Have been feeling great about writing lately! I think getting into new areas, where I feel more allowed to fail, has been good for me. Writing can be a gloomy life. You’re alone. There’s rejection. Constant criticism. People misunderstand you, and when they do understand you they don’t appreciate you. It’s not really a craft, the way making a chair is a craft. Writing involves a lot of time being stymied. A lot of time sitting back, trying to figure things out.
But it’s also fun! I think writers often portray what we do in these very epic terms. We’re driven to get out some set of truths. Lately, writers from marginalized communities also feel driven to get their stories out there, to blaze trails for the next people of their community who come along. Personally I’ve never felt nearly so strongly about the whole business. I’ve always written more from ego than from political or aesthetic necessity. I just wanted my thoughts to be out there. Wanted to be read. Wanted to be important.
But along the way I’ve learned to enjoy the act of writing. I like figuring things out. I like developing my ideas. I like researching and exploring new areas. I like the feeling of new capacities opening inside me: a newfound ability to appreciate different parts of the word and of the sentence. And I love being in conversation with the rest of human thought. Reading and thinking and existing in the world is like standing on a mountaintop, staring out at a beautiful vista. Being a writer is as if someone granted you the power to somehow alter that vista: to erase certain things or enhance others. Putting forward your own ideas and writing work that emphasizes your own priorities is an incredible power, and it’s not something you necessarily appreciate when you’re just starting out. It’s only after fifteen or twenty years in the game when you think, you know what, these other people don’t know more than I do. They’re not better read than me, and I believe I can see things they can’t.
Which is not to say that young writers can’t have confidence or ambition, but there’s something a little foolhardy about it. They don’t know, as I do, the full contours of what is out there.
Now all of this has been very non-specific: what is it that I’m trying to impress on people? What am I trying to accomplish? I hate when people are vague in this way. But I don’t know how to be less vague! I’ve just been having so many ideas lately. There is so much to do and to say. I’ve just felt a lot freer in how I express myself. I don’t know how it all adds up to a voice or to an authorial persona, but that’s the fun of it.
For instance I’ve been having lots of ideas about how to structure stories to make them tighter, more energetic, and thematically compelling. It’s not the kind of thing you can write down, you just need to do it. My short stories, too, have started to gain a tale-like quality–lots of narrative summary, fast-moving, as I’m just relating events that happened. I’ve started to eschew the practice of ending on a heightened image: it hits too hard, like the crash of a set of cymbals. But at the same time I have lots of other things going into the stories too! It’s very pleasant to sit down and feel like you’re doing something, like something is happening. And it probably won’t shake the foundations of the world, but it’s interesting and conscious and worthwhile.