I’ve been going through a substantial shift in how I feel about writing. I’m not going to get into the hows and whys of it all because this would end up being ridiculously long, but there’s been significant change happening and I wanted to share that with you.
This is definitely the first time I’ve written an entire blog post in the form of lists, but that’s is how it came out when I sat down at the computer to organise my thoughts and write the post. It probably won’t become a regular occurrence, but it was fun this time!
The hierarchy of things that validate someone as A Real Writer, according to the weird ways people react to writers:
- Being traditionally published.
- Being self-published with books available in mainstream locations, with bonus points for being available in A Real Bookshop, not ‘just’ as ebooks.
- Being self-published, but ‘just’ ebooks.
- Any other methods of sharing your creative output.
That hierarchy would feel bizarre enough if it only came from people who don’t consider themselves writers at all, or people who don’t understand that choice is actually a factor in a person’s publishing path, i.e. we aren’t all aiming to share our work in the same way and it often has nothing to do with how good we, or you, think that work is. But. BUT. I’ve encountered these attitudes in other writers! WHAT?! The way I see it, if you write, you’re a writer. That’s it. The rest is just detail and it doesn’t change who you are as a creative person.
Things I realised are either completely unimportant to me as a writer or are harshing my creative buzz:
- Any part of the creating-a-written-thing process beyond writing, my own editing (and a proof-reader for longer works) and any fun visual stuff that goes along with it.
- Having to care about what my target market are buying to the point where it influences the stories I create. Actually, having to define a target market at all. I fully understand this is part of providing a product or service and I have nothing against it as a thing, but it doesn’t fit with how I want to experience writing.
- Creating to a schedule. To be clear, I’m a recovering perfectionist with a lifetime of obsessive tendencies and an unhealthy level of discipline and motivation, so I don’t find this one difficult. At all. But I do find it utterly miserable, which matters a lot more than I ever let it matter before, and I should have let it matter. Because it really does.
- The whole game of self-publishing. I can’t make myself care about reviews, Amazon’s invisible goalposts, the word authorpreneur. Having to see everyone I encounter on social media as a potential customer.
- The whole game of traditional publishing. I don’t feel comfortable with creative output being ascribed a value based on how much someone else can profit from it. Again, having to see everyone I encounter on social media as a potential customer.
This isn’t a point on the list but I just need to acknowledge how pretentious I sound right now. I know. I know. And I’m also not saying that it’s bad for other people to be cool with any of those things, or to enjoy them, or to dedicate their heart and soul to them. For me, with my work background, with my personal experience of life and stuff, from my perspective, right now, I do not like those things for myself. Your choices and your reasons for making them are none of my business. You’re OK to do whatever. You do you.
Things I realised are actually massively important to me as a writer to the point where they’re basically the reasons I write:
- Sharing. I get such a huge kick out of having the opportunity to make a thing and then send it out into the world where other people can encounter it and experience it (although I care surprisingly little about whether or not people actually like what I create, but that’s another blog post). And I get to find all these amazing things to read because other people do that too. Globally. That’s pretty amazing.
- Connecting with other creative people. Honestly, when I write something and put it online, I’m happy if anyone at all reads it. It lots of people read it, that’s amazing too, but it’s not my goal. What does make me ridiculously happy is meeting and talking to other people who make up stories in their heads or do other kinds of art. They are really, really interesting people and most, if not all, of my friends are creative souls.
- Literally just writing. The act of it. The process. Everything from getting to know characters to creating a plot to throwing sentences in the air and catching them until the words fall in exactly the right order. I am deeply in love with all of it. I can do it regularly but that kind of in-the-zone passion comes along of its own accord and it’s a beautiful wave to ride.
Questions I asked myself while I kind of freaked out about finally getting my head around how I actually feel about all this:
- What if only a comparatively small number of people ever read anything I write?
- What if I never do any of the weird-hierarchy-of-external-validation things?
- What if writing isn’t something I choose to view as a potential source of reliable and substantial income?
The answer to all of those was a resounding shrug of indifference. So.
Things I decided to do:
- Write what I want, when I want. Sure, I’ll probably still do NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo sometimes because events like that are super fun and I love them as bonding experiences with the online writing community, but if I want to take a break from a novel and spend a few months writing short stories, or I feel inspired to write nothing but poetry for a year, that’s going to be fine from now on.
- Climb out of the book-shaped box I didn’t even notice I was stuck in. Yep, it happened. I started to feel like unless I was writing a book, at least a novella if not a full length novel, I wasn’t really writing and I was just wasting time. This is obviously complete balls and I’m disappointed with myself for falling into that trap.
- Put my writing on DeviantArt and Wattpad, and this site for now, for the foreseeable future, or until I feel differently about the whole thing (which might be never). DA and Wattpad are fun and easy places to share writing, things posted there can easily be read by anyone on any device for free, and they both have a huge social element (and yes, there are other actual grown-ups on both sites). Plus, I can do weird little things that make me happy, like deciding to redesign all my book covers to fit my aesthetic du jour.
Where you can find my writing:
- Here! My short fiction, poetry, life writing, articles and blog posts aren’t going anywhere.
- DeviantArt and Wattpad. All my shorter bits and pieces are now in both those places too, as are novellas and (soon!) novel-length works. Some of my writing is marked as Mature Content on either or both of those sites. For non-Wattpadders, that makes no difference to the reader. If you click the link to a book or a story, or visit my profile, everything is visible and readable. For non-DeviantArtists, simply put in your date of birth to click through the warning screen when you want to read something marked as Mature Content.
- Twitter. A sneaky little bonus! I share little snippets of whatever I’m currently working on, as well as taking part in hashtag games like #vss365, #slapdashsat and #thurds on Twitter so my writing lives there too, albeit in less than 280 characters are a time.