Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Right Stuff

"Very few people who are supposedly interested in writing are interested in writing well. They are interested in publishing something… They are interested in being a writer, not writing… If this is what you are interested in, I am not going to be much use to you. I feel that the external habits of the writer will be guided by his common sense or his lack of it and by his personal circumstances; and that these will seldom be alike in two cases. What interests the serious writer is not external habits but what Maritain calls, “the habit of art”; and he explains that “habit” in this sense means a certain quality or virtue of the mind. "-- Flannery O'Connor

In my very first post I said that part of the reason I started this blog was because all my life, every time someone asked me what I wanted to "do" with my life, I would usually say that I wanted to be a writer. But, aside from a self published newspaper when I was about seven or eight and a couple of short stories in middle and high school, I've never written anything.

In college I was an English major and so of course I wrote lots of papers. I got some really good grades and one teacher that I really respected gave me a lot of positive feedback. She also told me that I was an excellent researcher.

And of course now I write pretty much on a daily basis. Mostly letters, but I do also write and edit our newsletter that comes out twice a year.

And I have this blog.

BUT, I have this feeling sometimes, that there's a story down inside me that's waiting to be told. The kicker is, I don't know what it is. I have some characters in mind. I have only the vaguest of plots with no real ending. I once got about ten pages down on paper, but in an act of electronic stupidity I can barely even think about without wanting to puke, I lost that ten pages. I could probably recreate it, but I was really happy with those ten pages and I'm not sure I could ever duplicate it.

I've been reading the blogs of some people who are writing novels, or short stories: Angie at All Adither. Susan at One Woman Show. Jen(?) at Get in the Car!. Joshilyn Jackson over at Faster than Kudzu. They all talk about how much work they put into their writing. They talking about writing query letters. About rejection letters. They talk about how hard it is. Compare it to giving birth.

They obviously want it. Do I? Really?

What's holding me back? Is it laziness? Is it fear? Is it the fear of rejection that keeps me from even getting started? Maybe a little. Which is surprising, even to me, because I'm definitely a "it's better to have loved than lost than to have never loved at all" kind of girl. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, you know? And as Flannery so astutely noted at the top of the page, do I want to be a writer? Or do I just want to be published?

I thought that blogging might spur my creativity. And it does. For blogging. And right now I love blogging. I feel pretty certain that if I start to write any other type of material that my blog will suffer. And I'm not ready to give up my blog yet. Or is this just another excuse?

I don't know. And I'm not expecting an answer, though you are wise, oh internets. Just using you as a sounding board. Thank you for letting me bend your ear.

Updated to add: After reading AndreAnna's comment I wanted to make sure that it was clear that I view blog writing as "real" writing (not that you were implying I don't, AndreAnna, just wanted to clarify). Some of the best writing I've read has been in a blog. And it is often blogs that inspire me to better my own writing, making me think "Man, I wish I had written THAT!"


AndreAnna said...

I don't think they have to be mutually exclusive.

I think blogging is a form of writing, and whereas it may not be THE writing you are looking for inside of you, it might be a catalyst, or simply a tandem to what is.

Maybe you don't have to give up one aspect of your writing to focus on the other.

There's a story in me too. I just know I am not ready to write it. So, I blog in the interim. To keep me writing - even if it is just a "blog" - to force pen to paper every day or so. It is my "practice."

Colleen said...

I really enjoy your blog a and a few others out there kinda inspired me to try my hand at writing. And your blog is sort of a're being published...lots of people are reading. :) Of course, if you ever wrote a book (you could write one about your travels!), I'd definitely buy it and read it.

Karen said...

I think the most important thing is to enjoy what you're doing.

I have a dream of being published someday, but it's becoming smaller and smaller. I have the plot and characters all written down; I did that when I was a teen. I've kept it all these years and when I look at it I'm impressed. But I fear I can't do it justice and have never started the actual writing.

All Adither said...

Maybe you could start with some flash fiction. 500 or so words. Write them, edit them, hone them. Then, if you want, research literary journals that accept flash fiction (we know you're a good researcher) and send them out. Some journals are now accepting online submissions, which makes submitting almost as easy as ordering books from Amazon.

P.S. Thanks for the link!


1blueshi1 said...

I know how you feel. Except I don't even have the vaguest of concepts for what I'd like to write in a book. Lately I have thought of rereading my blog and seeing if I could pull some type of plot out of it since all of my main characters have been based on myself anyway, but I think my blog is too formless and real-life-based to offer much fodder. Oh well.
I do wish you the best of luck in getting the words down.

Susan at One-Woman Show said...

I agree with all the other commenters here. You ARE writing every day or almost every day, and that alone is hard to do, as we all know. I'd also agree with All Adither -- if you want to expand your writing, start with something small. If not flash fiction, try submitting a slice of life type of essay to Chicken Soup or the newspaper, even just to try it. I know those are the types of stories closest to me right now and easiest to get on paper.

And, while I'm proud of myself for what I'm managed to do so far, I also have chastised myself repeatedly it took me almost 3 years to get it in any shape worth showing. (And my last round of edits were handwritten, so now I have to type them in - oy vey!) Unfortunately it is time-consuming and draining, which I guess is good I didn't quite realize all that when I started. But I'm on my own at the moment, so I perhaps don't have as many family pressures or social commitments as others.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: do what you enjoy and try a new, manageable project or 2 to get your feet wet. All your readers her know you are a "success" and a "writer" regardless of whether you write anything else!

Lauren said...

I really enjoy reading your blog everyday (you're such a consistent blogger..nice to have something to count on everyday!) and Im sure that all this writing will eventually get you going in the direction you want to go-

MacKenzie said...

I love that you quoted my girl Flannery!

Laurel said...

Are you the other half of my brain that I've been looking for because I feel the same way. I can not seem to force myself to actually write beyond the blog, but I do feel like I'm practicing, at least once in a while.

For me, I think it is two things. It's hard with no deadline. And two, I'm afraid of not being good enough, although that second one is disappearing. I think I may be getting ready. We'll see.

Amanda said...

You wrote: "And it is often blogs that inspire me to better my own writing, making me think 'Man, I wish I had written THAT!'"

I say that almost daily. I've wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl but it's always been a "someday" kind of thing. I always think, "If I'm not going to write it (book) PERFECTLY then why bother?" Which I know is the completely wrong attitude but I can't seem to get past it. For now, I'm putting it off until the kids are old enough and I can have more than 2 minutes of undisturbed time.

You may consider your book to be a collection of essays about your daily life. David Sedaris writes like this in "Me Talk Pretty Someday" and it's one of my favorite reads.