Here’s something that might be a surprise to people who read this blog (all four of you), and to people who follow me on social media. Contrary to all appearances, I write every single day.
Most of what I write is not meant to be seen by anybody, which is why you don’t find out about it. And it’s mostly unstructured: little snippets or ideas I feel like playing with, observations I want to record and remember, interesting perspectives from people with different worldview from mine.
Some of this goes into the journal I’ve erratically maintained for the last three years or so, but most of it lies strewn around in text documents in whatever note-taking app I’m using at the moment.*
* This has been nvALT for the last year, but Terpstra’s now stopping development and making something else called BitWriter.
For the last five years, since I quit trying to make a living off writing, I’ve been trying to figure out what writing is for. So I write whatever comes to mind and sounds interesting, mostly so I can look at it later and shake my head.
Drawing randomly from one of my documents:
Because sometimes you don’t want to kiss people just for mouth-water.
A man who has garbled tunnel syndrome. Passed through a tunnel once and lost his powers of coherent speech.
I have no idea what was going through my mind when I wrote either of those.
Sometimes people say funny things and I ask them if I can use them, such as:
“I’m not staying in a five-star hotel room and not having sex in it.”
“That you get along with us should not be a source of comfort.”
Vague story ideas:
Guy who doesn’t want to cheat on his partner, so creates a substitute activity that he does with other women instead of sex.
I might still do something with that one.
There are even a few lines which sound like story beginnings:
When I first heard that people were randomly falling up into the sky, my first thought was – would I get to see anything. Then, when I realised that all I’d see at best were panties for a few seconds before they disappeared, and that’s not a good enough reason to be happy about people dying.
I seem to remember that someone else wrote a story about people falling into the sky, so I probably won’t be doing anything with that.
I doesn’t trouble me that most of my writing goes nowhere. Not only am I not writing for publication, I’m not even writing to be read.
Every time I narrate an idea to a friend, I preface it with, “I don’t know if it’ll go anywhere.” Mostly they don’t, and that’s fine by me.
The most fun part of writing, to me, has always been coming up with an idea and playing with it, and I still do that to my heart’s content.
I don’t mean to make it sound like I can’t or don’t finish things. I’ve had a few short stories published over the last few years, I’ve written a few comic scripts, and there are some finished short stories in my writing folder which I might throw on the blog.
I’ve also taken a running start at a couple of graphic novels, and I’m currently a quarter of the way through a prose novel that has been steadily accumulating for the last many months. I’ve no idea what I’ll do with it if I finish it, but I’ll continue writing it while it entertains me.
The question is bigger. There’s no urgency to writing anymore, no hunger. So I can now look around and examine what I have to say through my writing, and so far, I’ve come up short.
I enjoy writing. I’ve liked writing the stories I’ve completed, and I’m reasonably proud of some of them. But mostly they’ve been attempts at learning how to write, or at looking at ideas from different angles, or at shaking ideas up to see what falls out.
None of these are bad reasons to be writing. I’m just not sure they’re good enough reasons for me to write. And now that I don’t plan to write to make money, I have the luxury to abandon ideas when they stop interesting me.
At the moment, that feels like a perfectly fine thing. But I wonder if, when I grow old, I’ll look back and regret not doing anything with these ideas while I had the energy.
What I like, though, is that I can think about writing itself, without everything else it came with. The struggle to get published, wondering if people liked what I wrote, trying to figure out how to make my writing less esoteric without compromising what attracted to it in the first place – I like that these are not factors anymore.
So at the very least, I know that I still love writing, that I’m not tired of it, and that I’ll continue doing it even when I don’t stand to gain anything from it. What to write, though, is still a big question.