Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘online writing’

man writing - gustave caillebot - 1885They say a writer should always write for the market, in other words write whatever’s selling. Who are “they”? Well, a lot of them are people who write self help books for writers on how to get published. “Study the market”, they say, then sit down and write stories to suit it. And if you’re a naive young writer, trying to narrow the odds of getting published, this appears to make sense. But in reality what’s popular at the moment may not be popular by the time you’ve worked out what it is, and written something similar. If you’re not careful you’ll spend your life chasing your tail, pursuing the mythical golden genre, which is, sadly, a genre you’ll never catch up with.

So, what about now? What’s currently trending? Well, I might have said tales of teen vampires and spankbuster stories. But I suspect I’m wrong because I was never any good at studying the market and, judging by the glut of said spankbuster novels I saw  in the charity shop this weekend, I suspect that genre may already be on the wane. Certainly by the time I wrote one they’d be as passée as sideburns and flared trousers. But, actually, I don’t want to write one, because in writing specifically what I feel someone else wants to read I would not be fulfilling the contract with myself as a writer, and I’d probably dry up after the first chapter. What writing is for me, is finding the button which, once clicked, the writing writes itself while I sit back and am entertained, intrigued, informed and healed by the words that appear under my fingers. This is not writing for the market, or with a view  to publishing. It’s writing for myself, and it’s the most satisfying kind of writing there is.

It is not the writer, but the unconscious imagination that delivers this miracle, and what it delivers may not always be popular, commercially lucrative, nor even intelligible to another human being. I write what I write, but if no one else is interested in it, that’s not sufficient reason for me to stop writing. We write best when we write what pours most naturally out of us, otherwise it’s like telling someone what we think they want to hear; it maintains the status quo, but it never moves things on. So, throw away that self help book; do not write for the market; write what you want to write; be a warrior-writer, an explorer of the unknown. This way the more fortunate of you will be the ones who hit upon the next big thing, discovering the new killer-genre that a generation of self-help hopefuls will try to copy.

And the publishers will suddenly love you.

Of course the majority of you who set off down this path, will never find a publisher, your genres will always be too obscure, and eventually your tales will wind up in the commercial wasteland of the online world where they will wander in perpetuity like lost souls. But again, that’s not sufficient reason to stop writing, especially since now you will find readers, unlike in the pre online days when you would not.

The imagination is an infinite resource, but not one to be mined as if for gold, more for that which wants to see the light of day. This is where the stories are born and where they grow. The writer sets them down, for himself first, then for others. But the imagination does not work in neat genre folders. It is what it is, and what comes out of it is as unique as the teller of the story.

In the psychology of Jung, there is a natural creative tension between the conscious mind and the unconscious. We do not know what lies in the unconscious, but throughout our lives its contents, which are hinted at in dreams and snatches of imagination, press for acceptance, to be assimilated into conscious awareness. Reluctance to deal with the unconscious results in mental illness and a seriously unbalanced life. On the other hand, directly courting its contents through the written word can give us the appearance of being mentally ill, when actually what we’re achieving is a better balance.

Some writers then, and I count myself among them, write primarily for themselves, as a means of self understanding and self healing. This might sound self indulgent, but there is a common bond between human beings, since we rise from the same collective psychical substrate, so what I have felt and suffered, there’s a good chance you have felt and suffered too. The writer therefore lights the path, so others might gain insight and comfort from the fact they are not the first to pass this way.

But now we’re getting deeper into the psychology of the written word, and it becomes apparent there are two kinds of story. There is the story that takes us out of ourselves, puts us in the skin of another person and presents an entertaining, though undemanding alternative experience of life. And then there’s the story that puts us in a skin which, though at first unfamiliar, we realise is essentially our own, and it casts us in a situation which, though it at first seems strange, even outrageous, we realise mirrors our own lives. These are the stories that make us look more closely at ourselves and how we live.

Most of they money’s in the first kind of story, and a writer might spend his whole life chasing it, spurred on by the desire to be known as a writer, to wear the tweed jacket and bow tie of the mythical bardic breed. There are many good writers who make the realm of genre fiction their own, and make a living at it, but many more who aspire to it and fail, to lie instead embittered and broken on the trail.

The second kind of story is a stony road – I suppose you might call it the literary path – the novel as an artform. I’m not saying there’s no money in literary novels, but it’s probably best to consider it from the outset void of remuneration unless you’re already in cahoots with a publisher and his marketing machine. Future generations may laud your genius, but for now its best to view yourself as just another self conscious, self indulgent loser. And that’s fine because those pursuing this path are less interested in the epithet of “writer”, less interested in a lucrative publishing deal, and more  in discovering what it means to be a human being.

Their stories may be strange and unsettling, or even unreadable, unless a literary critic tells us first they’re worth the eye popping agony of ploughing through them. But that they provided sufficient energy for their own creation, through the channel of a writer’s imagination, is justification enough for their existence and they will surely find readers in their own good time. In the mean time they may languish for decades on free to download websites, long after their author has passed away, but it doesn’t matter; the deed is done. It’s simply what writers do, and we should be grateful now for the catch all medium of the Internet for their preservation.

If you want to write, don’t write for the market – just write!

Read Full Post »