2015 taught me a lot about writing. My relationship with it, and therefore with myself, was rocky for much of the year. I spent a lot of time manufacturing work I wasn’t necessarily proud of simply for the sake of production. I made some online friends that I enjoyed (and still enjoy) connecting with, but no amount of social networking replaces the friendship that your art can provide you with. I think I had the wrong idea of what being a “writer” is.
Let’s face it. The modern writing culture is full of me, me, me. Personal essays. Self-promotion. Follower counts and scheduled tweets linking to posts that are available on the Internet for millions, but appreciated by few. You have to promote yourself online if you want to be truly read–even by one person. It is just the way of the world, but the unfortunate thing was that I got sucked into the tunnel of the somewhat egotistical “personal essay writer” identity and grammable photos of lattes on wooden tables in sunlight. All of the Instagrams and Tweets are true — in some ways, I am a stereotypical writer. I do like tea and cute cafes and vintage books, and I certainly do like to write about myself. But I wasn’t writing anything good during this time of trying to live “like a writer.” And the reason was because I was focusing on living the lifestyle of a cliche, and not living the lifestyle that nurtured the act. I was growing tired of writing all the time yet being proud of nothing that I published.
So I decided to do NaNoWriMo on the grounds that whatever I produced would not be for the goal of publication, and then my relationship with writing changed. I began to love the act again, and not the rush of a byline. I realized that it didn’t matter if I had 2 views or 200 on my latest post. The numbers had no effect on the words.
I realized that the work I love best is not the work I publish on this blog or other spaces on the web. The work I love best is the page with words I keep secret, scribbled in my journal as I lay half-asleep before night creeps in with dreams. The words that come to me inexplicably while I am driving or cooking or not paying attention to something important. I know I drive my family crazy when I sometimes appear not to be listening. Sometimes, I am just distracted. Other times, I really can’t explain where I have gone. But, finally, through the writing of the first draft of my novel, I have realized that those places I go are places I can ground, bring to earth, succumb to peace and logic if I just learn how to trap them. I finally caught my craziness, I think, and I feel less manic now.
Delving into the foggy, uncharted areas of my brain wasn’t as excruciating as I thought it might be. I think for years I have been afraid to go there, to be the kid that was kind of weird in elementary school. I always was that kid, into bright yellow overalls and not so into talking to strangers. But somewhere along the line, I grew up and became someone who wears the right clothes and knows how to walk into a room and mingle. A good life skill, that is for sure, but one that sort of stifled my quirkiness. I want my weirdness back, because I think any part of me that was talented flew with the conformation to society. I think the path to good work is by writing and not publishing immediately, or even at all. I will still publish, of course — I like money (ha!) and I also enjoy blogging. But Alexandra Write Now is about to become more of my diary and less of a formal blog. I think that is the best way for me to be proud of work I do, even if the work isn’t read by anyone else. The stuff I write for no one in my journals is better than anything that has ever had my name on it.
This space on the internet will become more of a platform for me to air my musings instead of writing stories that make sense. I might post on here once a week. Or three times, if I feel like I need to for the sake of the project I have going on behind the scenes. Either way, I’ve got no real plans to gain more followers or post a certain number of times here. I will just be posting when I feel like sharing — when I need to write it out.
I can’t really explain why I feel like this is the right choice for my writing career — it seems odd, doesn’t it? To put more focus on the work that will never see the light of day than the work that I publish on this blog and elsewhere. But the truth is that I am tired of the surface-level stories that can be read in 4 minutes and are as forgettable as the fog rising in the morning, burned off by something brighter mere hours later. I need to be fulfilled by the one thing that is capable of fulfilling me. I need to start practicing at being a good writer — and that means writing, not talking about writing.
I want to work on things that require more of me, more layers of depth and pain and confusion. I like staying up late attempting to understand characters that pulled from my heart first, then crawled to my brain to be born and then burst forth in dialogue I can honestly say I did not write. They did.
How creepy, right? To have all those beings inside of you. The experience of writing my novel makes me feel like I would be one of those shackled to the floor in an asylum in 18th century England, hearing a dozen voices all at once. My characters talk to me, too.
So I’m insane — but I sort of know I am insane. Does this make me less crazy?
Don’t answer that.
“A writer is a world trapped inside a person,” poet Victor Hugo said. I never understood that until I became obsessed with writing fantasy.
Starting January 1, I am going to open up the document that contains everything I spit out, reservation-free, during the month of November. I am going to dare to return to the terrifying place I do not understand, the place that haunts me and makes me feel like I have no place. The place that also brings me home.
And I am going to start killing my darlings.