zanzjan: (manuscript)
[personal profile] zanzjan
Yeah, I don't post here nearly enough.

This is in large part because I live in a town that has no high-speed internet, so I can't even load LJ from home over dialup much less post. And I do try to stick to worky-stuffs at work when I'm there. But, being rather ADHD, of course, I have littered my life with little distractions that ultimately help me focus on the real task at hand. And there are few distractions quite as handy as twitter.

Of course, sometimes from home I can read but not like/reply/RT things. It's kinda random, but if there's a pattern, it's usually that if I really WANT to reply to something I can't. And sometimes I can, but what I have to say would be like a bazillion tweets. This is one of those latter things.

So there was a convo on twitter several days ago, and for the life of me I can't remember who started it, about what would you do as a writer if you knew your work was destined for oblivion. And I've been thinking about that question ever since.

First thing, of course, is that I am a science geek and eventually the sun is gonna run out of hydrogen and expand into a big red ball o' awesomeness and swallow at least the first three planets of our solar system before it burps itself out of existence. Even if humanity has miraculously figured out how to get along and cooperate and function rationally by then, I don't expect that as they decamp from our star system out into the wider universe that they're gonna be hauling along a copy of Detroit Hammersmith, Zero Gravity Toilet Repairman with them. (Which isn't to diss my own story, because I think it turned out pretty much like I wanted it to when I started writing it.) I mean, maybe the sum knowledge and creation of mankind by then will fit on a little capsule the size of a Mike & Ike and everyone will swallow a copy and carry it out into infinity, but I wouldn't bet on it, yanno?

If we're thinking about oblivion in a cultural way, rather than a survival-of-the-species way, I still don't figure I'll make the cut, but I also don't really spend time thinking about it. It's not part of the metric of why I write, or why I write what I do. The idea that we would ask "what would you do if you knew your work was destined for oblivion?" seems much less interesting (to me) than the opposite consideration: "what would you do if you knew your work was destined for extraordinary cultural longevity?"

Hide and take up heavy drinking, probably.

So then I find myself asking, do I have different expectations from, and ambitions for, my writing than most other writers? Am I doing this wrong? (That wouldn't surprise me.) Why am I doing this at all? I think at this point I've had enough short stories and poems published that it's starting to stretch credulity to keep pretending it's a fluke. (Take that, pesky Imposter Syndrome!) I think I also passed, a good while back, the ability to lie to myself that this is just a whim and I can quit any time. But to the extent that I take writing seriously as a pursuit -- which if you quote me on I'll deny -- it's not primarily about saying something of lasting, profound, life-changing worth. I try not to be too stupid or silly, but I *like* a little bit of stupid and silly. I like to think that my larger values of integrity, empathy, and inclusion underpin what I write, and that as my own lifelong journey to become a better, more aware, more compassionate human being proceeds, that road is documented in tiny fragments of footprints buried deep under that same silly and stupid.

But that's not why I write.

For myself, for what *I* get out of it, it's the creativity and puzzle-solving. It's fun. It's a challenge. It's play. There's an element of validation that comes from successfully putting a story out there into the world. Before I took up writing I was a sculptor, and there's a similar sense of "whoa, I made this!" holding a magazine issue with my own name on the cover as there is holding a piece of bronze that I pulled out of wax, mold, molten metal, and imagination. I think the only way I could surpass the high is either to watch a magazine or a novel of my own actually rolling off a printing press. (I'm kinda about the tangible object and glorious noise.)

What do I want for my stories, though, when they go out in the world? That's changed and is always changing, but has the same fundamental core. I've had a lot of tragedy in my life, and some very tough times, and what has always gotten me through them is books. Every story is a chance to step out of your own life into something else, somewhere else, someone else's head with their own challenges and struggles. It's affirmation that we don't always win but we can do the right thing. It's a reminder that things go badly to shit sometimes and we can still come out the other side. It's a chance to go somewhere you can't ever otherwise imagine, from fictional places like Middle Earth to diving through the atmosphere of a gas giant. It's our chance to be other people, to be and see ourselves more clearly, to see our world framed in a different way, to have ready-made friends and allies (and lovers and enemies) when we need them, to escape, to dream, to wield magic and fly with dragons, to swap our personal, persistent ghosts for monsters we can close up in their book and set aside.

So yeah. If I've entertained someone, provided some brief side-adventure away from real life that they found worthwhile, whether or not they remember my name or my story or any of it, that's the victory that matters to me. Sometimes it's those tiny things that carry us through the big.

April 2017

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