I’ve not had a good relationship with my fiction writing in the last year or so, if not longer, and figuring out what’s going wrong there is an ongoing issue. Writing fiction used to be my passion, one of the great loves of my life, so the loss of it is really hard. I’ve been finding it increasingly difficult to make stuff up. It’s a loss of self, as well as the creative impact. So, what went wrong?
I spent a lot of years trying to write commercially, and while this works for some people, it doesn’t work for me. The bottom line is that I have to write for love – love of the work, and also love of the people I am writing for. I’m not talking ‘love’ in an exaggeration of ‘rather like’ here – as it is too often used. I’m talking passionate, devoted, slightly deranged, obsessive, driven, overwhelmed and absolutely have to write in order not to be entirely drowned by that sort of love. It is not an easy thing for other people to deal with, which is probably why somewhere in my early twenties, I stopped trying to work this way and started trying to be all professional, grownup and sensible about the process. That’s not working, and I am increasingly clear that the only way forward for me involves a willingness to be utterly vulnerable.
I work best when I’ve got a very specific audience in mind. Ideally it needs to be more than one person and if I’m writing for a couple of people whose needs and tastes don’t neatly match, then that creates a really exciting kind of tension, out of which things happen. My other half is fantastically supportive, but there’s just the one of him, and things I write for him or because of him can be too immediate and intimate to want to share more widely. I need more people in the mix.
I need feedback. I’m a bit of an attention junky (not an uncommon trait in writers and performers). Having people who will interact with my work, talk to me, read it, tell me what works for them, and generally get active about being my audience makes a world of difference. The odds are that anyone undertaking to do this simply becomes one of the people I write for.
Muses. These are always actual, alive people who are present in my life. People who inspire me both creatively and emotionally. It has to be both, because when this works for me, the two things are largely interchangeable. Love is inspiration, and inspiration is love. People who catch me that way are few and far between, especially in a sustained way. Odd flashes of inspiration are more normal than the sustained stuff, and what I need is the sustained.
In an ideal world, I’d be interacting with people who are willing and able to be all of those things to me. That’s a very big ask in terms of time and commitment. More realistically I can think about the people in my life I could be writing for, and give myself more opportunities to be in spaces with people who inspire me. Those are the bits of the underpinning process I have some control over.
The short of it is that I think to fix my relationship with my writing, what I’ve got to do is invest a lot more time and energy in my connections with people. I spent too long being a hermit, and this is the toll it has taken. I spent too long trying to be safe, inoffensive and palatable when what I should have been doing was looking more for the people who can say ‘yes’ to all of this.
July 25th, 2014 at 11:34 am
Wow! This could almost be my story, give or take a few details. Hope we both find a fruitful way back into fiction.
July 25th, 2014 at 10:19 pm
My thing is railroads particularly between 1860 to 1910 sort of the Victorian and Edwardian period. In fact add just about anything from the horse drawn trolleys[trams] cable cars and electric trolleys right up to the interurbans that gave the railroads a run for their money. This includes the subways or undergrounds.
Add this to the early automobiles and air planes. Even the bicycle gave mobility to the poor and to women. Remember i the early cities most people went by foot ad that had a lot to do with the flute ad ix yup of how cities were laid out your customers and workers had to be near by. Add with 12 hour work days you had little enough time for travel.
Suddenly you were no longer tied to your portion of the city, suddenly you did to have to stay where you were born, you could move to areas where you might better yourself. You could reinvent yourself but more and more in a world of crowds, and strangers. Everything changed, you gained change, but lost dependable traditions, friends, home and family. Some became wanderers always seeking the next better place that they ever found. Some became prosperous the new overs and shears of society.
All of these sudden changes created havoc for those that liked things the way they were. But it was exciting for those that had hopes and dreams. There was ongoing tension in the creation of these changes and fortunes to be made and lost, a new order building as the old order crumbled and gave way. I am sure there would be a steam punk version as well.
July 25th, 2014 at 11:14 pm
Something else to consider for inspiration;
Some may remember a Sci Fi movie where Aliens believed that their forest worked as one interconnected living thing. As it turns out there is some truth to this idea as Science is finding out.
The Consciousness of Trees
In this real-life model of forest resilience and regeneration, Professor Suzanne Simard shows that all trees in a forest ecosystem are interconnected, with the largest, oldest, “mother trees” serving as hubs. The underground exchange of nutrients increases the survival of younger trees linked into the network of old trees. Amazingly, we find that in a forest, 1+1 equals more than 2.
CRYPTIK – HOME – The Consciousness of Trees
July 27th, 2014 at 7:59 pm
Trees are amazing, thank you for sharing the inspiration.