Before I even thought about being a writer, I was a reader. As an only child living in rural New England, even the small-town cliche of walking everywhere to keep myself entertained was right out, since we lived right on the edge of the area's main highway. Thankfully, my family had a large patch of land behind the house that bordered the forest and river, so I could tromp around all of that and let my mind wander. So wander I did ... and when I wasn't wandering, I would read. I read curled up on a patch of spongy moss in the back fields, or under the trees, or on the porch, the little jungle gym in the back yard, the couch ... If you could perch there and bring a snack or a drink, I'd read there. As much as I loved where I lived, I loved the places books could take me, even more, and I loved the people in them who kept me company. So when I cracked open Writing With A Day Job by Aine Greaney recently, doing her opening exercise of setting personal goals didn't surprise me as much as I'd thought it might.
Maybe five or so years ago, my goals as an author would have been loftier: publishing! Best-seller lists! Gushing reviews! Envious former classmates and co-workers! But last night, I set down what I really, truly want from my writing, and I feel it's only fair I share it with you.
As a writer, I want to set my worlds and the people in them free, so that they will outlast me. I would like them to be popular, sure - what writer wouldn't? - but right now, the most important thing to me is that they are preserved. Manuscripts and notes have to exist to be discovered, and for that, all these roads and places and oddball folks have to make it out of my head and onto the page. Readership of any size, once that's done with, is a bonus.
I want to be the sort of writer who is known for the richness of their creation, the breadth of it. I want to at least come close to the scope of my favorites, old and new: Terry Pratchett, J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Brent Weeks, Daniel Handler (or even his friend Mr. Lemony Snicket), and my favorite childhood retreat's creator, Brian Jacques. Not to sound stuck-up, but I know that amount of detail and depth is there... I've spent over a decade weaving it, after all. I just need to stop hoarding it and get it all out, out, OUT. And that's where you, my reader, come in.
When you read my work, I want you to feel as though you're escaping to visit old friends, just like I did, or that your troubles might not be as bad as theirs. I want you to come to love these places and people I create as much as I do. I want you to be able to not just sense that the town of Aviario is my second home: I want you to feel at home there, too, to feel free to roam its streets at your leisure like Buster on a Sunday afternoon, or invite yourself into your favorite character's home whenever you feel like it, put your feet up, and spend some time with them. If I'm really, really doing it properly, I would hope that their truths and lessons will be things you carry with you close to your heart, that there might even be one little passage or moment that lingers with you after you've closed the book and walked away.
Starting with these first two novels, that's what I'm going to try to do. It may take me a little while to get there, since I'm doing it a few pages at a time, but I will put this world of mine out there for the sharing. And once I do, I sincerely hope you'll give it even a brief visit and tell me what you think.
Before I post anything else, I have a confession of sorts to make. I almost feel like it should be an apology, but I am writing this post while trying to be secure in the knowledge that somewhere out there, some other creative web-faring person will identify with it ... so making it an apology would not quite be as reassuring. Therefore, while it is not long enough to fill several notebooks, like that of the great and fictional Henry Fool, here is my confession:
I am at war with myself.
There are several different fiefdoms in my brain, but the war is between two in particular: Completion and Perfectionism. They lie on either side of the Sea of Variable Focus, in the middle of which lies the island autonomous collective of Ridiculous Creativity. (And, yes: of course it is autonomous! Why would creativity have a government?)
If you are one of those people who can relate, you already see where I am going with this. In fact, if you are even more like me, you are probably pointing at your monitor, smart phone, tablet or watch (Hello, Futuristic Person reading my blog archives!) and yelling affirmations at it as if it can hear you. Or maybe you are a bit more sane than I am. Anyway. I digress.
If you have never been a Completion-ist and a Perfectionist simultaneously, let me first congratulate you on having avoided a circle of hell. Maybe you can finish things and accept that they do not have to be perfect: which is, as I understand it, the status quo. Or maybe you are okay with having a project in a constant state of revision or incompletion, so that it never sees the light of day - which is also fine, but seems to me a little bit selfish, vaguely tragic, and possibly a bit funny, too. But when you are both a Perfectionist and a Completion fanatic, you enter a strange sort of Cold War, and it tends to happen a bit like this:
"It's finished!" The Duchess of Completion cries, holding aloft the creative fruit of choice that washed ashore in bits and pieces from the Island. And as so often happens when a country does something cool, it wants bragging rights, so she shows it off.
Naturally, Princess Perfectionist takes a look and says "Ehhhh... you missed a spot."
"Dangit," says Completion, and goes back to work. Now, normally this is fine, but Perfectionist is that one person who's never happy with anything, and eventually the cycle repeats so often that Completion says: "You know what? If I send this out there, it's just going to get attacked. I resolve to sit here on my cushy little royal throne and not do a thing."
Meanwhile, Perfectionist is jumping up and down on the coastline yelling about how nothing is getting done, the poor people over on Ridiculous Creativity are building up a backlog, and some really great produce is starting to spoil.
So right now, I'm trying to hold a peace summit between the two while Hurricane Rest-Of-My-Life rages across the Sea of Variable Focus, and that little whimsical lesson in mental geography is why you have not seen much in the way of tangible progress on From the Desk of Buster Heywood.
If you happen to be one of those people who identifies with what I just wrote, please do yourself three favors:
1. Check out these sites! They have been helpful to me, and may be to you:
Writer's Relief: They have a great blog full of writing tips on all sorts of topics from how to self-edit to just simple encouragement.
Writers Helping Writers: Angela Ackerman and Rebecca Pugilisi are both lovely ladies, and their website is full of sound advice that I'm already putting to good use. Their Writers' Thesaurus trilogy isn't on my bookshelf yet, but it is certainly on my wish list.
CreativIndie: Derek Murphy has a lot of fantastic content for new writers, too ... and the greatest part is, some of it is absolutely free!
Warrior Writers: Kristen Lamb's blog is full of witty, funny, encouraging boosts to get you through when you need them.
2. Keep At It! Peace is possible, or so I've been told. The world needs your island exports just as much as you do.
3. Stop yelling "YES. THIS" at your screen, because it cannot hear you (unless you are Futuristic Person, and it can). Instead, leave me a comment here or email me, so that we can share war stories and feel a little less besieged together.
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