Thursday, 29 August 2013

Being Yourself

Just over ten years ago, my life underwent a huge and unexpected transformation.
I changed career paths (a decision that went brilliantly for many years, before going somewhat off the  rails and leaving me in a bit of a career limbo).
I left a romantic relationship with a someone who shared many of my obsessions and priorities and shortly after that entered into a new relationship with someone who had a significantly different view on life than what I was used to.
One thing I decided to do at the time was abandon my dreams of becoming a successful writer. I felt that I  had lost whatever magic touch I once had that made my writing worth reading and had become disillusioned with the notion of success.
None of my friends who had become successful full-time writers seemed much happier for it - and I was stunned by the amount of pressure they encountered as their work became more popular - to hew to a schedule. Prolificacy became the single most important thing in their lives - which might have been okay if there were commensurate financial rewards - but in fact even my most successful writer friends were unable to make a reasonably good living from their art. They were forced to take on additional careers - even while maintaining or increasing their literary output.
So I went on my merry way, getting into a new relationship, discovering a new artform into which I could pour my creative energy - and otherwise just trying to mend my ways. To be a successful and happy wage earner/entrepreneur. I got to continue writing (non-fiction rather than fiction) so I didn't lose my touch. And ultimately, I started to pine for the act of weaving words and creating stories. Many of my friends who had found writing success elusive were finding audiences and starting to get the recognition they deserved. So a few years ago, I unearthed all my half finished projects, rejoined my old writing workshop, started working on a bunch of new stories and went back for a good hard look at the material that I had abandoned. I liked what I saw. For the most part, I was very happy with my work - even if it had failed to set off incoming star awards in literary circles.
The most important aspect of my re-immersion in writing was going to be my new philosophy of writing for myself. This doesn't mean that I don't care if no-one else likes it. But it does mean that I need to be true to myself. If I can love what I write and write what I love...that was half the battle won! 


What did catch me by surprise as this process went on was my ambition, my determination to share my creations with a world that really didn't much care about the output of any particular writer - especially me (or so it seemed). Priority one was to finish the projects I have devoted my life to creating: over 300,000 words of polished prose in the form of published stories that had long since turned to ephemera, novel chunks and fragments and drafts that were uncompleted. I had to put this stuff together, finish it off and put it out in the world. My writing is professional. I have the talent and skill to express myself and tell compelling stories.
Rather than allow the reactions of a handful of opinionated and self-serving people to discourage me I had to recognize that now, more than any other time in history, there exists the opportunity to set your own course, create your own trends, define your own oeuvre. 
I looked at may own work and defined what makes it special: it is both psychedelic and gothic...a unique and potentially appealling combination. I am my own genre. And by recognizing that, I am much better able to see the route forward.

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