Why do I do this to myself?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to write. Or read. That’s all I’ve wanted to do. I even told my second grade teacher I wanted to be ‘a poet’ when she was asking all the kids what they wanted to do when they ‘grew up’. I like to think I never grew up, and as sad as it is to say it, I never became a poet (though a lot of people would be happy about that if they had seen how bad my poetry actually was – somewhere between Vogon poetry and Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings). Instead in my own Peter Pan like way I became a writer. I write short stories, books, copy, articles. Whatever I can. Why do I do this to myself?
A lot of people over the years have asked me why this happened, why I became a writer, and I always answer that I have a compulsion to write, like sneezing when you have a cold or getting drunk when you drink alcohol. It just happens. I just do it. Invariably they then ask me if I have written any books, and been published. Yes, and Yes I say, but without much success. Then we move onto other topics lest they get caught in my melancholy realisation that I have chosen the world’s most annoyingly frustrating creative professions to try and be successful in. Oh, perhaps years ago it wasn’t so ridiculous to try and make a living out of scrabbling words down on a page. There were less people on the planet back then, no Internet and people seemed to have more respect for those who chose to craft a story. However, in this 24-hour news cycle and immediate gratification culture, the writer must feel as though they have less relevance. In short, it feels like we’re pushing diarrhoea up hill.
So what’s the writing terrain like out there? A quick stroll through twitter will revel endless authors pushing their wares, the iTunes library is full of badly designed self-publishing efforts (oh how the anally retentive side of me longs to re-design those books!) and Amazon is a veritable pantheon of publications. I am neither better than all of these, nor worse, but comparatively this is my competition as I try to get noticed, try to sell my words (and perhaps a little of my soul) to you, dearest reader. Wonderful audience. Loveable bane of my existence. You see, writing a book takes weeks (if you’re lucky), months (not so lucky) and even years (probably more realistic) to write. It burns up your heart and spits out your brain. It’s also quite different from releasing a song, or creating imagery, where the effect on your audience is more immediate and sensory. Writing is a long and arduous process that is not often rewarding. Yet you can’t stop. You love it with all your heart. You long to create the perfect characters, with the perfect story, and then once you’re ready to share that work with the world you want the perfect cover to lure them in, a wondrous blurb to get them to open the pages, a brilliant first few pages to get them hooked on your story, and then if you are the luckiest of fools, someone will purchase and read your book. It’s this longing for perfection that drives you mad, and you have to realise sooner or later that no story is ever going to be flawless. Yet as soon as you accept that, then the madness does tend to subside. A bit. And you keep going. Keep writing, keep creating, keep hoping. We’re all a little bit nuts though aren’t we?