Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I'm not like other writers. I'm exactly like other writers.

I'm reading MFA vs. NYC right now. It's an interesting read, though not what I thought it would be. Truth be told, I don't know what I thought it would be. Vindication that I had not gone for an MFA? Some kind of cosmic "It's all right you didn't get an English degree, you'll manage publication anyway?" Nobody but me made me get that Psychology degree. Arguably, I would've gotten better grades and been happier without it.

These answers are out of left field, I know. The book is essays on, you guessed it, NYC experiences and MFA experiences. New York City, because arguably that's where the hub of publishing has been for a good long time.

picture from Wikimedia Commons, of the "Metropolitan Tower, the Russian Tea Room, and Carnegie Hall Tower looking south from Central Park"

 It's interesting to me, to read what other writers say about their craft, about publication, about the culture. But I have a hard time connecting with other writers. I don't even mean by merit of geography, necessarily; there are writers in my town, I know it.

I guess it's hard for me to connect with other people in general, but writers especially. I connect better with other dog owners than writers. Distance fosters distance I guess. I know few writers, ergo, it's harder for me to know more writers. But that's not all it.

Something makes me think it's the potential pathos of it. Other writers experience things I do not. They talk about out of control characters. They talk about the terror of the blank page. They talk about writer's block. They talk about how what they've done is crap (and this particular trope is one that made me physically wince during the second season of House of Cards [US version], wherein one of the newspaper people says something along the lines of "Well, I'm writing a novel. It's complete garbage, of course...." and they both nod like "yes, of course.") I am not immune to these things, necessarily. But I don't buy them wholesale either.

Sure, the blank page can be....intimidating? But what's scarier sometimes is leaving it blank.

My characters? I can't really say "oh, those imps, they don't do what I want!" They come from me. If they don't "do what I want", it's because my self conscious, during sleep or my stewing period or what have you, is working out that what I think I want out of my characters doesn't make sense, and frequently my brain offers me another option.

Is my writing crap? Well, I'm brave enough (or stupid enough) to post essentially first-draft flash fiction here and on other blogs for contest purposes. Or just writing prompt purposes. Sure, there's that "it's a first draft" disclaimer, I'm covering my ass....because I do believe in the process of Shitty First Drafts (Thanks, Anne Lamott!) Sometimes you just need to cover the page and smear it around. Make a mess first, round the sharp edges and blend everything into place when you return to it. Raw material turns into a finished product. It's peoples' criticism of a work that makes it crap. It's foreign interaction with what was fragile and maybe "pretty good" until it was left to open air. And it's a necessary step.

Criticism is necessary. You need to prune in order to grow better. You need those harsh rays of other people's eyes and brains in order to flourish. You need them to bring the weight of their experience to what you're trying to say, in order to make sure it translates from your experience (or in order to make sure you faked it well enough). But are writers inherently critical? I think we're encouraged to be. We're critical of ourselves, to make sure we're "good enough". We're critical of others, when we think we're better. When we wish we were as good.

It's hard to meet other writers. It's hard to put your work out there. Hard like walking out of the house in just your underwear hard. Hard like holding hands with a stranger.


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  2. I don't connect with a lot of writers either. I think there's a lot of writers that don't connect with each other. haha...But I don't think you need to connect with other writers to be a good writer. Ya know? Anyway, I've enjoyed your post and can relate.

    (sorry i hada typo in the other one)

    1. Yeah, I get what you mean! It always seems like it would be nice to know other writers, even virtually, but perhaps it won't shoot one in the foot. Or something. Thanks for reading!