It's a new year. We get to start over again. Which, as writers, means we can leave behind all those things we did wrong last year, provided we learned something from those literary oopsies. I had my share of mistakes. Okay, my share and the shares of the entire population of Guam.
It was in some ways a good year for me, in that I created several short stories I'm proud of, and brought to life a few characters I love (even the little cutie who has a tendency to zap people and send them to a very strange place). And I stuck to my promise (to myself) to write much more during 2012. It wasn't an actual New Year's Resolution from last year, and maybe that's why it was successful. There's something about making an official Resolution that pretty much guarantees I'll blow it. And so, instead, I just wrote my ass off.
It was, writing-wise, also in some ways a bad year for me. Self-doubt I'd never before experienced began gnawing at me like dozens of tiny, toothy, alien creatures. Writing-wise, humor eludes me at times now, and has never quite been the same since my cat Scully died. We shared a life for close to nine years and, yes, she was my furry baby. I do have my moments, but I miss those carefree, crazy-ass, the-world-is-so-damn-funny-I-have-to-write-about-it days. Of course, as tough as this year has been for so many people in so many situations, I'm sure this is not a unique feeling, wishing things were like they used to be, and that we felt the same as we did back then.
People say you should be honest and open in writing blog posts; that readers, especially regular readers, want to get to know the real you. I'm not entirely sure that's always a good thing (had Ted Bundy blogged, it probably would have been in his best interest to keep his hobbies to himself), but once in a while I blurt out something. I don't come from one of those share-your-feelings-with-the-world kind of families, so it doesn't come naturally to me.
But I was supposed to learn something from last year, right? And keeping things bottled up did not help in 2012, so a little unbottling may be in order. For just a minute or two.
So here goes.
Do I find it cool that when I post a new story I've written, I sometimes get 400 or even close to 500 hits a day? Hell, yes. Does it give me a little thrill? You betcha. Do I take a screen shot of the stats to keep in my records? Absofreakinglutely. Am I then confused and a wee bit hurt when, with rare exceptions, only two people (who are friends, not just followers) ever leave a comment? Oh, yeah. Especially the confused part. I mean, okay, maybe the stories aren't as good as I think they are. Maybe I fell in love with them and can't see them objectively. But even then, wouldn't you think that out of all those visitors, someone would leave a comment that says they think the story sucks like a freakin' Hoover? Not that I would look forward to that, but if no one loves them and no one hates them, that leaves only, “Ho-hum, this bored the shit out of me but I won't hurt your feelings by telling you.” Which is kinder than “I hated this %$#& thing!” But I'll never learn what it is that people like or don't like or are fascinated by or bored by, if there's just this utter vacuum.
On the other hand, before computers and the Internet, writers had only family and friends to go by when they were first starting out, and how objective and honest could that have been? How would Ray Bradbury or Michael Crichton or Andre Norton or Thomas Harris or Anne Rice or countless other authors we've all grown to admire have reacted to instantaneous web comments (or the lack thereof) at the very beginning of their career, or at the point where it was just a hopeful future? Would their self-confidence have kept them going in the exact same direction, resulting in all those same creations that have enthralled us all? Or would their earlier selves have changed something in response — their style, their characters, the tone of their stories — to please others? We'll never know. But we wouldn't want them to have changed, would we? Their masterpieces will always be that, in our minds and in the minds of countless generations after us — masterpieces. And we wouldn't want them to have changed a single word.
And does that apply to me? Holy shiitake mushroom! I have no clue. We live in such a different world, I do in a way envy the simplicity and slow-paced peacefulness that surrounded those authors back in the day. But I also recognize that their talents were so immense, the urge to write no doubt overwhelming, and their eventual success evidence that they would have put the pedal to the metal ... er, the fingers to the typewriter or pen to the paper ... and ignored all outside distractions, to bring out those unique worlds that existed in their heads, creating short stories and novels out of the sheer necessity to do so, to bring their “baby” to life. They would have been successful and those stories would have been told, in any time and any culture. Whether those stories would have turned out exactly the same ... who knows? But they would have been awesome.
Do I have awesome in me? Not their kind of awesome, I have no doubt about that. But, yes, awesome enough to make me happy when I create a story I enjoy the hell out of, no matter how many times I read it. And that's good enough for me. Today. At noon or so. I may feel differently by 8 tonight. Or tomorrow while I'm eating breakfast. Or next Tuesday. But that's just me. ;-D
In all, what I learned from 2012, I actually learned from Ray Bradbury. Write. Write, write, write, and write some more. The more you write, the better writer you become. Not real complicated, is it? And it's already helped me, so I will continue to do so.
Bradbury also said that if a story you're working on is hard work and you can't get it right, set it aside (or outright dump it). He said writing should be fun. You should have a blast.
So that's what I did with my latest short story, Horror U. I started it before Halloween, finished it, in as much as I typed THE END ... but something was not quite right and I was not happy with it. So, after I came thisclose to pulling my hair out by the roots and running down the highway naked while singing the theme from The Sound Of Music over and over, I set it aside and started to write something else.
And out of that came my story, Survive, which I love, and which will probably always be one of my favorites, no matter how many others I write in the future. I loved every minute of writing it. Yep, I had a complete and utter blast doing it. Ray Bradbury knew, and bless him for sharing that advice with the rest of us.
I did go back to Horror U, and with that break from it, I saw what the problem was and fixed it, posted it. I like the way it turned out. I don't love it, but I'm happy with it. Especially because, without Horror U driving me crazy awhile back, Survive would never have come into existence. Things happen for a reason.
And also, Ray Bradbury was a frakkin' genius. ;-}
Copyright ©2013 Nik Barnabee. All Rights Reserved.