Saying that you are a writer is a lot like calling yourself a musician or a painter: unless you have a body of work to refer to, your claims are nothing but stale air escaping your lips. The internet is a cesspool of would-be writers. It’s like tossing a dime in an L.A. restaurant; you’re lucky you don’t hit twelve waiters who call themselves actors. The internet is much the same. You could hardly click a link or view a profile without stumbling on a thick ground covering of hopeful authors and poets.
So, it is with the greatest of disdain that I add myself as another piece of refuse in an already reeking stack of rubbish. Don’t get me wrong, I wish nothing but the best for my fellow writers cum net-izens but you can only read so many white-text-on-black-background-emo-poetry or earnest coffee-shop tale-weaving before you question whether all this is just adding to a sort of white literary noise that is permeating our society. At least becoming a doctor or a lawyer has a test to qualify you. Any monkey with a keyboard can now churn out Aquitaining the Shrew or a Midsummer’s Night Disco. Legitimate up-and-coming writers just become absorbed in the noise and the anonymity of the rabble.
Just to clarify: I’m not a ‘legitimate up-and-coming writer’. I’m just a ponce with a blog right now.
But I’m a passionate ponce. Or at least passionate right now. I’m too old and know myself too well to not be just as critical, just as skeptical of my own nascent scribblings as I would be of EdWordSullen85 and his Facebook page of Twilight slash-fiction and angsty ramblings. So as an exercise in self-abuse, I’m going to dissect myself today. Well, in a literary sense at least…
So, why do I think I can/should be a writer? How do I reasonably expect to become successful at it when -as I just ranted- so many are (what can only be generously referred to as) hacks? And why on earth would I want to blog about it or expect others to want to read about it? Well, this blog is self-described as “…thoughts on the ecstasies and agonies of discovering the inner writer…”, so there’s that reason. I would say I didn’t make that shit up, but I did actually make that shit up.
I’ve been storytelling for the last twenty years in one form or another. No, not lying. In college, I initially majored in film-making before an instructor candidly advised me that I was a better script-writer than a cinematographer. So, I changed majors to JMC. But a JMC degree is like a Letters degree. You learn the craft of using words, but it doesn’t really teach you how to write. Obviously, that led to nothing in the end.
However, I also became involved in hosting role-playing games. Yes, snort derisively now please. But as the originator for these game sessions, I had to spend a lot of time creating the stories. Sure, I had (usually) a hearty framework to work within, but I still had to populate my tales with characters and locales and events of my own. Granted, my protagonists were living breathing people who brought their own personalities and goals into the game, so I wasn’t really crafting their characters in a direct fashion. However, I was able to mold them indirectly, which is part of character building at least.
It was helpful in a way because instead of a tale populated with a pack of Mary Sues, I had a collection of flawed, immature, human characters and that gives you a perspective you can’t always get when working with your own creations. While I was invested in my friends, I had no investment at all in their characters so I would not hesitate in the least to torture or test them. This is something writers are often less willing to do with their own darling creations. So it gave me a spectrum of personalities and their responses to stimuli that I could integrate into my own writing. A breadth of perspective which I could draw from.
After college, that pastime went away. However, in several different situations, I continued to exhibit a passion for words, often to the frustration of my peers. I’d craft multi-page debates and rebuttals, which showed not only what an insufferable and opinionated egotist I was, but also -coincidentally- a often applauded zeal for words. They found my rant frustrating, but they conceded that I ‘knew how to write’.
It’s true, I love to write. Even now I’m on the verge of going on and on and on in this blog. Some of that is in the interest of expressing my point, but some of it is just because I like writing. Even better, I currently have absolutely no one reading this blog. Granted it’s new, but I’m essentailly writing this purely for myself, not in the expectation of being read by fans or critics. This blog is essentially a big diary at this point.
The biggest reason for me however are my notebooks. Two tiny, chewed, ripped, and otherwise broken tomes which are chuck full of almost two decades of ideas. Before I was on the internet or even had a computer, I had these notebooks. The pencil marks are smudged, the pages ripped and creased, the Post-Its cracking and faded. But they are a portal back in time to a point when I dreamed more vividly, when I felt more deeply, when I believed -of all things- in myself. Sometime during my adult life, I’d lost all of that.
A year and a half ago, I fled my home and a catastrophically failing life. I left thousands of dollars of music and literature, of furniture and keepsakes. All I chose to save were my computer, my dogs, some movies and clothes… and those two books. Something compelled me to dig through stacked boxes, stored in dusty closets in the vain attempt to find them. Why?
Because something inside me recognized them for what they were. They were my soul in a bottle. They were the last vestige of the person I had believed myself to be when I was just entering my twenties, full of hope, divinely blind to reality. But that’s what it takes to become something new, something more than what you are, more than what anyone assumes you can be, more than reality often allows you to be. Or to be fair, what you allow your own self to become.
So, I open my soul in a bottle and hopefully I’ll be free again.