Saturday, April 7, 2012
I don’t post too often about my writing. It’s strange in a way, since it occupies a vast majority of my thinking (maybe that’s why teenagers will never make good writers; all they can think about is sex). Ultimately, I think I avoid yapping about it because I worry that the details of my writing, while riveting to myself, will be unspeakably dull to others. It’s a real problem, because part of being a writer is self-promotion.
I’ve always veered away from situations where I have to sing my own praises. No one who knows me would call me modest, but my confidence (arrogance?) tends to come out in smart-ass comments and a belief that if I want to do something, I can do it. Quietly. Without applause or public approval. Yet to be a writer is to put yourself up for public judgment. Will people like what you’ve written? Will they buy your book, your next book, anything you write for the rest of your life? What will they say about you? And is it worse if your writing isn’t memorable enough to say anything about at all?
That’s even assuming you get any of your writing out into the public eye at all. That’s no small trick. (There are plenty of statistics out there to illustrate how rare “making a living” from writing is, if you want to look them up.) When I first imagined being a writer, I pictured sitting with a typewriter in my basement, happily tapping away, with an eager agent ready to sell my every creation. (Yes, I was in a basement in my dreams. I’m a subterranean troll and the sunlight hurts my tender, mole-like eyes. My vision also included a typewriter—manual, not electric, mind you—which should also give you some idea of how long I’ve been throwing this dream around in my head. I wrote my very first completed novel by hand in notebooks and on looseleaf, and my second was printed on a dot matrix printer so ancient the process took two days. I still have them both, and they make me laugh at how juvenile my writing is—as it should be, since I was a juvenile at the time.)
This little writing dream of mine is more fantastical than Narnia, at least these days. There may well have been a time when writing was a solitary profession where the lone introvert could excel, but that time is long gone. You can pretty much do as you wish if you’re Stephen King or Neil Gaiman, but if you’re a beginner like myself, you have to engage your potential reading public. You have to convince them you’re worth bothering with because there is a LOT of writing out there to choose from. If they don’t know who you are, why should they take a chance on you?
And so is created the dilemma of humility versus ambition. How out of my comfort zone of utter silence do I want to get? All the way to the equivalent of a politician kissing babies and shaking every hand he sees? A friend of mine has recently posted on the dangers of being "that guy" and I agree with him. Maybe there are people out there that appreciate—even admire—the guy that never talks about anything but himself, but I’m not one of them.
Of course, drive a truck full of money to my house, and I’ll probably change my mind.