Monday, March 21, 2011

Writing: The Urge to Share

I won't attempt to speak for all writers when I say I personally feel compelled to share my writing with the people I know. This has often made me feel like I'm scrambling for attention from people who have better things to do with their time. Unfortunately, many of those individuals are my friends and family members.

I must admit... I experience great inner turmoil over this subject. On one hand, we live in an age of shallow interconnections via social networks. It's not that people don't read anymore, it's just the content that has changed. Many of us now spend our days sifting through texts and status updates. There are so many demands on our time that it just sort of slips away. I get it, I'm not shielded from the costs of staying in the loop these days. Yet, you can condense the truth down to one primary notion. My writing was a lower priority.

A notable side effect of the way these interactions play out is a deep sense of failure on my part. Still, it surprises me that I repeat the effort without pause every time I feel like I've created something worthwhile. I guess that's a big part of my writing. Once I have a piece to a stage where I feel proud of writing it, it seems senseless not to share it. Most of us write for more than our own benefit, that's a given. Self satisfaction is a big part of it, no doubt, but without an audience there isn't much of a point. At least that's my view.

Does that reflect poorly on my relationships, or is it the quality of my writing? I'm trying to work on the whole pride and vanity thing, yet I would still assess myself as a fair decent writer. Sure, there's always room for personal growth and improvement, but I wouldn't classify my writing as unreadable or distasteful. I obviously haven't given up writing entirely, so why do I let it bother me? Or better yet, why do I keep going down that road? Perhaps I'm seeking approval from a group of people who, as good as their intentions may be, just aren't at a place where they can dedicate that kind of time. Not everyone has the same desire to sit down and read, even if they have a fair level of assurance they will enjoy the story.

That's it! I've made up my mind. I won't stop sharing my stories, but I'll be certain to only extend the offer once. If it isn't readily accepted -- that's okay. Over time I'm sure the people who enjoy reading the things I write will present themselves, and no hard feelings towards the those who just can't find the time. Sounds good, yet easier said than done. I guess it comes down to recognizing the effort to remind folks to read my stuff as wasted energy that could be put into working on my next project. I suppose that might sound harsh to any of those individuals who just didn't get around to reading my work, but perhaps even they can agree that feeling ignored isn't a catalyst for further improvement. There comes a time when you've just got to move on. It's sad, but it's life. The only other alternative is for me to let those negative feelings eat at me. It's so much better to just dismiss them, let go, and keep plowing forward. My time is important too.

How about you? Have you run into a situation where you felt an urge to share your work with someone who was too busy or seemed less than enthused to take you up on your offer? It's easy to say that we should develop a thicker skin, were you successful?


Jim Murdoch said...

Frequently. For year I wrote and put the poems in the proverbial drawer (actually a humungous red folder) and forgot about them. There are still loads of things that have only been read by my wife and because she sat one day and worked her way through the whole damn thing. Nowadays when I finish a piece it goes to Carrie for her stamp of approval (or at least to ensure she doesn’t disapprove of it) and then it goes in the big red folder until I decide to get some submissions ready. I do not write to be read. That may seem like a strange thing for a writer to say but I write to get a thought out of my head and once I’ve done that and played around with it a bit on the page then I’m done with it. That other people might come along after and make something of it is a plus. I know some writers have an audience in mind – the Australian writer Murnane writes all his works of fiction I’ve recently discovered to a female reader in the mid-22nd century – but I don’t.

I have no problems letting people read my work but I’ve often been disappointed by the responses: they’re usually vague things like, “Oh, they were good. I liked them,” and that’s it. It feels like they’re just being polite. And if you press them, “What exactly did you like? Which one was your favourite?” you see this look of panic wash over their faces. The thing is they may very well have liked what they read but they don’t know why they liked it or how to put what they felt into any other words than “Oh, they were good. I liked them.”

The bottom line is that your friends and family are probably never going to be your ideal readers: they see you as Brady-the-son or Brady-the-husband or my-mate-Brady and not Brady-the-writer and each assumes that their particular vision of you is the true one and if you do anything else then you’re not being yourself. Strangers will always be your best readers unless like me you were lucky enough to attract a wife through your writing: I met Carrie online by submitting a single poem to her online journal and the rest is history. Let me leave you with this angry little piece:

        Shit Poem

        I don't like reading
        I don't much
                 care for writing them either

                 but then what's a man
                 to do with
                 all the shit inside of him?

        I can't say why I
                 have to
                 lie in it
                 or even play with the stuff.

        It just feels good to.
        So what
                 are you all

        You can't really believe this is art.

        Sunday, 25 July 2004

Unknown said...

I don't know what happened there, Jim. I saw your comment and was halfway through a response when the power went out. I figured I'd just get back to it later but it looked like it had gone *poof* -- how odd. Turns out that it had somehow been flagged as spam, but that must have happened after I started responding because I saw it on the page.

I have no explanation for that... I'm sorry.

I can appreciate your approach to writing, and it really does make sense. I guess I just get this feeling that I need to share what I've written, though that desire doesn't always work out with the intended results.

My wife actually read some of my writing before we had ever met. We both used to log into a modem bulletin board system when we were in high school and I'd posted some poems into the uploads area. We didn't realize the connection until after we'd already started dating. To this day I do believe she's my biggest fan. :)

I really liked your Shit Poem. It made me smile.