“I write for myself and strangers. The strangers, dear Readers, are an afterthought.” – Gertrude Stein
“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.” – Cyril Connolly
“A man really writes for an audience of about ten persons. Of course if others like it, that is clear gain. But if those ten are satisfied, he is content.” – Alfred North Whitehead
A little more than 10 years ago, I signed up for the class. “Freelance Writing” was the name of the course. I was about 23 years old & was working in a factory. I registered for the course because of the buzzing in my ear that constantly nagged me, reminding me that I had never set out to work in a noisy, stinking factory.
Well…the buzzing could have been from the machinery in the factory, but either way, the message was the same.
I signed up for the class, I paid the fee. I did the work, I finished the course. I walked away with a piece of paper that said that I was now qualified to whore sell my work to this publication or that one.
Did it make me a better writer? No. Of course, there isn’t much to bitch about – it hardly made me a worse writer.
The only problem that I encountered was the fact that I didn’t much feel like spending my days working on submissions, query letters & rejections.
So, I got up the next morning & went to work.
Eventually, they fired me, which freed up some of my time & gave me the perfect opportunity to make use of everything that I had learned in my Freelance Writing class. Of course, that wouldn’t pay my bills – the things that I learned wouldn’t buy me cheeseburgers or cigarettes.
I finally stopped working in those shitty factories. The pages that I had written continued to stack up & I stopped thinking about how to whore sell my work to this publication or that one.
So, I went back to school. I took more classes. Philosophy. History. English. Psychology. Literature.
Did it make me a better writer? Hell if I know – but it sure didn’t make me any worse.
I had given it plenty of thought. Could I write with a deadline? Sure. Did I want to? Fuck no. Could I write what people told me to? Without a doubt. Was I willing to do that? Nope.
And the stack of written pages grew higher.
So I wrote what I wanted to. I’ve sent a few submissions to this publication & that one. I’ve received rejections on each & every short story that I’ve ever sent.
Am I insulted? No. Discouraged? Absolutely not. I simply don’t care enough about what other people think, whether they work for a magazine or a publishing company. If they don’t want to publish it, I just assume that something is wrong with them & I move on. I suppose that I’m just too arrogant & self-important to dick around with trivial shit like that. I’m ok with this.
There’s also the fact that spending all of that fucking time on sending in submissions, writing query letters & keeping all of that shit organized is like actual work – it drastically cuts into time spent writing, pooping & playing video games. I’ve got my priorities.
Here’s the thing: I write short literary fiction. These are the stories that either you like it, or you don’t. I won’t be bothered with writing things in such a way to please this person or that one. I also can’t be bothered to think of possible rewards, income or audience.
There is this awkward & skinny little kid – she writes stories about people on a yellow legal pad with a pencil that needs sharpening. She doesn’t think about how much money this story can make, or how many people will or won’t read it. She doesn’t care. She only knows that the story needs to be told – regardless of which classes she has or hasn’t taken, the story has to be told & she won’t be able to sleep until it is.
She looks at the stack of written pages. “What are you going to do with all of that?” she asks.
I look at the pile, the pile that chases me in my sleep. “Fuck all if I know. Probably nothing. No one wants to read any of these stories.”
“What difference does that make?” She laughs. “It only matters that you tell the story. Did you not know that?”
Sometimes the me that I was is smarter than the me that I am.
I’ve been going through the stack & I’ve been adding more to it. Over the past few years, I’ve created a decent mess of short fiction that I’ve got to clean up & more stories that need to be told. Lucky for me, the business of self-publishing has improved quite a bit over the past few years, so whoring appealing to this publisher or that one won’t be necessary. I can do whatever I want. Well, not that this is always a good thing, but still…you get the point.
Now, usually I prefer to keep my writing endeavors separate from this blog. I don’t consider “blogging” & “writing” to be the same thing (most of the time) & generally prefer to keep those worlds from colliding. I think I just needed to take a break from all of these characters that live in my head, needing to have a story told.
Now…I have this pencil that needs sharpening.