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Lessons from Yuletide and other thoughts

"A better reason -- but not enough, not enough. Tell me this-- if you knew you would be as poor as a church mouse all your life-- if you knew you'd never have a line published-- would you still go on writing-- would you?"
--Emily of New Moon's Mr. Carpenter, who ought to take the dash out of his own eye before he goes picking at the italics in his neighbor's.

This year, I wrote a story for Yuletide that I thought was kind of a mess, and I worried for days that my recipient would hate it and be disappointed in me. But my recipient liked it, and it didn't matter what I thought I should have done with it instead, because it wasn't for me; it was for someone else. This is a very simple lesson, but one I have apparently had to learn many times.

So I made a New Year's resolution to start writing stories as gifts for other people, because I probably won't write any otherwise. And I think I will add a time limitation on the gifts-- they should all be finished within a set period of time-- let's say two weeks-- so that I don't do that immobilizing perfectionism thing I do.



Meanwhile, there is this story. I began it waaaay back in '09 on a whim, and it was originally supposed to be maybe twelve chapters long, and solely devoted to an evil-genius Evelyn getting away with scandalous behavior, reading novels of which L.M. Montgomery disapproves, making fun of Emily, and engineering Emily's destruction through gossip. It didn't turn out that way. The first person took over and I got attached. Evelyn got under my skin. I'm almost to Chapter 63 and there's another year still to go in the timeline-- though it might not go by quite as slowly as the previous two. I got attached, and lost the thread of the Emily story almost entirely, though of course she will be back eventually for the Grand Comeuppance.

Meanwhile, I've really enjoyed trying to respond to the comments from My Two Readers on ff.net in the form of more story. I don't know that it's ever to any very artistic end, but it's a lot of fun. And I've discovered that I really, really like the first person. Some people hate it! I didn't find this out until I started reading romance novel reviews -- there were so many comments saying, "I never read anything written in the first person if I can helo it." Is it because First Person is an Author Distraction? I guess I really like first-person a lot. It creates a lot of obvious problems for the author, but not necessarily any more than third person creates non-obvious problems, and an obvious problem is easier to fix. . . right? Right now I am in the middle of a first-person problem with my fanfiction, in that something has to be revealed to the reader in a way that is not completely inconsistent with the character and situation of the narrator. What is about to be revealed is a total cliche, but that doesn't matter; trying to work out how to do it is still a completely engrossing puzzle, like a crossword full of clues the answers to which are all tantalizingly just out of reach (as opposed to a crossword full of clues that are opaque to me, which I guess is now my metaphor for Non-Fanfiction Writing of Any Kind).

Anyway, it turns out that I like to write, but not enough to actually do so outside of some kind of social context. I'm not a self-starter. I don't have the Thin Blue Flame of Ambition wavering behind my ribs like a camping lantern all the time.

And . . . I think that might be ok.



I've long since failed the Official Mr. Carpenter Test of Being A Really Real Writer; not only would I be unlikely to keep on writing if my fingers were frostbitten and my computer smashed and my garret roof snow-shattered and the hostile indifference of the world before me like a barbed-wire fence in winter, I do not even manage to keep writing if no one is around to act disappointed in me if I don't. I don't write if I don't have a good enough pen handy (I draw perturbed faces instead). I don't write if the seats at the cafe are too close together, or if I have a cold. And while I sometimes still write if no one is obviously paying attention, I don't do a very good job of it most of the time. I need a recipient. I've always sort of meant to overcome this tendency to seek validation from outside myself, because I grew up with Mr. Carpenter's voice in my ears, but clearly not enough to actually do anything about it.

Does that mean I shouldn't write at all?

I'm not sure. Maybe yes, if by "write" we mean, "put off getting a real job for another five years in hopes of amassing enough minor publication credits to qualify for a teaching position at a community college" (example not based on a true story) (exactly). Maybe no, if we mean "find a way to balance writing and the entire rest of my life in a rational manner by, e.g., getting a job and writing something other than fanfiction once in a while."

I guess writing fanfiction in the voice of a young woman with literary ambitions (I love Emily's totally disdainful italics) has got me thinking about these things more than I would otherwise. Despite technical adulthood and an overabundance of schooling, I am not really sure of my place in the world, and if it has anything to do with all of this or not.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
soundingsea
Feb. 1st, 2012 02:07 am (UTC)
This year, I wrote a story for Yuletide that I thought was kind of a mess, and I worried for days that my recipient would hate it and be disappointed in me. But my recipient liked it, and it didn't matter what I thought I should have done with it instead, because it wasn't for me; it was for someone else. This is a very simple lesson, but one I have apparently had to learn many times.

I really did love it so, so much! And I'm kinda-guessing that we matched on my book fandom where you (to judge by your DYA letter) have different tastes than me? Anyhow I got a treat for that request anyhow, and I'm so very pleased that you decided to write for a song nobody, but nobody, had signed up to write. That made it a complete surprise and just fantastic.

(Yes, I finally came to see if you ever wrote a reveal, and I suppose this counts! Perhaps I'd better write my own!)
evelyn_b
Feb. 3rd, 2012 07:17 am (UTC)
I'm so glad you liked it!

We actually matched on "Girl from the North Country," but then I was curious about the other song and went to listen to it, and after that I couldn't manage to get back to the North Country story because I kept filling up the margins with notes for the other and then the margins grew to fill half the page and then I gave up. So it was a good prompt.

Next year I'm going to be a better Yuletide participant, I hope. I didn't really know what I was doing this time around, but I'm glad I jumped in anyway.

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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