Thursday, February 01, 2007

Put Up or Shut Up Time

It starts here. It starts now.

I'm talking about my writing career. I'll be turning 30 in July, as hard as that is for me to believe, and before that happens I want to get things moving in the right direction. I may never make a living, or make any money at all, for writing fiction. I don't know. And that's the problem, really. I don't know. I'm almost 30 years old and I don't know. I've been out of school for nearly seven years and I don't know. What I do know is that I still consider myself a writer, a writer of fiction, despite the fact that I've written almost no fiction in the past seven years. I do know that I have to stop considering myself a writer at some point if I don't write. I do know that writing fiction used to bring me great joy, and the simple process of putting words on paper (or a computer screen) still gives me a high that few things can match.

Now it's throwdown time. I'm getting back in the fiction game, and I'm coming back for good.

My problem, for a long time, has been one of putting the cart before the horse. I think "story," I automatically think "publication." I've killed a lot of ideas in the very early stages just because they didn't strike me as being publishable. Even now, I'm not entirely convinced that my work is something that other people will want to read.

Well, you know what? Fuck publication. Fuck other people, for that matter. From this point on, it's all about me. I love to write, and I'm going to do it. I don't give a damn if one word of it ever sees the light of day. Would I like to be published? Absolutely! I'd love to quit my day job and become fabulously wealthy on the strength of my imagination alone. Who wouldn't? When I sit down with a blank sheet of paper or computer screen in front of me, though, that's no longer my motivation. The next thing I write doesn't have to be the "great American novel." I just want to feel the rush of creation, the undiluted ecstasy that comes when you realize that your characters are no longer soulless, one-dimensional shadows but are living, breathing people with minds of their own and motivations that even I, their creator, may not fully understand. I love the feeling when the story comes a live to the point where it feels as though I'm no longer writing but channeling, that the people and places I'm describing may not be real but really want to be and are this close to attaining and exerting the sheer will it would take to become so.

That's the real payoff from writing, and more's the pity that I had forgotten it for so long. I have always been told that the writing must be primarily for myself, but I'm not sure I ever really knew what that meant. And I suppose I really needed to figure it out for myself before it could do any good.

Another problem I've struggled with is that I tend to flounder in the absence of structure. Creative writing classes and workshops were good for imposing that upon me, and I've been nearly useless without them. So here's the challenge I'm issuing to myself: I want to do some creative writing each and every day in February (yes, including weekends). Every day, for at least half an hour, although more would certainly be welcome. I don't care what it is--short-shorts, character sketches, small scenes, reworking old stuff, whatever. I just want to come up with something every day.

The goal in all of this, of course, is for it all to carry forward. I want "every day in February" to just become "every day." And I want to write some good stuff, too. I'm sure it's not all going to be viable, but hopefully some (or a lot) of it will be, especially as I shake off the rust. And even if it's not fantastic right away, it's never wasted--it may always come in handy somewhere down the line.

It is in this spirit that I'm starting yet another blog, to have a place to share some of my work. Now, I'm not necessarily going to post everything I write this month, but I'm sure I'll share at least some of it, and probably a good bit of it. I'll also share some of what I've written in the past. Going forward, I'll probably also share some thoughts on writing and the creative process. Who knows what will show up there? It sure will be fun to find least for me.

So this little essay fulfills the requirement for tonight. Tomorrow the good stuff starts. Once I get the ball rolling this time around, hopefully it'll gain so much momentum that nothing can stop it.

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