Sometimes I have a little extra time to write (like the night I am writing this – I’m sitting in what I’m sure is a storage container that’s been converted into a series of bedroom-like spaces, with no cell service and no Internet access) and I try to use that time effectively. I’ll write poetry, or fiction, or music, or, like tonight, rambling blog posts.
I just finished Redshirts by John Scalzi (narrated by Wil Wheaton), and it got me thinking again about my own fiction writing (if you haven’t read/listened to it yet, it’s worthy – four stars out of five, I’d say). I know writing Science Fiction is stupid difficult (you know, because you have to be accurate and stuff), and writing fantasy is pretty difficult (because you make up rules and have to stick to them and all of their ramifications). Those are the kinds of fiction I like to read, so my first ideas tend to be in those areas. I also like to read thriller/suspense/police procedural books, but having no real understanding of the details of life for characters in those stories I have so far shied away from those genres.
And so I got to thinking (as I have before): why do I want to write? List of possible reasons:
- I want to create something, so why not a story/book?
- I think I can do better (this is definitely true of some books I’ve read).
- I’m inspired by great writing.
- It’s fun to write.
- I want people to read something I write and be impressed.
My worry is regarding the last item: is that my primary reason? If it is, that certainly would compel me to seek an audience.
My motivation for this particular piece is pretty straightforward: I’m trying to make sense of my thinking and my motivations. This might never be published (if you’re reading this, then I suppose I decided to), and at the moment it’s just for me. We’ll see.
But what about a piece of short fiction? Am I writing that for myself, or for you? What am I trying to prove?
There is a lot, lot, LOT of fiction out there to read. No one can keep up with reading it all, so it’s not like the writing world needs my work; it’s already basically saturated. I’m more than likely just adding to the noise. I think it’s valuable to write stuff because I think writing is good for me. But is it valuable to publish my writing for others to read? Do I need an audience for the work to be meaningful?
I’ve heard/read many times that students prefer to blog for an audience, that when their blogs are globally accessible it’s a much more meaningful writing experience for them. That certainly makes sense to me on the surface, so perhaps I’m having a similar experience. Are my words worth more to the world than they are to just me?
I don’t journal. I have lots of little books to write in; other people would fill these with musings and thoughts throughout their days, or perhaps spend some time writing as an exercise or as catharsis in the evening. Mine remain mostly empty. I have filled the first few pages of several, having good intentions but poor follow-through. The blogging is going a little better, and I think it’s because of the automatic, eternal audience; not only those folks who will read these words shortly after I’ve written them, but also those who might stumble across them years from now. I’ve written and posted this text, and now it won’t die. That doesn’t make it valuable, by itself, but that does make it persistent.
I’m not a novelist. I think I could write a novel, maybe even a good one, given enough desire, but I’m probably not going to. It’s November, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and I once again have let it pass me by. I’ll write; I’ll write for the amorphous audience that is the Internet and I’ll write for myself. I don’t know whether I need the audience, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t hurt.