Okay– sort of a weird couple of days. I’ve been writing along, waiting from word from my first two beta readers and searching for reasons why I write.
I mean I KNOW why I write. The voices in my head won’t leave me alone–I might as well do something productive with them. I just mean… why? Why do I keep writing the shit I want to? In spite of my hopes, odds are good that it really won’t get picked up by a larger publisher (because they’re dumbshit asshole fuckheads with no sense of business or taste, but that’s another post) and I think the people who know me and love me would forgive me for not finishing the series–especially when I think I could actually make money and write professionally for some of the e-pubs I’ve made contact with. I know another self-published author who is kicking ass on amazon.com because she’s written to formula (unlike myself) and I’m sure she’ll be snapped up in a minute while I’m still pimping my bizarre combination of sensibilities and techniques to whoever will listen. I could make money if I did what everyone else is doing–wrote to genre specs and word limits etc. Right now, I make just enough money to keep going–(and pay my property taxes and hopefully fix the damned car.) I mean, why continue to self-publish my own little fish in such a big indifferent pond?
Well– a couple of reasons, actually.
First of all, *I* want to see how it will end. I mean I KNOW how it will end, but I’ve got four books worth of plotting in my head, and some really beautiful moments that I can bring to life. The only one who can write those moments is me. “Seeing your dreams become truth” doesn’t get much simpler than writing your own stories.
Second of all, *YOU* want to see how it ends. Writing for my self is nice, but writing for the surprised “Ooohhh…” or “That was COOL!” or “Wow! Thank you!” is incredibly rewarding. I’m not sure if it would be quite so rewarding–to my readers or myself– if I was writing for someone else’s vision.
Third of all, well, I’ve got the following:
Thomas Paine– Thomas Paine was THE bestselling author of the colonial era–he wrote a pamphlet titled the Crisis which was in more households than the Bible. Pain’s next endeavor– a treatise on a belief in rationalism (or a rational God) got him kicked out of the country. He found refuge in France, and when the political situation shifted he was promptly imprisoned. Thomas Jefferson got him freed, but when he died, the fuckheads in America were still so deluded about Rationalism (they thought he said there was NO God) that they wouldn’t let him be buried in a churchyard. His remains ended up in an antique dealership in England. If anyone is proof that your best work can be SEVERELY understood and that the public is a fickle bitch, it’s Thomas Paine. He wrote with passion and conviction–in the end, that had to be enough for him.
Washington Irving–Washington Irving’s first endeavor (I forget what it was called!) was greeted with enthusiasm and applause–but Irving still couldn’t quit his day job. He spent a lot of time being a lawyer and a diplomat and such, mostly so he could travel to Europe and revel in his success. Unfortunately, his second work (which had, among other things, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle in it) was not so beloved in his lifetime. Irving kept writing, but not fiction. Imagine what he could have done if he hadn’t been discouraged.
Edgar Allen Poe– Edgar Allen Poe sold ‘The Raven’ to a newspaper for $10. That’s all he ever got. Ever. The entire fucking East Coast was memorizing this work for parties, teaching it to their school children, and Poe died of alcoholism and despair at the age of 44. Getting published for $$$ and being popular do NOT guarantee success and happiness.
Emily Dickinson– Emily Dickinson published seven poems (out of more than a thousand!) in her lifetime. The poems were so badly fucked up by her dumbshit editors that everything that was fine and original and cutting edge in her work had to wait until her estate published the poems after her death. Editors can make shit sweet and pretty, but they can also take a filet mignon with bordeaux sauce and put it in a blender with reconstituted spuds and frozen vegetables. Authentic voice in spite of traditions and conventions really IS worth the bullshit.
Walt Whitman–Walt Whitman’s perennially re-written magnum albatross, ‘Leaves of Grass’ was self-published. Whitman had a distinct voice, poetry without rhythm, pure imagery. I forget the name of the high and mighty poet (I’m thinking it was Oliver Wendell Holmes, but I could be wrong!) who threw his self-published copy of the work into the fireplace, but I know that Ralph Waldo Emerson said Whitman would be the future of America’s voice. Whitman never really did achieve public success–he just kept plugging away with his originality and his lust (he was bi–no wonder I like him!) and his passion and his zeal–and finally everyone knew him. He was America’s ‘Old Gray Poet’ which pissed him off, because, dammit, he’d put a lot of effort into being young and rebellious. But it doesn’t matter. He published his own work, caught shit from big names, and his words echo in our ears long after his death.
William Blake–William Blake saw visions, talked to angels, was so intense that upon meeting him his future wife literally PASSED OUT and yes–he published his own work. He spelled shit wrong on purpose, challenged conventional religious beliefs, said flat out that the God who made the Lamb ALSO made the Tyger, and dared the world to think outside of religion, science, and fuckheadedness. And he did his own illustrations, and they’re haunting. And so’s his work.
And I could go on–in fact, when school starts up again (three weeks from today, fuck you very much, NUSD for that short assed summer break!) I probably will. But you guys get the point. Commercial success does NOT equal quality. Editing does NOT equal depth. Being famous does NOT equal happiness. And the opinion of the average public sheep very often does NOT equal sheep-shit. All very compelling reasons for me to continue to write what I love, as well as I can for as long as I can, right?