I’m in the process of preparing for a writing symposium this week, where I will be speaking on panels, selling physical copies of my book in public, and participating in a mass signing on Friday night–all for the first time. I’ve shied away from writing thoughts the past many months because I feel like I say weird things sometimes. Or I get intimidated because I think I have to write something long and deep and awesome to make up for all the time where I haven’t blogged. I’m pretty self-conscious about putting my half-baked/constantly-shifting thoughts and opinions out in public, I guess. But every once in a while those discussions on random things turns into something cool. So, in anticipation of all the cool people I’m hoping to meet and reconnect with at LTUE, I’m making a goal of blogging one small, random thought a day for the entire week…so all you fantastical people who decide to check out my blog have something to read.
Today I’m simply going to talk about how I feel about being a writer and what being a writer means to me. (This actually turned out to be way longer than I thought it would be…enjoy!)
One thing that is truly amazing about living in the twenty-first century is the fact that most of the people you’ll meet around the world are literate. They can read. They can write. They can even use social media to connect without ever having met you in person. This means that just about anyone can write a story, and just about anyone can read it as long as the text is available in a language they understand.
Being a writer is hard work. Like anything, writing well in any particular format (be it fiction or a research report) takes practice. And there are many elements involved that need to work well to create a satisfying story, all of which require a lot of practice.
Writing is about discovery. I learn a lot of interesting things about myself and the way I think real life works (as well as how other people might think real life works) as I’m striving to find a meaningful and coherent way to express thoughts and feelings, or to invent strange worlds/situations that no one has encountered before. Stories are puzzles that we as writers have to not only evolve but solve to some satisfying degree in order to take readers on a novel journey they will enjoy.
Writing is lonely. I can’t tell you how many times my own family members have said discouraging things to me about my writing, or my ambitions to publish and find some sort of professional success in this area. Determination is an evenly matched emotion in my mindset with my sense of “nobody cares about this but me, so why am I doing this if no one is going to read it?” It’s a real wrestle for me to eek out words some days. There’s certainly a mix of emotions I have to deal with every time I sit down to write that have nothing to do with my skills or how much I’ve practiced, and there are days where I stare at the blank page for a really long time, wondering if I’ll ever produce anything “good enough” for other people to enjoy without soliciting their approval. I’ve also had to learn a lot of things about fiction writing by myself through trial and error. I’ve had to search for people who could give me the useful feedback I needed in exchange for the investment of time and help they needed. And it’s painfully, painfully lonely not to have a mentor or a good editor around to help whenever you need training, or even someone to just root for you to keep going because A, B, and C are looking so much better than they were in your writing up to this point. It’s a challenge to keep going sometimes, because it’s hard to see where you’ve improved and where/what you still lack without a second pair of trained eyes. Writing is also highly subjective, so when you do get feedback from others, be they writers, professional editors, or your best friend, their insight and impressions of your work may not always help your storytelling improve.
Writing makes you grow. Writing horror fiction has given me the courage to explore topics that normally frighten me or that I don’t like to deal with in real life conversations. In the process of creating characters who are a little more raw and have problems I don’t even like to think exist sometimes, I discover that I often have a healthier understanding of human nature than I thought I did. I’m not as easily offended by tasteless moments in movies or other media, and I don’t feel as helpless or psyched out emotionally when someone is thoughtless, shocking, inappropriate, or even intentionally hurtful. I’m not a doormat. I don’t take crap personally. I’m not as afraid of my own flaws. I know my core. I’m secure within myself, and I’m better equipped to see through the nonsense and listen to what people really mean when they say or do something. I also feel better equipped to be more respectful, thoughtful, and helpful to other people in more ordinary but still disconcerting struggles than I thought I could be.
To sum up how I see myself as a writer: I’m an explorer of the unknown, both in the world and within myself. I’m searching for what it means to be human by making connections between the pain of existence and the reparative, redemptive powers of love, regret, compassion, hope, and enlightenment/education–whether it’s romantic interest, God’s love, or any other relationship that makes right and wrong, good and evil, relevant. I function at once as a cathartist and a fulfiller of wishes. I’m a magician who has modern conveniences like an education, portable laptop, the internet, spell checkers, and a nearly infinite supply of pens and paper to make writing completely accessible if I’m willing to work at it. I’m a wordmister who struggles to balance description with meaningful action and likes run-on sentences. And ultimately, I’m just another human being with a few ideas to share and a few questions to ask.