My Writing Debate: For me or for publication
December 12, 2013 § Leave a comment
This might be kind of like a manifesto (the first of many, I’m sure).
I have always stretched myself thin. In high school I juggled everything: band (wind ensemble, jazz, marching, and pep), sports (soccer and track), drama club, student council, honor society, music honor society, tutoring, a part-time job, and my school work. College was even worse, adding on three more part-time jobs, a 100% full course load, and a ton of extra curriculars (working on friends’ film sets, writing for campus publications, running writing groups, etc). It hurt me then, dividing my attention and diluting my work. Be involved, sure! But maybe not to the point of nervous break downs and anxiety attacks.
I’m much less busy these days, which upsets me. In a positive light, I’d like to be more involved in community activities, maybe explore some new hobbies (I’m getting really into baking and knitting, at least), and just enrich my life more outside of work. But this is also extending to my writing. I feel like need to write everything and be everywhere. It’s splitting me in all different directions and causing some serious confusion. That’s the negative.
My writing spans multiple media. I write journalistic pieces, blogs, scripts, business documents, essays, and prose. I have the technical ability to write all of them, but if I continue to focus on each I’ll never master any. So a frustrating battle has started to rage inside of me: do I try to get more work published and truly attempt a life as a freelancer (which is nearly impossible today)? Or should I leave that behind and devote all my time to fiction? It’s difficult to suppress my overachiever personality.
I have also always loved getting my work out there and posting articles I’d written to Facebook to prove to people that I was relevant and, in fact, a writer. But in order to commit to a life of self-affirmation via Facebook, you have to leave everything else behind and become a monster. Sounds tiring.
But there’s more to this…
I see people who have no formal writing training publish their garbage listicles and profiles about being a “’90s Kid” or “How to Drink Like a College Kid in Your 30s!!!!,” and I get furious at the amount of likes, shares and comments they receive. These people are writing pointless dreck that many others have already written about. I’ve seen self-proclaimed articles about the decline of Facebook popping up for two years now. How is this so popular??
When I see these things, I think, I do better work than that, and I’m going to prove it by saturating the world with my own trendy articles that I’ll pump out ad nauseam! But that’s exhausting, and I don’t really care about the work. Yet, I can’t let these people upstage me! At least that’s what I thought.
I also thought for a while that I wanted to be a reviewer. After all, I went to film school and am completely obsessed with television, books and music. My reviews and profiles were getting published in a lot of places (barely getting paid for them, of course), but it started to take up too much of my time and effort, only to have some elitist jerk shit on my Top Ten of the Year lists and argue with me about whether Almost Human is good or not.
Arguing arbitrarily about work that is not my own isn’t what I want to be doing. Nor do I want to judge someone’s work when they’re heart and soul went into it. In my mind it started to feel like those who can’t do review, and I hadn’t given up on my dreams of creating my own work. So I stopped writing reviews for other websites, at least I stopped seeking them out. I still write for friends when asked and enjoy it in moderation, and I started blogging about TV on my blog, Pillow Talk TV. But I soon found myself stressing over how often I posted and what I said about each show.
None of this is getting me anywhere. It’s actually driving me backwards, sucking up time I could be devoting to exercising with writing prompts and improving my notoriously bad grammar usage. I could be doing character studies and working more on my scripts and novel ideas. I could be reading and meeting other writers! Maybe I could marry the two worlds by getting a short story published, but not if I’m concerned about submitting bogus articles to sites like Buzzfeed and Thought Catalogue just to feel “involved.”
I was bitching about this to my friend last night and told her I didn’t know what to do, or what was more important. She said, “I think you know.” And I guess I do, but I have some personal hurdles to conquer. I have to let go of my need to be recognized, because what I’m doing a) doesn’t get me the kind of recognition I want and b) doesn’t get me all that much recognition to begin with. Quality is not measured by going viral, but it’s hard to remind myself that when yet another horrid article leeching off of beat-to-the-ground material hits the front page of the Huffington Post. When those things cause anxiety attacks, I need to reaffirm myself with positive adages. That’s difficult when you’re naturally a negative person with fatalistic thinking.
I recently printed off almost every piece I’ve had published (reviews, essays, journalistic pieces — stuff I’m proud of), for portfolio purposes. I skipped a few particularly bad ones, leaving them in their data tombs, and I unfortunately have lost some of my print pieces, but even then the stack of paper was pretty much the size of a book. I’ve already had a shit load of stuff published. I’m out there. So why the hell do I feel like I still have anything to prove?
So now I’m going to focus on the kind of writing I want to do, with my super lofty goals of a book deal or a script sale dangling in front of me. Maybe that will never happen, but if I’m so concerned with the instant gratification of writing a piece of shit listicle about what sexting app is best, or whatever, then it will definitely never happen. I need to ignore all the likes and shares those things are getting, and just remind myself that there were roughly 500 typos in that piece alone. I might have bad grammar, but at least I read my shit through more than once.
I’ll still write in my blogs, but probably much less and much differently. I’ll probably start writing short stories, or character profiles, or more fun personal essays about my life. My thinking is now on the long race. I just need to be ok with disconnecting. However, The Hitchcock Haul shall continue!
The point is, I scatter my shit too much, and it’s time to zone in. If anyone else has the same problem, know that it’s ok to let things go. You don’t have to do it all. People aren’t better than you because they create more stuff or do more activities if what they’re producing is terrible. Don’t compete in a game you don’t care about just to prove a point. Once you shed that dead weight you’ll be able to improve at what you really want to do.
I’d like to end with a couple quotes that illustrate some of my general frustrations:
“People do not deserve to have good writing, they are so pleased with bad.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” – Neil Gaiman