These are the posts that always seem kind of silly and self indulgent as I move away from discussing an issue or a particular creative work and focus instead on the eternal struggle that is my attempts at writing fiction.
For anyone who might care about this aspect of my life, I’ve not written any real fiction since about March (and that project ended up failing as I couldn’t make the idea work), which is a pretty long dry spell for me. At the least, I usually have a couple things that I work on here and there, even if I end up deciding they’re never good enough to try to sell or publish.
It’s likely because I exist in a tangential space relative to the speculative fiction community (Rachael is far better networked with authors and editors, and I get to see what’s going on with them by proxy), which means that I’m frequently made aware of the cool things that others are doing, and of course I get caught up in comparing all that stuff with my own ideas, which is not the sort of attitude that lends itself to actually writing. I’ve talked with Rachael about this a little bit, and she offered some insights recently that I’m trying to take to heart.
One of the things that tends to differentiate the authors who are producing and selling their work from the aspiring authors seems to be their level of output. This ties in with an attitude that looks at calls for submissions and various other publishing opportunities as representing hard deadlines that you just write something for. Obsessing over the quality of a given piece to the point of never deciding that it’s time to call it done and move on is a fast way to creative paralysis. While thinking over this point, I realized that it’s actually really similar to the way that I maintain my blog.
Forgive the navel gazing going on here, but one thing about my blog is that ever since I started it (over two years ago!) I’ve cultivated a habit of maintaining a regular schedule. My schedule’s varied here and there as I’ve tried to be realistic about my other responsibilities, but I’ve always prioritized sticking to a posting schedule once I’ve set one. The long term effect of this kind of thinking is that I produce a lot of content, and I’m aware that it varies wildly in quality. There are some pieces that I put a lot of effort into with the hopes that readers will enjoy and engage with them, and then there are others which I write simply because I have to write something, and that means sometimes things won’t come out exactly the way I’d like them to. The important thing to remember here is that the level of effort sunk into any given piece of writing is largely disconnected from the actual response it gets. More often than not I’m really surprised to see which posts draw in views and comments, and the biggest lesson I’ve gleaned from this fact is that the only guarantee of producing something that’s a success (for whatever metric of success you want to use) is to keep producing stuff. If I were to approach blogging the same way I approach fiction, I might have closed up shop long ago because I’d agonize over each post and wonder if I was really saying anything new or interesting.
To bring all this back around, I’m in the middle of trying to write a piece or two of flash fiction for a submission call, and I’ve decided to try taking Rachael’s advice, which is to just produce something for it without obsessing over novelty or quality (I mean, beyond my usual attention to craft when I’m writing fiction), and then move on to other things. So that’s what I’m doing. As I’m writing this post, I have half of a draft written up on a thing, and I’m going to try to finish it after I walk away from this thing. I don’t know if I’ll be really happy with the final product, but I’m going to make sure there is a final product.
We’ll see how that turns out.