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.