Friday, September 26, 2008

Writing & Identity

It's an interesting time for writers, in all senses of that word. On the one hand, print repeatedly gets declared to be dead, only to have innovations re-spark interest in the written word (if not dead tree versions). Even the dead tree market corpse gets fresh blood repeatedly, as Harper Collins announces:
The writer and director of the film Pan's Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro, is set to tap what has become a rich vein of new vampire fiction, signing up with HarperCollins to write a trilogy of books about a vampiric virus that invades New York.

So what to do? My gut instinct is to continue doing the same thing I've always done in both my fiction writing career and in my academic one: diversify. In academia, it's essential if you want a job. In fiction, it's just my natural restlessness for trying new things. Hence my fondness for Kierkegaard's dictum: "Once you label me, you negate me."

Unfortunately, our capitalist system is all about that labeling, so I'm swimming against the tide (perpetually, right? That's me in a nutshell). It's not so much my refusal to conform, as it is a simple constitutional inability. I may sit down with the idea of writing a simple slice of life story, but somehow prophetic dreams or a ghost show up to complicate things. I might be happy with the results, but publishers like you to stick to the rules.

This approach gets you a lot of rejections. I tend to post only the acceptances here; think of them as that iceberg tip poking above the surface and hiding a whole lot of ballast. Do they play the same role as ballast (it suddenly occurs to me)? Keeping the rest afloat? Nah. They merely perforate your confidence.

I have reconciled myself to the fact that I will always have a small audience (but a much appreciated one, I assure you all); nonetheless, I'll always yearn for more people to read my words. There are few greater pleasures.

1 comment:

C. Margery Kempe said...

Then again, maybe I just don't have enough twelve year-old readers. Ignoring the anti-intellectualism of statements like "It's not just that these books, unlike adult literature, have been left unsullied by professors turning them into objects of tedious study" (and might leave you "pore" indeed, if only in homonyms), books do have a greater effect when we are more open to their effects. The truth is most people do ossify at an alarming rate and become incredibly boring.

Here's to the resilient minds of my friends! May you never ossify.

[Tip o' the hat to the fictionmags list for this link]