I don’t usually post on a Friday, but it suits the situation in a sense.
For a while, maybe a year, I haven’t felt a writer’s motivation. In fact, with some exceptions here and there along the way, I have been struggling with the purpose of continuing.
Perhaps every creative type goes through it at some point. In fact, this is probably so. But like vomiting, the fact that everyone has at some point done so is no comfort to one who is in the midst of doing same. It’s just as lousy a feeling.
My writing as a whole, this blog included, is simply not reaching people. It’s not inspiring thought, engaging interest, provoking questions, or even entertainment. The lack of feed back would indicate that I’m just not producing, perhaps have never produced writing that is worth reading for most people.
Of course, marketing is some part of it. Anything goes better with a limitless marketing budget. I could have a million dollars and still not move anybody with my writing, though. It may increase visibility, but in the end, the true connection a writer such as myself seeks with readers can’t be bought with marketing, only suggested.
To come at that from another angle, while I confess that marketing has more than zero impact on my lack of success, the results remain the same even once I started building a marketing budget; almost nothing happens.
My great confession, and one I have alluded to before is this; the process means nothing to me, if in the end it doesn’t reach someone. That sounds like a writer’s cardinal sin if you read the lion’s share of advice out there for would-be writers. If it is, then forgive me writer, for I have sinned. But the time, energy, stamina, anxiety, etc, put into creating even a modest book does not happen for me in a vacuum as it does for (apparantly) so many writers. I’m not in love with the process of writing for its own sake. It is the tool I have attempted to use to reach people. Move and shake them. Make them laugh, make them think. (I’m not big on trying to make people cry, to tell you the truth, except here and there.)
The actual clicking of the keys or the scraping of the pen on paper is not my reward, I’m sorry. Like an actor performing in front of a totally empty house, (another situation with which I am familiar), the driving, force seems missing when I write for zero readers. Performing on stage with nobody watching once rehearsals are done is mix of embarrassment, anger and sudden on-set depression. It’s a confluence of non-violent unpleasantness that makes one sick in a way that cannot be explained to those who have not been on stage with any accuracy. It is probably, by shades, a worse situation than writing for zero readers, because of the immediacy of the assault. But not by much.
Writing, fiction in particular, that nobody reads, or that know reader feels moved enough to offer feedback about is, forgive my frank and unartful phrasing, shit.
My fourth novel, due out in September, goes on as planned. This blog continues. But beyond those things, I am in earnest when I say I don’t know what to do about this feeling of pointlessness that encompasses the writer’s component of me. Quit writing? Dive further into marketing? Find a meditation regimen which results in my ability to accept getting no where? Keep going anyway because…writing?
I don’t know. At this exact moment, I am not even certain how to go about starting to know.
A time between the winter and the spring, when the air has started to warm, but only started. The sun resides with us longer into the day, but the ground has not yet been informed of the change.
That, or it is an arrival for which the soul and the long-browned grass refuse to prepare; their compulsory participation in the coming veridescence and warmth will be open them soon enough.
Yet for these few weeks, few days, the demonstrable yet no longer white-knuckle clutch of winter will not totally relinquish everything for another year.
Irregular piles of snow, protected for now by unknown science and chance hold out all over like forgotten Confederate battalions avoiding the inevitable Union sun.
These islands of cold encroach upon the dirt and mud of proto-spring, their ice-encrusted surfaces gleaming here and there in the almost no longer bashful sun.
Shards and slivers and crumbling miniature escarpments of snow checker warming rooftops with patchwork tundras. Smears gray cold oatmeal slush in forgotten divets and sidewalk panels in the shade, even as most of their brethren have long since fully liquefied.
Stand still, and hear the gentle dirge of all the trillion flakes that have succumbed–the multitudinous drips and plops from window sills and gutters and tree limbs. And the the burbling counterpoint of recent waters rushing down the street along the curb.
A mere rehearsal for the sun, which isn’t yet equipped to sear, instead in passing lays a friendly hand upon the shoulder, and leave a gentle warning not to shed the sweatshirt yet.
The air is now a cleansing agent, and old but pristine, grey, cool damp rag pressed against the forehead of the earth and her people as the winter fever breaks. Inhale the mineral purity of it’s absolute non-fragrance.
Still in it blows a winter’s NA; gulp too much and a cough will threaten yet.
Straight through the town amidst this interregnum of the seasons, to a granite bench across from which a broken statue of the Virgin Mary. Our Lady is a dirt streaked white as is the snow beneath her pedestal.
The empty church, without a congregation, up for sale behind her does not vex her. Nor does the snow and slush, the exposed iron framework of her damaged right hand-
The Agnostic sitting in his soaked-through jeans on the bench.
The tears from melting snow upon her head that cross her face.
Drip. Drip. Plop. Rush.
Drip. Drip. Plop. Rush.
The above picture is me. I imagine that is obvious to most people, even though I’m not exactly dressed up for the red carpet.
The shot is about a month old or so. Despite its overall rough look, I got to think not long after I took it (on a lark) that it is one of my favorite pictures of me from the last few years.
For one, I am looking at “you,” but clearly ensconced somewhat by the hoodie. Withdrawn, if only by a few inches of cloth, into a world, and awareness that is my own, away from the world.
Far from clean-shaven, I had been in the shower earlier in the day. My hair tends to only curl in the front like that after a recent shampoo. I’m going for comfort on a cold day, but still aware of some social aspects of being “presentable.”
I’m not smiling, though I am just messing around with the camera on my phone, mostly.
And it is from messing around, and not trying (too hard) that a higher quality image comes about. Believe me I could have spent an hour trying to manufacture this picture, and not come close.
And, because it is a selfie, I did it by myself. I was alone. And yet, here I share it on my blog. This website may not be as viewed by as many as I would have hoped, but it’s quite public.
Finally, as is the case with so many black and white photos, a fuller, deeper range of my “aura” my “persona” comes into focus because of, and not in spite of the lack of color in the shot.
In short, this photo is in many ways representative of so many dichotomies within me. The introvert out in the world. The Autistic among the neuro-typical. The monk within the jester. My novels and plays as well as my sensitive skin issues and obvious lack of fashion concern…all here.
There is zero bullshit in this photo of me, in other words. Into every life, every day, there is a little bullshit, just to get by. And for someone like me, there is a lot more than average, what with masks and expectations and such. I don’t lie to the world, but I have to be a bear that dances for it every once in a while in order to move forward. Sprinkling of bullshit. Exhausting.
Yet, for a change, not in this shot. It’snot a headshot, or a goof-around selfie, or a pic snapped at a party. It is, more than even many good photos, the most authentic image of Ty Unglebower captured in quite a while.
Any dog, no matter how tame and lovable, yes even your own pooch, will, if deprived of food and/or water long enough, go mad. At that point, it will become and cruel and nasty as its physical condition will allow in order to get the food and water it needs. Dogs we love can reach a state of being willing to kill us, if it comes to that.
Not a pleasant thought.
Almost as unpleasant a thought is what our own minds can do to us when not properly fed, or in this case occupied.
As a creative on the Spectrum, not to mention someone who struggled at times with anxiety, I know what my mind, my runaway thoughts can do to me. Catastrophizing. Fear. Depressing thoughts and oppressive memories playing over and over.
If my mind is active but not deeply occupied in actions that require some degree of attention and thought, my mind will in fact turn on me. Like a dog not properly fed, that which is among the most dear aspects of my life can turn on me, and become destructive, if not utilized.
I have no science to back up my speculation that this can be especially tricky for artists and other creative types. But I can certainly say that my artistic creativity, in writing, in theatre, lives in or near the some place in my heart as does the deepest fears and anxieties. They are not one and the same, but like our beloved put deprived for too long of that which it needs to survive, the mind can become infected with the dark-but-unproductive thoughts. (Dark can in fact be productive, when channeled.)
Everyone has such times as I have described. For some, counseling or treatment are required to keep things in line. But for such cases, as well as for those who are not in needs of same, the propensity for our minds to become our enemies is a real one. None of us should ignore the call for proper channeling and stimulation, to keep the anxious thoughts at bey, (even if we cannot eliminate them totally.)
During the day if I am up, I need to either be free to do whatever I please, of be engaged in an activity/job that required the use of at least some concentration in order to keep those dogs properly fed. I recently left a part-time job which possessed many problems. More and more of them as time went on. But among the most recent of those issues was how much time I had to spend with the “hungry dogs of the mind.” That is to say doing mindless tasks for too long, without the proper stimulation. Brooding was the sometimes result, and it happened more and more on the job as other problems with it mounted.
Keep your mind occupied. Read, write, create. Play World of Warcraft if that is your thing. (It’s not mine.) Whatever you do to feed those dogs, remember to keep them fed regularly. It’s not laziness or leisure when it comes to your mental health.
Broadly, anywhere a reader could comfortably enjoy any or all of my books is the ideal place, of course. I’m not one to dictate such things. In truth, I don’t think there is much about my novels, or short story collections that would partner specifically well with a given setting or circumstance. In the bath, at the coffee house, in a dark closest during a party you are trying to hide from, it’s all gratifying to me, so long as my work brings you joy.
However, if I were to pick a scenario by which I would take extra pleasure in my books being read and enjoyed, I’d say with a hot drink, by a nice fire keeping on warm on a cool, quiet night. Or perhaps a day, if one were snowed in. Home or on a cabin vacation, perhaps at a ski lodge. Very cozy. A scenario some Danes may call hygge.
Yeah, go look that up, if you’re not familiar with the term. I’d enjoy knowing that reading of my fiction was a component of someone’s hygge. (It’s a broad term that can apply to anything that brings joy, but you’ll see what I mean in more detail if you investigate further.)
It’s a tad ironic I think this way, given that I have released almost all of my fiction during the summer.
Once again, there is nothing specific to the plots of my fictions that would lend themselves to this, with the possible exception of Murder, Theatre, Solitaire, which does take place during and after a blizzard. (No spoilers there.) I just enjoy the scenario.
They say an author is supposed to have an ideal reader in mind when they write things. I had a shadow of one. Maybe I should consider in more detail who my ideal reader is. That’s not as easy for me as it is for some. I don’t like to narrow such things down. Further, I don’t think having a specific type of reader in mind would change the nature of the stories I try to tell.
In any case, I may not have an ideal reader pinned down, exactly, but I know where they spend most of their reading time.
Where do you like to read? Are you an author with an ideal setting in which to read your work?