I’ve been asking myself why I’ve been writing every week, several days a week for most of 2018, and not just writing, but being driven to get it out there on my blog site as soon as each piece is complete. Charmaine says I seem to stay on edge until I post, which I usually won’t do until she has read it and commented. I nag at her to read what I’ve just finished; and she’s right; it’s a sort of release, a completion of some process, when I hit ‘publish now’.
So why write? Because I have ever since I learned to read and write, in one form or another. I’ve usually enjoyed it, and now in retirement I have this chance to spend large chunks of time on just about anything I choose. I’ve always said to myself I would grab the opportunity to attempt well-crafted, meatier pieces of writing, and get into processes of feedback that would help me find out if I have what it takes to make work that people want to read.
And there’s the clue. I don’t just want to create good stuff; I want people to enjoy it. I have the urges of a performing writer, looking for applause, or at least for a reaction that isn’t too critical of my use of words and sentences. I guess people have been examining those motives in art-making forever, and debating what art means, if anything, until it has been viewed. I’m sure a therapist, or any keen observer could hone in on the life-long needs in me that this is all about, but it doesn’t feel important for me to know. Writing as well as I can, and wanting to see if people like reading what I produce, doesn’t sound too pathological, as long as that need for applause is somewhat under my control. I worked in arts education for a while, and I wouldn’t want to turn into the sort of self-absorbed, attention-craving, frequently anxious artists that fret their needy ways through a constant search for validation. So far at least, this exploration of writing doesn’t feel like that. (Charmaine has just suggested that it may be too late; I may already have strayed off the reservation. I guess only time will tell.)
A close friend of many years has said he is worried about me putting so much personal information in the blog. At least, not so far, but he thinks I might be about to reveal more than I should in public, because I’ve finished most of my work history. That’s not going to happen, and not because Trevor is concerned; I simply have no urge to go there. I’m not especially driven by the need for anyone to know about my life, beyond general interest. Just because I do want an audience, and the material so far is my life, doesn’t lead to that conclusion.
I started writing a partial memoir, not as a therapeutic exercise, but simply because I’m what I know best. I’m the topic I have to research least. It was the easiest way I could think of to get cracking. I’ve pushed and shoved and shuffled around most of what I think is worthy of potential readers’ interests in my life into some sort of first draft. I’ll go on with the tasks that people who know this stuff tell me to, and see if it has a future as a short memoir of about 60,000 words. (A memoirella?) But I think my next writing content and genre will take a sharp turn towards fiction. I’m done with my history, at least as far as autobiography goes.
My hunch is that this is when the hard work starts. Everything I read and hear about fiction tells me it is going to take a ton of trial and error to manage the basic conventions, while I try to find a distinctive voice with topics and settings that I haven’t even started to think about in any detail. I’m going to need a lot of help. I’ve just signed up for a one-week retreat in April, and I will start searching for groups for would-be writers that meet near where I live as soon as the Christmas holidays are over.
This probably means a very different relationship with blogging. Up till now, I’ve put most of what will form my memoir up on justwrittenonline.com as soon as it was written. If I set out to write a novel, posting something once a week or more would mean writing different material at the same time, unless I tried the Charles Dicken’s model of weekly instalments. That’s not likely, so I guess the next postings might be short pieces on the issues of the day, or something about recent travels to lovely places. So many opportunities for more writing!