Sunday, July 7, 2013

Another thing I have been thinking about

I work shopped a piece a piece a few weeks ago. The piece had been written from a small fragment which I expanded out into a long story, about 25 pages, and the longest short story I have written as of yet. I wrote it over the course of a week or so, cleaned it up then sent it to a friend who gave me a bunch of really good feedback. I wanted to go for the minimal plot and flat affect typical of Tao Lin or Raymond Carver and those folks who have come off very illustirous in the past few decades. Nothing really happened in the piece, it had a sort of understated sci-fi element and there was a lot of confusion and ambiguity. I knew it wasn't perfect but I thought it could get by on the characters, oddity and menacing pseudodystopian atmosphere alone. Anyways in the workshop the guy basically tore it apart and suggested a full rewrite. It was pretty rough since I thought the piece was at least developing. He gave a lot of good advice but at one point he point blank said 'Who did you have in mind when you were writing this?' This really shocked me as, at the time I was writing it, the reader was probably the last thing on my mind. I wanted someone to get something out of this but the end receiver was very hypothetical. I enjoyed writing the piece and so figured that whoever read it would have a similar joy in reading it as well. I gave him a sort of feeble half answer and then we went on with it.
     Much of what we discussed that afternoon (the weakness of the piece) contributed to throwing me into sort of a crisis in my writing. I've only been writing seriously for six months now (okay I've only been writing seriously for the ten minutes it had taken me to get to this point) so I'm not sure if crises are due, or good, or exist but I really had a hard time thinking about "why am I writing and who am I writing for" I think for the most part crises are good to go though, crises are good things and help you grow and become better. I think, I hope. Essentially I flashed through a whole bunch of potential, hypothetical readers and could not see a single one reading my stuff. Then too came this fear that I should be compelled to write for others, to mold my pieces into something that could please the editors of a mag, or the fiction buying public or whoever it is that even reads anymore. Eventually the whole thing mostly petered out and whether or not I made a big breakthrough is up for debate. I can't say I look at my own literature exactly the same anymore. I think this is a question that is not asked enough: why should anyone read your shit? Like for the most part literature is a really self-centered enjoyable thing for the writer. You get this platform where you have total control over every aspect of the world. You get to laugh at your own jokes and cry at the tragedy and inside your own head, everything in the story is perfect. I feel like I read a lot of stories where people are really sucked into their own assholes and it is considered a very artistic and laudable thing to do. You have these authors that say 'fuck the reader' and do their own thing and probably have a blast doing it but often times create these very opaque and daunting works. But then you have people that are writing for others (exclusively for others) and maybe they make a bunch of money but this attitude is generally considered an artistically laughable thing to do. Basically this is the dichotomy I have right now and I'm not sure how accurate it is.
       In guess in the intervening time since the workshop, two weeks or so, I decided who (if maybe not at this point, then in the not to distant future) I will be writing for. First I want to write for the characters. I want to be able to write people who are real, like write for these personalities so that they may, in a certain sense come to life. This sounds really cheesy and artsy now but it seemed really grave and solemn and noble when I first thought it up. Second I want to write for myself, but those aspects of myself that are common to many many people. So not just write for my own enjoyment but rather the parts of my personality and makeup and thought processes that are common in other people. I figure it's silly to say 'oh I am writing for lonely people or smart people or poor people or hopeless people. I just can't write for things that I am not. But I can write for myself with the aim and end goal that those parts of myself that I am writing for will be found in others, that we as people share enough that, if I write for myself, write with integrity and (for lack of a better word) faith (in myself) then the things I write will find a home or find resonance in others by the very fact that we as people simply share experiences and thoughts and thus this sort of understanding.

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