Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
While we are still in the beginning of the New Year, I thought that I would write another post concerning "new beginnings" (not that we can't have those the rest of the year, too). I hope you enjoy the post!
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You may have looked at the title of this particular post and thought "living and writing without what exactly, Alexandra?"
Well, the truth is: I can't answer that. Not for you, at least.
In my journey through climbing out of the hole I had fallen into regarding writing (or jumped into, really, without realizing it; the hole was covered over, and looked like a nice swimming pool), I have had to overcome a lot of things, and get "rid of" a lot of things, as well. It's very difficult to begin thinking of writing creatively once more, when you have begun to think of it monetarily, as a commodity -- not healthy for any writer, I don't believe. As I delved deeper and deeper into the world of publishing, where books can be thought of as nothing more than goods to sell, completely ignoring their artistic value, or they can be thought of the beautiful pieces of art that I like to think of them as, I all but forgot what it meant to be creative.
I'm not happy about this, though I'm not ashamed, either. It is a pit that many writers fall into, and it can happen to anyone. But the day I woke up and thought first how my story would sell, before I ever thought of what creative twist I could put upon it, what I wanted to get to know about the characters and world that day, I knew that I had a problem.
I have written about this before, but every time I write about it, I discover something different. It was a painful time for me, and it took over two years to pull myself out of that hole, trying and failing to re-connect myself with my work, and my love for writing; I have only just now come out of that hole completely, and can once more visit the world. Losing your creative spark and love for your work is like suddenly losing your magic -- or perhaps suddenly losing your heart itself, leaving you nothing but an empty skeleton with no life in you.
I can't remember when this ideal first began to take root in my mind, but I can bet it was within the first year to year and a half of publishing. I'm a perfectionist, though it doesn't always show, and I like to do everything right, though over time I have come to realize that sometimes my right is not always everyone else's. A very young writer, in a world where the market and business are changing rapidly, and business is pretty much a foreign concept, can have a difficult time; I did. It's not to say that I didn't learn, or that I didn't persevere and do my best, and do well in the market, but it was difficult starting out -- and even more difficult continuing.
I love that now there are many more opportunities for young writers now, arguably, and that more young writers are being "taken seriously", but that doesn't make the job any less difficult or taxing. It certainly isn't easy to be a writer later in life, either, because writing is a difficult job despite it all, but I believe that having experience can certainly help, especially if you're used to the business realm. However, I have to take a moment to applaud all of the writers out there, who are giving it their best, and working towards artistic expression with open eyes and open hearts. We encounter new things from writing and publishing, and though they can be difficult (your first bad review, your first book return, your first signing where only a few show, rejection letters), we overcome and learn from each of them, and they make us stronger in the end, and we move on.
But I'm getting a bit off-track....
The point is: somewhere within that first year or two, I developed the thinking that books are things to be sold and profited from rather than things to be written for artistic expression, and joy both on the writer and readers' parts. This might sound like fuel for the argument that many writers write for money (which, trust me, they don't), but exactly the opposite is true. I wasn't writing to sell books for money, though of course it's nice to get paid, I was writing to sell books because I felt like that was what I needed to do to become a "real writer". It wasn't about making millions, or even having millions of readers -- for me, it was about doing things "right".
I wanted to know that I was doing things correctly, and giving my work the best chance it could have in a marketplace that was quickly becoming overloaded and overcrowded both. I didn't want to give my books the best chance because then they would be read by the millions, I only wanted to do this "writing thing" right -- or, more accurately, this "publishing thing" right; I wanted to put my best foot forward and be successful in being a good self-publisher who did her job correctly. I loved my stories so much, I wanted to be as professional and "correct" as I could -- for them. I knew how to write, though of course I had much to learn still (don't we all), but writing and publishing are closely connected no matter what route you choose to take in publishing, and so I knew that if I wanted to make any sort of long-term career out of my work, then I needed to learn how to do everything "correctly".
There are, of course, things that you should and should not do in publishing, certainly -- and in writing, and in life. That is a given. But in trying to be perfect, I went far overboard and lost track of the reason I had begun writing in the first place: fun and discovery.
So, what does this have to do with writing and living without?
Sit back for a moment and take an account of your life and writing life as they currently are. Do an extra end-of-the-year (or beginning-of-the-year) reflection. Think about what is holding you back -- and, more than that, what you don't need.
Rules exist for a reason, and sometimes they are meant to be broken. When it comes to art and business both, sometimes all of the rules don't work for everyone, especially in art. That doesn't, I have learned, make you a worse artist, it merely means that you are paying attention to your needs, which means you will produce better work. If you need to be a little unconventional, then do so. If you can't be happy with your work, then it is very difficult for someone else to be happy with it, and in the end you will only end up frustrated, depressed, and you will in turn block yourself from becoming all that you could be.
There are several fears and worries that I have come to realize I can live and write without. These fears and worries had a purpose at one time, and taught me things along my journey, but I don't need them anymore; I have outgrown them. I feel that those days of trying to do everything "right" have not only taught me that, hey, we are all imperfect, but that yes, there is a way to do things, and we need to learn and research and pay attention, so that we will know when that time is...and when we can take the creative reins and do things differently.
Take what you don't need, what you can live and write without, and let it go.
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So, I have been debating whether or not I should move my blogging day to Monday, and participate in #MondayBlogs on Twitter. It's difficult for me to wedge out time during the rest of the week to visit others' blogs, and I really enjoy reading other writers' posts, so for now I am going to at least try blogging on Monday instead, and make that my blog-hopping, blog-reading day, as well. So, next week, expect a post on Monday, instead!
Have a wonderful week/weekend!