A writer’s circle can be quite critical to his or her success. Personally, I feel that writers, as well as all artists, need a nurturing environment in which to hone their craft and to develop theirartistic voice. A large part of that involves surrounding yourself with the right people.
(Oh, by the way, the voice in my head is reading (writing?) this with a sense of whimsy, almost a devil-may-care attitude. I suggest you read along with me in like fashion, just for optimal kicks. Of course, feel free to interpret my words in any way you please.)
In my own personal life, it’s a little difficult in terms of being accepted as a writer. My parents are not exactly encouraging on this matter. A writer doesn’t exactly make much (if any) money, that is until he turns into a New York Times best seller. A writer is seen as unproductive and sometimes even lazy. As most people see it, who wouldn’t want to sit at home in front of a computer, dreaming up stories all day?
Not many of my friends seem interested in my writing. Nobody’s asked me what my novel is about. The strange thing is that strangers ask me about my novel more than the people who I supposedly am close with.Family members aren’t exactly interested either, even though they’re supposed to be the ones you can rely on for support. I gave my aunt my completed screenplay to read (it was the first one I had ever written) and she never brought it up again. I am still afraid of asking her about it, or even to ask for it back. Luckily that wasn’t my only copy.By and large, it was my old English professor (whom I shall call VB) who was incredibly supportive. She believes in me so much, far more than anybody I have ever met. Old teachers, family, friends, nobody ever took enough interest in me or my talents to commend me or to encourage me to pursue my talent. VB instilled in me a sense of confidence and possibility. For that, I will never forget her. Of course, I do still intend to keep touch with her. She is, after all, one of the few people who ever believed in me.
I think that one should seek out those whose worlds say yes. And when one finds such people, one should hold on to them fiercely. It’s hard to find someone supportive and encouraging who at the same time understands precisely the hardships you face in your given endeavor.
Writers, being creative folk, each have their own individual processes. Mine has clarified with time. For me, I wake up and grind some fresh Brazilian coffee and put it on to boil. Then I make some toast. By the time the water has boiled and I’ve added it to the coffee grounds in my Bodum press pot, my toast is ready to be buttered and slathered with Smuckers red raspberry preserves (you know, the one with the red and white picnic table checkers). Not jam or jelly. Preserves. I watch a quick television show while I eat my breakfast, finishing only half a huge mug of my coffee (into which I’ve put precisely six spoons of sugar, three per cup). Sometimes I read a magazine article, but I never read the news (when I’m in my writing mode, I live in a cave).
And then, when I’m done eating, I start writing. I might take a peek at what I’ve been up to since the last time I wrote (sometimes I take a break because I just can’t get those juices flowing), but most of the time I can remember and I just start banging away at that keyboard. I stew in the minds of my characters, mull over conversation choices, think of stylistic ways to word sentences in order to keep from becoming boring, and lots more. In short, I just write.
The problem is that most people just see you sitting around doing nothing. The art of writing isn’t respected, at least not by most of the folks I’m around. I’m a little beyond the age of the average undergrad, but I’m still taking my classes. People see me as biding my time when I’m really trying to work. Just because I don’t yet have a piece of faux parchment with gothic lettering that somehow entitles me toget a “real job” (becausesomehow people who didn’t spend lots of money on an education are somehow not qualified to get a “real job”) doesn’t mean I’m not working on something. Don’t you see I’m trying to create something here? That’s a task far more complex and difficult than most any tasks you’d perform as a “real job”.
Sometimes, when people ask me what I’m up to (mostly nosey and judgmental family members), I don’t bother telling them I’m writing. I get so excited about my idea for a short story, about the themes that would resonate with modern urban society, about the importance of touching each other and physical proximity, about the latest bit of writing I’ve done, so I tell them all about it. And then I just get those staring nods that say, “Uh-huh, I hear you buddy, you keep doing that. I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about, but just keep on doing what you’re doing.” Nowadays, I just tell them I’m still taking classes. This tactic still yields chastising lectures about how I need to hurry up and graduate (still better than those blank stares, I say). What’s the rush, I ask them. The point of an education is not to get a diploma but to become learned, I posit. They can’t really figure out why I’m wrong because I’m not, so they just quietly agree, secretly disagreeing. Then they wait a couple of months to a half a year before they bring it up again, just for kicks.
Then you’ve got your friends who don’t really understand your writing process. For me, I’ve got to live in a cave. I can’t get distracted, and I don’t really want to go out and talk to anyone. I just need to hunker down and get those chapters written while I’ve got those juices flowing. Ya dig? No, ya don’t dig. Oh well. They think I’m ignoring them or something, but it’s just “the process”. Why can’t you understand that? I’m glad at least one of my friends understands that. Then again, maybe it’s just that she feels it’s all for the better since she’s going through some things of her own.
Finally, you’ve got the jealous folks, the ones who are afraid you’ll make it big. I guess it’s a compliment really, because they see that you’ve got what it takes to become a success. They’ll just try to shit on you or rain on your parade. You’ll finish a chapter and maybe they’ll act interested, but all they’re really looking for is a way to take you down a peg. Creative work is never perfect, and it takes a lot more skill and effort to create something than it is to tear it down. It takes months and years to build a skyscraper, but only a few seconds to blow it up.
A writer’s life is complicated and difficult. Whether it’s bills, friends, family, or the landlord, there’s always something that’s trying to screw with you and your state of flow. Lots of people think lowly of us creative types. Few understand us. That’s why my dedication page will be devoted to VB, the only person who believed in me and saw my potential as a writer. She’s part of the reason I keep working on my novel day in and day out. It’s her I want to make proud, to prove to her that she was right about me. It’s not my mother or my father, not a friend or a lover. Part of it is my hubris, a way to thumb my nose at those who lacked the vision and foresight to see my success.
If any of this sounds arrogant, it’s because of two reasons. For one, I need it. If I don’t believe in myself, nobody else will. And secondly, perception is reality. If I think I’ll be a great literary success, then that’s what’ll happen. If that’s what I envision, then there can only be one outcome. Pushing myself to reach for greatness is the way to avoid mediocrity. But I should be careful not to become a perfectionist either, lest I end up never having published anything.
Here’s to all you writers out there (and painters, musicians, and countless other creative types) who have to schlep through all the bullshit to see their vision become reality. I hear you buddy, just keep on keeping on.