Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Where I am at now

I'm feeling frustrated.

On the one hand I think I have more literary energy than I have had for a while. This is good. I am feeling really upbeat re: submitting, have submitted a short story that I am feeling good about to maybe 15 venues, signed up for a short story class, am finding lots of books to buy and (strangely) wrote and submitted two poems.

On the other hand it feels like I am at the lip of this unbridgeable gap: I am working on this manuscript which has been in process since Jan 2016 and I just can't find the groove. I also feel the need to dedicate myself to it fulltime, wish I could dedicate myself to it full time, but don't think I can take time off of work to do it. I really think that if I had two or three months of dedicated time I could pull it all together, do a bunch of research and have something at least worth getting edited or sending to small presses, but I really need that 24/7 time to do it.

I also feel very isolated. Looking at a lot of other writers that I admire it seems like they often have at least a few other writers around them that they can talk to, bounce ideas off of, whatever. Get feedback from. I find it really hard to find other writers. I'm not sure why this is. I also find it hard to find other people that are doing stuff that I consider to be similar to what I am doing, and that will/might be able to give me substantial feedback. I'm also not sure why this is. I guess I'm not looking hard enough, but then where do I look exactly? And I have gone to readings, writer's workshops et c. and I tend to just find them tedious. Like social circles for the socially awkward, which is fine, but I guess I am trying to get substantial feedback above anything else, and I have just not found the energy required to attend these things worth the pay off in terms of benefits to my writing. There is a part of me that thinks that when I get published or get a novel published or get just more exposure this will change, but this might be faulty thinking and I suspect that it is dead wrong. There is also a part of me that wonders if my writing is just poor enough that it can't arouse interest. I try to stay positive, but there is this falling back to the null hypothesis (my writing isn't very good or interesting) that just seems safe, so I rely on it.

I also see this gulf before me, between where I am now (dedicated amateur with no publications) to where I want to be in the short term (basically dedicated amateur/part-time professional with publications) and I have no idea what steps I need to take to close it. I signed up for this class, which feels sort of strange already. There is a part of me that suggests applying to programs, but then that makes me feel slimy and as if I would be selling a part of my soul. Like a loss of purity or something. But then what else is there? Continue on as I am and just hope that things will change? I don't feel like I am gaining much momentum, or at least enough momentum and certainly gaining no attention doing what I am doing. What other options are there?

What is also frustrating is the lack of feedback. The ms. I am working on now is pretty long and hazy. There is minimal plot, it is mostly a guy wandering around Siberian Villages just ruminating on things. It does not lend itself to being extracted for publication in mags. So there is not really even the potential to submit parts of this now. I could work on short stories, but I don't find that particularly interesting. So I just have this two years gap from when I last published a story, which just feels unfortunate.

I guess I am just not sure what to do, what actions I need to take. I want to feel like I am doing something, moving forward, making some progress.

I like to think I am the sort of person that is okay with feeling lost or unsure or whatever but it sort of takes a toll. I guess I just need to see some sort of glimmer of something to move towards, to validate within myself that I am actually doing something.

There is the constant feeling of time running out. It is acute now, but it has always been there. It has been the prime motivator in writing, and considering the momentum I gained in 2013 (first ms finished, a few stories published, helping out with tNY, chapbook printer) I guess I thought I would have moved further by this point. But here I am, it feels like I am still at square on.

I am reading 'The Cave' by Jose Saramago right now. He didn't really get recognized until he was in his 60's. I guess that is sort of comforting. I also wish I was less obsessed with getting published. I wish I could just write in peace, in solitude and just leave it as it is. I guess the whole thing feels like such a long process that I feel like I just need to move as quickly as possible. I guess I just need to remember that none of it really matters anyways and that there will be no difference between getting published now and getting published later and not getting published at all.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Interview

I was interviewed about my experience getting into web development: New Developer Podcast

Thanks to Manu for interviewing me!

Monday, January 16, 2017

At Five years

So it has been close to five years since I started writing seriously. I was writing a bit before then but it was January 2012 when I started daily work on my first novel length manuscript. When I started writing my motivations were sort of out of place. I guess I liked the idea of being a writer and living the writers life. I liked reading a lot, but I was more interested in the aura of writing than the act itself. I was also interested in a huge variety of work. I sort of wanted to see it all. I also figured that getting published would be easy, or I suppose I didn't give a whole lot of thought to the publishing aspect at all. I wanted to meet lots of other writers and talk with other writers and be around them.

I figured (this is embarrassing now) that I would be able to figure out how to be a writer as a full time profession and be able to live off of my writing from then on out.

After five years my attitude has changed somewhat. After two and a half novel length manuscripts, none of which have been published and a handful of short stories I have come to recognize the marathon nature of writing. I have also shifted my interests and goals away from publishing and making money and toward the act at hand. The simple act of putting words onto paper, filling the page and moving along.

Though I only read the book describing it a few months ago, for perhaps the last year and a half my attitude toward writing has grown closer and closer to the process of finding 'flow' in my work. Rather than putting all of my hopes and expectations into publishing my work (where the highs never seem to justify the effort and the lows of rejection inevitably throw me off) I look at the process of writing itself as the important part. I get far more enjoyment and fulfillment during a solid writing streak than the few times I have seen my words in print.

This is not some fatalistic or cynical take on publishing. Rather, I figured I'll get to it when I get to it, and at a point where the effort expended.

I guess what I do have to admit, and this took me a long time to figure out, is that the only part of 'the writing process' that I understand is the actual writing part (though to be humble I should admit that even that is a stretch). I don't understand how to edit, how to publish or how to refine my work. I just don't get those parts and I find the actual fact of publishing to be so unrewarding in the concrete (yet persistently alluring in the abstract) that I have little motivation to push me toward these things.

I'm confronted here (again and again, every day, with few exceptions for these pas five years) with the question of whether I am a real writer if I do not publish. If I am only doing this for myself am I fulfilling the goals that I set out for myself? If I am not publishing does this work matter? If I am not publishing am I 'moving forward' moving toward better work or more engagement?

I suppose the only real benefit to publishing would be to 'push myself' to extend myself in some way. Again, the rewards of this are hard to define or predict, if they exist at all.

Thus far the majority of my publications have, more or less, fallen into my lap. I've been lucky in that way, but then it means that when nothing comes to me, I do not publish. Again, this is something that I am uneasy with, but accepting of. The question is whether this is something I should accept or something I should rail against.

The turning point for this was the string of rejections from my first novel length manuscript. It was hard, but rather than deter me totally it cause me to reevaluate the threshold for which I considered work 'ready' for publication. Since that point I wanted to make sure that, if I sent something out, it would most likely get one acceptance, or at least some positive feedback. I've been wondering recently if I set that bar too high, since I have not felt that I have produced anything capable of publishing in nearly two years. Or perhaps I have set the bar right.

I set a goal a few years ago to publish me first novel before I turned thirty. I am twenty eight now, about to turn twenty-nine and it does not seem like this is going to happen. I have become very aware of the passage of time lately as well, and it seems like life is passing be very quickly. I originally started to write (and still do to some extent) as a way to mark the passage of time, so that I can look back at the months or years that have passed and see that I have left, at the very least, something. Like a misguided attempt at timelessness. It now feels like a race, the hopeless race against time to create something.

I feel like I am at a point of tension or a point of prolonged stasis. Something has to advance soon, or move or break. I'm not sure what it will be. I've been at this for five years and little seems to have happened. Though perhaps I have this framed all wrong. Maybe something like this can exist in stasis indefinitely, maybe through lack of talent or mediocrity something like this can exist in stasis forever.