So what do you write?
I dread that question. More specifically, I dread answering that question almost as much as I dread the follow-on: Can I read something you’ve written?
I have trouble answering the question “what do you write?” and feeling honest about the answer and free from judgement.
What have I written? I’ve written technical documentation, personal essays, and a ton of fiction, both my own (mostly of the literary sort) and fan fiction. Over the years, a boat load of fan fiction. Of the fan fiction mostly Star Trek, some DC (Bat-fic), some Star Wars, and some Marvel.
Nothing of that sort in the past two years. It was easy to “waste time” on writing stories to amuse myself and the few friends I shared them with when it was sort of a private world that was whispered about among the fan base.
Judged as not good enough by ‘real writers’ (read: literary fiction and published). Never mind that fan fiction has turned into the place where new writers earn their chops and it went from being fun to being frightening. I can still feel the stigma – feel the eyes of imaginary critics judging me for what I want to do.
What do I attempt to write? My novel. Fantasy and science fiction. Maybe a horror story. Genre fiction.
Also not good enough in the eyes of ‘real writers” (read: literary fiction writers) and “real readers” (read: people who only read things by real writers.)
The problem is that right now, my novel is a lot of staring at the blank page and making notes. It’s not really writing yet. It’s currently a great deal of back to the drawing board sorts of plotting and world building after I failed last year’s NaNoWriMo because I hadn’t done enough plotting and world building to sustain the actual story I thought I had to write.
But it’s what I want to do, what I feel like I was made to do. Even though I’ve failed at NaNoWriMo.
In part, it’s because I find those kinds of stories and worlds entertaining. Mostly, it’s because I want to be able to give other people the same kind of enjoyment and escape I used to find reading those same kinds of books when I was younger.
It’s probably obvious that I spent a great deal of time reading as a child. My home life was often rocky because there wasn’t a lot of money. They say that love covers times without money better than money covers times without love.
There didn’t seem to be enough love to cover the times with no money. There didn’t ever seem to be enough love even if there had been enough money. It was what it was and looking back, I think my parents were doing the best with what they had for emotional resources. I just don’t think they had very much in the way of emotional resources to draw upon.
I read to escape. I read to get some relief from the constant pressure to perform. Get good grades. You have to get into college or you’ll just end up in a dead end job like your parents and you’ll never be able to support a family. No one will love you if you don’t get into college and get scholarships to pay for it because we’re too poor to pay for it.
Clean the house perfect or your father drag you out of bed at Midnight (school nigh or no) to re-wash all the dishes in the house because he threw them out of the cupboards because one dish in the drainer wasn’t spotless, or put the books back on the bookshelf because he knocked them off the shelves because he found dust.
Don’t let Mom see that your jeans have a hole in the knee because you fell. They’re the only jeans you have and she’ll throw a fit. You broke the spine on your paperback and she’ll be furious because you’re not taking care of it and you know she didn’t eat lunches so she could buy you that book.
The message was clear: You suck at everything you do and if what you do isn’t going to be perfect, it’s not worth doing at all.
What do I write? These days, mostly small things at The Day Job that are related to my work at The Day Job and this blog, which is to say, not much. You might even go so far as to say nothing, especially if you add in the fact that I’m not actually putting chapters into my book right now, so much as trying to build the framework for the book to be written around.
It’s embarrassing when I think about that, and downright humiliating when you add in the I don’t write anything ‘good’ in the first place. I judge myself as being judged and I don’t want to talk about it any more. Thank you.
There’s just so much pressure in the question “What do you write?” that I’d rather not be asked it, and yet when people ask me what I do, I tell them I’m a writer. I’m dedicating blocks of time to actually writing. I’m putting things out here in the world again.
So why am I doing it?
With this blog I hope that people read it and maybe laugh a little. I hope that people have moments where they can say “Hey, there’s some on else like me. I’m not alone.” I hope that in some small way it does some good in the world.
I have stories to tell that might give someone else the ability to walk into another world for a little while and get some time away from the pressures of their problems. Someone else wrote and gave that to me. I owe it to them to pay it forward, or at least try to.
So, I refuse to let the novel die. I’ve let so many things go over the years. Music. Acting (No, really I’m terrible. I really do suck at acting.) Art.
I can’t let this die, too.
Even if I suck. And that’s the big fear: What if I just suck at this? What if everything I do just sucks?
Knitting (and crocheting) for me, have been about learning to accept imperfection. They’ve been about learning to love the act of creating itsef, even if it’s not perfect. No one ever says “That scarf you made is okay, but you missed two rows of decreases near the beginning, so it actually sucks. I hate it.” (or if they do, the concensus in the crafting community is that they’re rude and you’re allowed to stab them with your pointiest knitting needles.)
That I what I’m trying to bring to my writing: Perfection doesn’t matter. Expression matters. Step out and just do it. Learn from your mistakes. Embrace your foibles.
It’s hard but, I have to try. After all, I owe a karmic debt to the writers before me who wrote the stories I loved.
Just don’t ask me what I write.