Yesterday brought some work on a current collaborative project, and the rush of energy that always follows. I think my collaborative works have been my best so far, and likely always will be. For one, I’ve been so blessed in the quality of people I get to work with. I draw a great deal of inspiration from contact with creative souls, which means collaborations are a drip feed supply of input for me, in a way that helps keep the ideas flowing.
Then there’s the issue that when I have a creative partner for something, I also automatically have an audience. I’ve talked about the audience issue before. I’ll work and study for love of craft, but to me, work that isn’t shared is only half alive. The other half of a book happens when a person reads it, fleshes out the characters in their mind, brings their own stories to the story and turns it into something new. Just occasionally I get to hear about those, and some of them go really exciting places. There was, for example, one lovely reviewer who understood book 1 of Hopeless Maine, Personal Demons, as a schizophrenic sort of story, in which heroine and nemesis are in fact the same person. I’ll admit that wasn’t how I saw it, but I realised there was every space in the tale to read it that way. A story that works is full of different possible interpretations. It why I like old myths, because there is always room to bring some new way of seeing into them, and that’s really exciting.
For me, every creation is a collaborative process, because of the audience. When I definitely have an audience, that really helps. Here on the blog, I get enough feedback to know firstly that I am writing for people, and secondly some idea of what it might make sense to write for you. If I’m writing with someone, I’m also writing for that person, safe in the knowledge that at the very least I have an audience of one. Hopeless Maine was written for Tom. Sometimes I write things for my child, too. At one point in my career I was writing custom fiction, which was exciting. Usually for an audience of one, they were intense collaborations as I strived to bring someone else’s vision to life for them. It was always a challenge, and I loved doing it. Sadly, custom fiction is too big a luxury in these austere times, and the market went away.
I’ve never been able to write just for my own amusement. There’s nothing odd about that, I struggle to think in ways that allow me to do anything just for me. It makes me uncomfortable. I was trained too thoroughly, and too early that I needed to be useful, everything I did had to be for something, to achieve a goal, to be helpful, to serve someone else. It’s one of the reasons I don’t find it easy to arrange as much down time as my body could do with – it feels like doing something just for me, and that invariably feels wrong. It’s a thought form I am trying to challenge but am a long way from being able to break.
What I have done, is go back to writing poetry. It is the least commercially viable form of writing a person can undertake, so far as I know. I have given away poetry before, there are a couple of collections to download here if you go over to the Books page. So it’s still not entirely audience free, still not definitely something I am doing just for myself. I’ve pushed it further to try and have that personal creative space, though. The result is that I write really awful, emotionally self-indulgent, bleed on the paper angst ridden poetry like I did in my teens. A private vice, it is neither use nor ornament, which feels rather decadent. I want to get to the point of writing fiction for me, because I think that would make the whole business a lot more sustainable, and that I’d be happier. Thus far I am finding that if I do not first envisage a reader, no story shows up, but perhaps that will change over time.