As a kid, when people on TV would kiss, I’d scream, “eew, mushy moment,” and turn away. That’s how I feel when writers talk about Writing.
This is not new. It’s part of why I never wanted to take classes in creative writing. All the support and positivity. But it’s somehow worse on twitter.
All these memes. “The writer is a curious creature that turns coffee into stories.” “You don’t have to be crazy to be a writer, but it helps.” And a thousand variations on “I write because I have to,” and “I write because the stories demand release,” and “I write for the same reason I breathe, because otherwise I’d die.”
Okay. Maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s a compulsion, on par with putting the toilet seat down. Maybe you’re suicidal, and writing is one of the things, maybe the main thing, keeping you from opening the pill bottle. I know a guy who I guess is at least a little like that.
I have to guess, because he doesn’t go around on twitter posting cat memes about it. I suspect those memes are usually lies. Really, you’d stop breathing? You’d die? You just have to? Then why are you spending so much more time on twitter than makes sense for mere marketing? Why are you in the next tweet bemoaning how Netflix is keeping you from your keyboard?
You wanna talk about your feelings about writing? How fun it is, how “you” it is. Okay, you can do that, and I can grind my teeth about it. I’m fine talking about my feelings about my childhood, school, onesie bathing suits, cats, politics, and a thousand cultural features. But writing? If you don’t know what I mean, I don’t care, and if you do know what I mean, I still don’t care.
I’ve seen this a few times: “You either have to write or you shouldn’t be writing.” -Joss Whedon.
Fuck you, Joss. You don’t get to tell me to stop. I could stop. I’ve done it before for months at a time, and some of those were pretty solid months. But no, I’m not going to stop anymore, except I still do, every night, and too many days, I still write hardly anything, between work and school, and reading and thinking and walking the dog, the time gets lost, except for a few hurried moments scratching a fragment into a notebook.
Writing these blog posts are a distraction. But I read that I must market, must establish an “online presence,” though I’m not always totally clear on the ultimate purpose of that, of what my ultimate purpose is, I mean, except I feel bad about my stories having no company but me.
Folded up on my digital dashboard is a scene that wouldn’t go right. Everyone who reads the draft complains about the “thrallship scene.” It’s when two important characters first meet, and when I first wrote it, I didn’t understand them well enough. It’s going pretty well, but now I’m doing something that’s easier, if a whole lot less fun.
This, I mean. Screw you Joss, with your stupid name. I can write if I damn well want to.
I don’t know. Each to her own. It takes all sorts to make the world go round. Whatever floats your boat. The platitude of your preference. Think what you like, it’s fine with me–mostly. But I would rather people didn’t make these categorical statements about what writers are, because they tend to leave me out.
Something something, microaggression, something othering, something something.
Don’t tell me about how “writers” are. Tell me how you write. That’s a subject you know something about.
So then you tell me, tell twitter, perhaps, about how “you (the generic you, meaning everyone) can’t write if you haven’t lived.” “Don’t write unless you’ve been put through the wringer.”
Life hasn’t put me through the wringer. There are things that happened that weren’t good, and things I’ve done and failed to do, but overall, life has bent over for me. When I was a kid, I just thought “Wow, the world is really nice to me,” and took it as a personal favor, but now, of course, I’ve read about class and privilege.
I look at all these writers so eager to tell me about how they’re writers, and while there are surely the traumatized among them, the overarching impression I get is of privilege a lot like mine.
Oh sure, you’re probably a woman, and there were a few years when the family was a little poor, at least compared to the prosperity before and after, and you got made fun of a bit, and you were bad at the whole “friends” thing, or, at least, you thought so, and you’ve eaten some cup ramen, and you’ve had some heart ache, and some people, most of them elderly, have died, and from that you’ve constructed a personal narrative of having overcome adversity, of life having put you through the wringer, and the point of that is that your having been wrung out means you have wisdom to drip, you know shit, you have lived experiences, which, you imagine, means your writing is deep and powerful, regardless of whether, ya know, it’s any good. And somehow you’re oblivious to the horrifying and perverse elitism of all that.
When you say “You have to have been through some shit to really write,” you’re saying, “Those who haven’t been through some shit can’t really write, can’t tell stories that are worth hearing?
You’re a writer. I don’t know why I have to discuss the implications. Is there any imaginable dystopia more atavistically horrifying to you than a world where that’s true? One where having been cared for, having been loved, having experienced more kindness than cruelty, cuts us off from art and storytelling? Being treated humanely, dehumanizes? Because sub-human is what “not fit to write” means.
Ineligible to make art of tell stories.
So very casually we slip into the monstrosities our cultures provide us.
There are the people who have really been through the wringer. Their having come out of it seems a miracle. It certainly enables them to write things they otherwise couldn’t. I wonder if it makes them better writers.
But yes, I’m sorry, I was wrong, privileged or not, you have been traumatized, because we are delicate, easily traumatized things. Do even peaches bruise so easily? And it’s quite a natural process to convince oneself that whatever happened was for the best, that there was some payout, and it was worth it in the end, to “make me the person I am now.”
But what about the person you would’ve been then? Ah, nevermind, I’m not talking about that, I’m talking about how so many writers spend so much time justifying why they write. Why do they bother to justify it?
Why do I write? Because I expect myself to? Because it’s fun at times and satisfying at others? Because great writing days are great for my mood? Because I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 8, but I can’t maintain a real desire to do anything else for more than eight months? Why is that? Dude, I don’t give a shit why that is.
I think of incomplete stories without meaning to. Know what would happen if I didn’t try to complete them by typing them out? Nothing. That’s what not writing is. It’s nothing. That’s a lie. Writing takes time. Writing has opportunity cost. if I wasn’t spending this time on writing, I’d probably be following sports. Not writing is watching basketball.
If I didn’t write, I’d be curating my twitter feed instead of this annoying thing where I half-heartedly sacrifice it in an attempt to get followers. I wouldn’t be messing around on a blog. Yippee. I’d read more books.
I don’t get it, and that’s fine, I often don’t get things, but in this case, all these explanations of why seem to explain nothing at all, but simply create, out of nothing, new questions, to join the others.
That hashtag. #amwriting. I use it, because I don’t know what else to do. Other writers find me on it, I guess, and follow me, and I follow them back, and if they tweet too much, I mute them. They do the same. An incestuous closed network of people following each other so they’ll be followed, but no one actually walking in the other’s steps. A hundred million followers, but has even one ever once been led?
Content made not to be read but to appear to have been read. Like this. Like the bookshelf weighed down by fancy leather covered “classics” from Barnes and Noble, but they’ve never been read.
The twitter place is all mouths, no ears, but we’re not quite shouting into the void, because voids don’t echo back. I best bellow louder.
Various relatives ask me, “Still writing?” I used to respond, “Yeah?” The question mark, because it was a confusing question. For years, I didn’t get it. Finally it dawned on me that they were asking if I had given up writing. If I had stopped, and made some resolution to not start again. It was such a weird idea. I couldn’t imagine the thought process.
I understand it now, by an extension of basic principles. It’s simply that they’re supposing that there are other things that are more important to me, and I might have decided writing was getting in the way of those other things, so perhaps I’d kicked it, as a bad habit.
Maybe that’s what they were thinking. I’m not confident in my guesses about people.
Do you have things more important to you than writing? That’s cool if you do. Well rounded and stuff.
You want to talk about how writing is special? Ergo, how writers are special?
Sure, we’re special as snowflakes. Each one different from the rest, yet as a good, they’re homogeneous to the snowflake wholesaler. A undifferentiated mass of frozen white. Warm it and it melts.
I assume a lot of us dreamed of writing since we were kids. I did. That’s the only thing special about it. It’s something people dream of as kids. Writers, astronauts, athletes and firefighters. Quite a few housewives, and more insurance salesman than you might expect; children want to be their parents before they learn better. And guess what, I wrote as a kid, I still write now. I’m taller and I have a job. Those are the main differences.
I don’t make any money at writing. Some writers do, and that’s cool, money’s cool, I wish I had more of it. Having a readership sounds cool. Some people are professionals at it, meaning they don’t have to work at anything else, and that sounds truly wonderful, I’d like to not have to work at anything else.
Now it’s true, at 25 I’ve only finished two books, and I’m kind of ashamed of that, and if I had a writing group probably I would’ve finished more by now, but eew, mushy moment. We’re supposed to get like, affirmation and validation and support? Uggh. Right now, I’m lonely, isolated, and unaffirmed, and those groups threaten to steal that from me. Luckily, induction is voluntary.
I asked myself a question once. Jon, would you rather not write and live happily, or write unsuccessfully and live miserably? And I thought, option number two. Definitely that. I think there are actually other options, which is good, but if there aren’t, that’s okay.
So you! Tweeter of the “inspirational” writing tweets. Poster of the “commiserative” writing posts. I don’t get you. You can’t live without writing? What, will your lungs collapse if your fingers don’t tap the keyboard? Does it power some pump? What the fuck are you talking about?
I’m sorry. That was rude. I know I don’t know. I wouldn’t get it even if you explained it to me. Do what you want, but I reserve the right to say “eew, gross,” and maybe unfollow. And hey, guess what, I’ve just finished another blog post and it doesn’t even make sense.