience; and if you do not find one, then what's the point?

Tied into this is that I can't stand not being in the top class of anything I publicly set my hand to. As long as I define the rating as "people like it/me! I am affirmed!!", I've set myself a much harder and counterproductive goal. If I'm writing for me, for my pleasure/enjoyment or to express something I feel strongly about or even just to get it out of my skull, I can judge it objectively as a work of wordcraft.

Will I? That's a whole other question. I've made a few baby steps along the road, by writing a couple of short erotic ficlets in another venue. Because that venue is set up in a social networking model, and my network is very small as yet, very very few people are likely to ever see it, and thus the chances of getting any sort of widespread acclaim are near-zero. I wrote them because they were in my mind, and were not, I thought, without some charm; and it was good practice in a tolerably isolated environment; and because brief, and pre-loaded in my mind & just needing to be articulated, I could dash them off pretty quickly. But even knowing objectively how small a potential audience I had, I still found myself twitchily looking to see if they'd garnered comments or "like" equivalents. I'm not going to solve that in a day; I have been defining my self-worth in terms of others' perceived attention for my whole life, and it is a hard thing to un-build; but the first step, as they say, is admitting you have a problem. If I can write and keep writing in a way that's true to myself, acclaim will come in its due course.
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