Down with the Ship: Writing on Writing

This process has been agonizing. I am now on the fourth rewrite of a work that's bloomed into 67,000 words worth of dread. The story is about a twenty-year-old trying to find something resembling solid ground, and not finding any. This is how I often felt at twenty, like a person without an aim who was really good at seeming as though I did. A lot of this book is real: real people, real events, real thoughts and feelings. Of course, there are plenty that are completely fictional.

I am now in year-six of writing fiction, and I've now been "published" for three of those. During this run, I've learned a lot about myself and very little about writing as a business. I still have no clue how to market my books properly, still don't know what it takes to get an agent, and still would rather sleep in a pit of snakes than physically speak to anyone about my writing. I'm comfortable here, behind the screen, and not out there where somebody may have the audacity to press me on something I said. Speaking never was, and never will be, my forte. Writing, on the other hand, brings me great joy, even in its dimmest regards. To finally be able to voice something that’s seemed more like a wordless feeling is the closest thing I know to undiluted freedom. I don't know how to build a house, but I know how to build a page, and that, for me, has always been sort of the same thing.

Possibly my second-greatest frustration with the world right now is the feeling of constantly being sold to, the first being my frequent desire to do the very same thing. It's easy for me to look at the sales tactics of writers and other artists and to consider how I too could trick somebody into buying my book. It all just seems manipulative and gross and I end up feeling down about having considered it. I grow weary by the day in a world of "click the link below" and "subscribe for more," and even more weary knowing that these are the only two ways for readers to read my work digitally. Each day I wake up with an attitude of "read or not, I don't care" and each night I go to sleep with one very different, one housed deep down in the ego, desperate for an attentive read and a discussion. I know that in this I'm not alone.

Literature, to me, is the science of throwing up. Authors take the grotesque stew inside them and try to spit it out in a way that looks pretty enough for somebody to say "I like how you said that." We are narcissists to the highest degree. Although I still consider myself rather new to the community, it hasn't taken me long to see what it's all about. The issue, it seems, with all this puking is that everyone is just puking away in the same room and begging everyone else to come look. Except nobody does. When this happens, there is no conversation, there is no truth, and what you get instead is just a gross, foul-smelling room. Everyone believes that they should be a star and in turn, nobody is.

And so, I've made the decision to just bear the yoke and try not to let it bury me. Most of the stuff you're going to read today off of the first table you see in the store is there because it's been designed to get you to buy it. I'm no genius in stating this. You know as well as I do where we live, the Land of Debris, a place where we'll produce for production's sake until we're eye-deep in waste. If you like this stuff, more power to you, it's everywhere and I'm sure you're satisfied. I no doubt indulge too. But I'm done trying to sway folks, I've learned that this battle is entirely internal and painful. What matters, I think, is what's left behind when history has had its say.


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