In the past year I’ve been immersing myself more and more in writer culture. In addition to my usual venues and social circles I’m on Twitter now, following and interacting with other writers and people who work with writers and writing, and…it’s been an interesting experience.
I’ve never really thought much about writer culture until this year. Writers write and that’s that, right?
Somebody once told me that I shouldn’t use negative language about myself. I shouldn’t focus on how ugly so and so bodypart is, I should focus on the parts I liked. I shouldn’t say “I can’t”, I should say “I can”, and I should say “I will”. Positive reinforcement.
I try to live by it, even when it’s hard. I try not to think “but there’s so much left to write” and instead think “I’ve written so much already”. It worked for me years back when I decided to go by bicycle around Iceland. Lots of mountains to climb, lots of kilometres to put behind me. I made a point to stop every once in awhile to look back just to see how far I’d come. Maybe it wasn’t much farther than the last time I looked. It didn’t matter. I’d still progressed.
(And I made it halfway around the country before my knees got busted.)
This is part of the reason why what I’m seeing of writer culture is so utterly baffling.
It goes something like this: how to write a book: dig a hole. crawl into the hole. stay in the hole.
Or perhaps like this: how to write a book: flail at the keyboard while screaming uncontrollably.
Or maybe it goes like this: open document. type one word. spend several hours going off tangents on the Internet. return to document and discover no words have been added. cry.
Here’s the thing: I wouldn’t be writing if I didn’t enjoy it.
Wild, right? Enjoy writing? What kind of writer am I? Why am I not guzzling down buckets of coffee while alternating between hammering on my keyboard and posting increasingly quirkier hyperbolic statements about how hard and painful writing is?
Yeah, writing is hard sometimes. The words don’t always come easy. Sometimes other factors in life impede my writing in shitty ways. Sometimes writing is just a drag and a chore and I wonder a little bit why I’m making myself churn out words when I could be doing other, easier things, such as binge watching Netflix or reading other people’s books.
But I enjoy writing. Even when it’s difficult, I enjoy it. Not as much as when it’s easy, and I love it a little less than on the days when it feels like words are all the sustenance I need to live. Who cares about dinner when I’m on a roll? But here’s the other thing: I enjoy it because it’s hard, too.
And then there’s this: Regardless of whether I’m having a good writing day or a bad writing day, I write.
I sit down, and I write. I get distracted by the internet just like everybody else. I chat with friends in a different tab while writing in another. I have been known to get up and do the dishes in the middle of a scene. I have put off writing for hours while I run errands or work out or clean the flat.
But at the end of the day, what it comes down to for me, is to just get the job done. To improve my craft. To finish a story I love. To be excited. To write. I like being able to look back and say yesterday I was there, today I am here.
I’ve been watching the Danish version of the Great British Bake Off for a few years. This season there’s a young lad on the show who has a peculiar way of talking about his bakes. It’s ongoing, still in the first half of the season, as it airs later in the year than GBBO, so I’ve not seen much of him, but…
This lad will say things like “this is disgusting, actually”. He will say “it’s gross.”
I’m sure he’s a fine fellow, but this language is driving me up the wall. Has his mother never taught him that it’s impolite to talk about food like that? Even if it’s his own food? Has nobody taught this kid it didn’t quite turn out the way I expected or it’s not my cup of tea? as a valid way to discuss the outcome of his work?
Has nobody told this kid that assigning negative value to your own work is a damaging thing to do to yourself?
Why is writer culture centred around this idea that writing is a terrible, painful task that only masochists willingly take upon themselves? Why is it that writer culture is obsessed with events like nanowrimo, which is ostensibly about improving the creative output in quantifiable ways, but which is widely regarded by writers as a form of self-inflicted torture? Why is writer culture steeped in negatively loaded hyperbole that is neither motivating nor helpful? Why is it that writer culture seems more interested in having a giant pity party than promoting healthy work ethics?
Why is it that it’s “cooler” to say things like having kittens for fingers would be easier than writing a novel and not today I finished writing an important scene?
Why am I expected to groan and complain about the writing process to be accepted into the club? Why am I expected to sign up for nanowrimo and churn out fifty thousand words in a month while also making sure everyone in the vicinity has heard what tremendous personal sacrifice it is to do it?
Why am I expected to identify with the particular brand of WriterTM that seems to be chronically underslept and harried, by their own writing habits no less, to the point that they resemble an undead human being incapable of functioning in society?
I don’t identify with that brand.
I don’t identify with this way of thinking.
I just can’t see myself in it. I don’t want to be associated with it. I don’t want to let this, frankly, toxic mindset influence me to such a point that I won’t be able to recognise myself anymore.
I want to keep enjoying what I’m doing. I want to love writing. I want to surround myself with writers who gleefully roll up their sleeves and say let’s do this.
So. I’m sorry, guys.
But I don’t want to be in your club.