Thursday, April 30, 2020

April Update: Redefining my Reasons for Writing

My last update was rather fatalistic. The sad part is, I believed it, then. And while the pandemic is still a constant drain on my energy and creativity, I've actually found a little time and space to put some words down.

I spent most of the month thinking about a FF12 fanfic, and about halfway through the month, I finally decided to jot some of those ideas down. And I ended up with nearly 4k words by the end of the month on this silly little thing. I actually decided only a couple of days ago that I was going to count that toward my monthly writing goals. Was it a coherent story? No. It wasn't even written as a story, more as brainstorming notes. But I'm counting it. I spent time thinking about a narrative, and I wrote down the details of that narrative. That, right now, counts.

And hey, yesterday, I actually wrote nearly 400 words on the YA novel I started last month. See? That is the main reason I counted those fanfic words. Because those words led to other words. My own words. Narrative words. On my own story.

I still really love the concept of that novel. I was starting to worry that first chapter was going to be boring, but it is a great balance of tension and release. And I got to the end of the chapter yesterday. It actually has a really good chapter arc. I've never intentionally built a chapter the way I build a story, but in a way, I think I've always done that. I made an intentional choice to end that chapter where I did because it hit a bit of a natural "climax," and then a resolution for the chapter, but introducing new conflict.

I'm good at writing. As much as I love physical arts like painting, pottery, even music, I am mediocre at best at those things. But writing? I have some natural talent, and I have cultivated those skills for over a decade.

I will always be a writer. I will always come back to writing. I love it. Even when I can't do it, or don't want to do it, or don't feel like I am any good, I am still a writer. I keep coming back to this fact. I take breaks. Some longer than others. Sometimes it's hard to go back to it. Sometimes it's easy. Sometimes my returns are fleeting. Sometimes, like last time, I had a couple solid years where I wrote and edited a ton. Like everything in life, there are cycles.

All that being said, being a writer and making a living writing are very different things. I have done a ton of ruminating on this. I've been struggling to separate those two things so that I can actually enjoy writing again. I think, deep down, I still hadn't let go of the idea that I was going to make a living as a writer someday. It was still a someday dream. And that was hurting my ability to write just to write. I could only think about how to monetize what I was writing. I hate that. I don't want that, anymore.

I don't want that anymore.

I don't want to make a living as a writer. I do want to write. I want to write books, and short stories, and blog posts, and hey, maybe even get some of those things published. It'd be cool if I could get some of my books out there for people to read. I don't even care that much about the money, at this point. The pressure of writing, writing, writing to make sure I get something out every X months in order to keep whatever algorithm going to make the most possible money. I've been tracking my progress for around five years, now. I can't keep up that pace. It leads to burnout. So, self-publishing as a career is out. And...well, I don't think I write commercially or well enough to break into the traditional publishing industry. Even then, there's probably a certain amount of pressure to write, write, write to make money, money, money, for my publisher, for my editor, for my agent. Aside from all that, the query process is awful. That did more damage to my creativity than...well, not this pandemic. It did a lot of damage, though. I still haven't gotten back into it. Even without the pandemic, I would probably still only be dipping my toe in creative waters.

It used to be that I desperately wanted to get out of my current job, and the idea of writing full time seemed like a dream job. Now, as much as some days my job is mind-numbing, uninspiring, and frustrating, I value it quite a bit. I make a decent salary. I'm nearly halfway to retirement. It's enabling me to save up enough money to buy my dream house, to be able to put away savings for later in life, and gives me plenty of time to take off work, be sick, work from home, even do a bit of writing/blogging/research on work time, when we're slow. And I don't have to worry about being self-directed. And I don't have to take work home with me.

True, I hate that 40 hours a week are not my own, but if I have to work, and I can't be a full-time writer, I have a damn good job. Will it last me the next 16 years until I can retire? Maybe not. And I might have to reassess at some point, if this job comes to an end. Do I stay at KU? Do I stay an editor? But I don't have to answer those questions right now.

Anyway. That was a bit of a tangent, but it does have some relevance, here. This blog was originally designed as a way to track my progress to becoming a published author. I think the unwritten implication there is that once I was a published author, I'd slowly transition this blog into my journey as published author to full-time author.

That's no longer the case. This is the last year of my 30s. I've made a lot of progress as a writer. And it's something that, even after this long, I still love. Most parts of it, anyway. Some days, anyway. Ehem. It's a thing I still do, feelings about it aside. But my goals have changed.

Yes, I still want to publish a book. But I think the second, unspoken part of that goal can be laid to rest.

I want to be a published author, not a full-time writer.

And hey, just because I'm almost 40 doesn't mean I have to stop striving for that. And even when I accomplish that, I can still blog about my writing progress. My writing goals.

So. This month, I managed to write nearly 5,000 words. Next month, I'd like to do about the same. Even if it's fanfic. And maybe take a look at the MystWatch books, if I find I have the energy and inclination.

Unless something untoward happens, I will see you next month for another update. Maybe an update that's not quite as philosophical and rambling. But maybe it will be. I am a writer, after all.