Post 200. It’s definitely a milestone. In my previous post, I talked about my ability to court obsession only to become bored or lose patience when I don’t measure up to my own (impossible) standards. Over the years, I almost talked myself into quitting this blog more times than I can count, but something kept me going, if only to post every couple of weeks. Something besides the forays in photography and French cooking. I started the blog as a writing portfolio to show magazine editors but it’s not why I have sustained it. The voice this process gives me is the root of why I’m still here.
I have two degrees in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. The Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing has produced many talents over the years. Many of its’ alumni have gone on to publish books to critical acclaim. Some are making a living from publishing their scripts and novels and from teaching their craft. I’m not one of them.
For ten years after I graduated from my first degree I worked as a makeup artist. After I got my Master’s, I spent seven years teaching advanced academic and Business English. My downtime was spent writing short stories. I also got up at 5:30 in the morning and worked on my novel, which is still unfinished–350 pages and no plot. In the twelve years since I obtained my graduate degree I was a finalist in a fiction contest at a highly regarded literary magazine and published in another highly forgettable one.
To be fair to myself, I don’t always write consistently, and I don’t send my work out into the world as much as I could. But thirty years of trying to become a fiction writer without success has taken a toll on my psyche and I’ve had to take a step back. To stop reaching for the brass ring of publication and just write for the sake of writing. Write anything, like this blog.
Back in the late Eighties when I began studying for my undergraduate degree we didn’t even have a photocopier in our department. To copy our submissions for class critique we had to make transparencies on a banda machine, a horrible contraption also known as a spirit duplicator, which started falling into disuse in the Seventies. During this time I worked as an office assistant at a publishing company that had fax machine, which to me seemed like the most amazing technological device ever. I also borrowed two thousand dollars from the bank to buy a personal computer–a 286 which I used for word processing until 1999, the year I got on the Internet. It’s laughable now, but two thousand bucks for a nineteen year old student who often juggled two jobs in addition to a full-time course load was serious business. I know some writers today still don’t own a computer, preferring to write by hand or clunk away on that ancient machine known as a typewriter but technology has always played a crucial role in my writing life.
A couple of weeks ago I was asked if I would have preferred to have lived in another era. I had to give it some thought. I’ve always loved history and it’s the glue that holds my loved affair with literature and art together. But my answer was that I prefer to live my life now, in a large part, quite pathetically perhaps, because of the Internet.
To a writer, the World Wide Web is an amazing thing. In a snap of your fingers you can discover that June third in 1866 was a Sunday. You do not need a hard copy of the New York Public Library Desk reference to locate the time in China because you can find that information online. And you can write whatever you want, whenever you want, publish it with a click of your mouse and have it read by thousands of people within minutes.
This opportunity did not exist during the years I spent studying my craft in university and the bulk of the years I spent mailing my stories to literary magazines who would hang onto my work for six months before mailing back a photocopied rejection letter–if they mailed me back anything at all. A writer had to struggle to get heard, fight for for the slightest bit of attention. I would argue that writers who don’t have an online presence still do, but those of us who use blogging as a platform to share our work have an audience, however small or fickle it may be. You can write about your cat called Sparkles or the corn on your toe you have nicknamed Joan Crawford and someone, somewhere will read you and enjoy you. Such is the democracy of the Internet.
I have heard some writers say, “I write for myself”. These are writers who claim not to strive for publication. Other than journal writers, I don’t see how this can be true of anyone who desires to be a writer in the true sense of the word. In my opinion, writers write because they want to serve in the way they best know how. But this requires a recipient in order to receive that service–an audience. Why speak if there is no one to hear you?
So I’m here to find a way to keep a writing practice, to keep going in a way that seems sustainable to me. And one day later probably than sooner, I know I’ll finish that novel.