Recently I remembered what it was that I wanted to do with this site, and I need to get back to it.
When I was trying to figure out what my “author platform” would be, I wanted to stay away from things like politics or religion or basically anything that told people how to act or what to think. I don’t want to be the kind of guy that tells you that this group of people or that group of people are bad, because when it comes down to it, those groups are usually incredibly large and contain vast numbers of good people. Just because you and I don’t agree about some political point that one or both of us are passionate about doesn’t mean that we disagree about everything. Hell maybe we agree about everything else. When people belittle and deride others for having the audacity to have a different viewpoint on the world, I get sick to my stomach. Even if they aren’t talking about me, they might be talking about someone I love or someone I know to be a good person. And writers, writers who are supposed to be good at looking through the eyes of others, often seem to be the worst of those belittling others. I don’t want to be that person, so I’m not going to. Instead I’m going to teach.
It’s kind of laughable that I might teach anyone about anything related to writing, and I agree. BUT the one thing that I haven’t seen from any of the authors that I follow, is how much they screwed up along the way. How much worry and how many mistakes did they make on their journey to becoming published? Many write about much of what they have gone through after the fact, but I couldn’t find anyone who documented their struggle as it happened. That’s what I’m trying to do. That is why you’ll see me post stories about not writing. I struggle with not writing. I’m constantly trying to figure out how to just sit down and do the work. A dozen authors can tell you “sit your ass down and just do it,” but how many have shown you how badly they have done? Wouldn’t it be inspiring to see that some schlep posted story after story about how he couldn’t sit down and write? OK. Maybe not inspiring until he finally made it.
If you are with me along the path, some of you, nay many of you, who do end up writing your own novels, will likely finish before me. Some will not ever finish. I’m going to. I have so many stories in me that I haven’t even discovered yet, and I know that getting that first one down and finished will start the process of the dam breaking. If you’re there with me when that happens I hope I inspire you to do it too. If you come after the fact and I’ve written several books, how inspiring would it be to find my previous multi-years worth of posts lamenting how I simply can’t write?
That is what I want to do, to inspire others. I want to do this because I know the pain of the story trapped within. I know the pressure building that has no vent, no release. It is far better to release that pressure in a controlled, useful manner than it is to let it build until there’s an explosion. After the explosion, you’re wasted inside. The pressure will no longer build, and so without that pressure, you have no useful energy to focus on doing something good. How horrible is that fate?
So, mentally I now go back to Alpine where I attended the Writer’s Conference of Texas Writer’s Retreat in 2015 (a little more than a year ago as of this writing).
The impact I experienced at that retreat was huge when I was there and shortly after. Over time I started to feel like I shouldn’t have gone at all. That was the Impostor Syndrome talking, but I realize now that I probably should not have gone so early in my journey. I wasn’t prepared. I still don’t think I am, and I’m much more qualified now than I was then. But at what point in your journey is a good time to go do something like that? Check me. I intend to return to that question.
Some of the things I really wanted when I went to the retreat included finding a writing group, finding others who write the kind of things I write, and finding some reassurance on general idea that I wasn’t crazy. Of those I found who were interested in the writing group, no one really seemed to want to keep the pace required. Everyone is busy and doing their own things, plus we were trying to do this over the Internet so it wasn’t as personal as it could have been. Finally, I just don’t think my style of critique and writing really meshed well with the other writers. I don’t think any of the others were interested in being a genre writer. In my estimation, they all hold the capacity to be literary writers, and there I was wanting to write paperbacks and short stories. I also started realizing I have no idea what I’m doing. I do think I realized that I wasn’t crazy. I mean, whenever I read for the group, people were intrigued by my story. I even had opportunities to shine a little, which for me is a big deal too. (Not because I’m all ego – which I am regardless – but because I like to think I can create something that brings joy to others. What is better than that?) So yeah. The experience was a mixed bag, and the longer I dwelt on the negatives, the more I started to think the whole experience was a waste.
What a fucking idiot I am sometimes. (No you can’t quote me, Chuck.)
Now however, I think back to that experience and the few I had since. I haven’t progressed on my path as I would have liked, but I have progressed. I’ve done more writing in the past two years than I have in the prior twenty five. If only I had been writing all that time. Actually I had been writing, just not in the novel form. Since I was eight or ten years old, I’ve played role playing games, you know Dungeons and Dragons and the like. I love the things. They are interactive storytelling experiences. With dice. And math. ALL THE THINGS I LOVE. Every once and a while I’ll find a couple sheets of paper tucked away in some forgotten notebook that details the life and times of random people. I was writing.
I can’t help but write, but my problem is that for so long I’ve been concerned with building likable characters that I haven’t really focused on building plots. Well that isn’t exactly true. I’ve tried to develop large complicated adventures before, but somehow the story always faded. Often I lost interest. That’s a significant flaw of mine. Often the players would want to do things that I as a game master didn’t want them to do. I once had a whole story written about some mutated sentient spiders. They were expanding outward from their caves and intruding on the lands of mankind because their king and queen were at war with each other. Man. I was waiting to see the faces of my players as they descended into the crags and caves that the spiders lived. I envisioned the players descending into the caves. In the distance, beyond their torch light, they would see tiny motes of light sparkling at them. Deeper and deeper they would descend until the sparkling was all around them. Then a voice would ring out as one small cluster of sparkling light descended in front of them from far above. The voice would call out again, light would appear around the sparkling motes, and the source would reveal itself as a spider, eyes twinkling the group’s own light back at them. The reveal would have made months of adventuring so very worth the investment.
But after taking care of the small group of spiders attacking the random village my players were traveling through, they said “hey lets go to <place>!” <Place> being a thousand miles away … in the other direction.
Ah. The joys of being a game master.
So there I was a decade plus later and I realized I was done telling my stories through adventures that will never pan out the way I plan. Instead I’ll write a book or thirty, because things go the way we plan when we have all the control right? HA! I’m such an idiot. (See previous statement on quoting, Chuck).
So here I am, a year post Alpine, and I am thinking “did I do the right thing going to that retreat when I did?” The answer is yes. I may not have been ready for the lessons then as well I would be now, but I wouldn’t have made it to now had I not gone then.
If you think something will help you become a better writer, I say try it out. Just remember to take stock of your situation, and keep re-examining things at different times so you can get a better appreciation for what you did, how you did it, and what you can take from it. The journey isn’t about how well you did, if the timing was right, or when you do it. The journey is about the journey.
© 2016, Joseph K Little. All rights reserved.