Friday, May 10, 2013
Attention (...don't call it a comeback)
Posted by Todd Newton
I think I've made it pretty apparent with the sparse posts that I haven't had a lot to say. Nothing profound, relevant, or useful anyhow. Well fuck profundity, fuck relevance, and fuck usefulness; this is a blog, not a paid service. I can waste your time with my pontificating all I like.
Well... no, perhaps not.
I just prefer not to air my dirty laundry, publicly complain, or demand sympathy from strangers over what amounts to little more than a money-making hobby (regardless of how much I wish it were more of a lifestyle). At the very least I try to leave these things ambiguous (if you've read my past posts then you'll know what I mean). I avoid these things because it's pathetic, or at least it feels pathetic.
I think writers by their very nature are plagued by doubts and confidence woes, and I've harped on this the past so I'll spare you the warm-and-fuzzy. We probably all feel like we need to prove we can do it. To someone, to ourselves, to "the world" whatever that really means. We want to plant our flag in the unconquered territory and scream loudly, "MINE!"
More to the point, it's difficult to talk when you feel like you're just talking to yourself. It feels like no one cares, or at least that no one is interested, and that's a high hurdle to jump with the aforementioned natural doubts and confidence woes. Add on top of that that books, as a whole, are not (and haven't been) the most popular form of entertainment. Therefore, writing isn't a lucrative business. If people aren't reading you, not only does it feel like a personal failure to attract their attention but there's an easy excuse to lean on that does little more than make writing feel like a waste of time and effort.
I think I've proven to myself that I can write. Otherwise I would have stopped a long time ago; I wouldn't have written three books and dived into a fourth. That's not the issue, or not where the challenge lies anyway. It's not the propensity, or the capability, or even the "talent" to do something that drives us to do it. It's the desire to reach an end result, to fulfill a dream, to satisfy a goal.
For me, as with this blog, it's having something to say that prompts a reaction. Something that gets attention because it deserves attention.
My first three books said I was unclear, dissatisfied, and disgruntled with the answers religion had to offer. Starka may end The Ninth Avatar with a new ecumenical outlook, but my view of mankind is anything but one of a unified peaceful coexistence. Thomas Redpool Goes To Hell all but says everything you believe is crap, and yet you revel in it as if believing in it is some great accomplishment. Scions of the Shade drives home that you/we are all slaves to religion; true or false, right or wrong, it is present and constant in all our lives whether we believe in it or not.
Now that I've put most (if not all) of that behind me, what do I have to say? My "writing style" (if I can be so bold as to claim that I have one) is all about making my characters' lives harder. For a long time I think I used religion for this; it certainly made my life harder for quite a few years.
Did I have these things in mind as I wrote them? Probably, but buried beneath denial and resentment. I didn't write because I had a bone to pick, but unconsciously my characters became the voice that I didn't want to have. The jury will always be out on whether this is a good or bad thing, since my books have garnered neither sales nor following nor recognition. But, funnily enough, I really don't care about any of those things and never have. All I care about is an emotional reaction, but the right attitude only goes so far.
(Especially when no one is watching.)
Writing a novel is a lot like performing an amazing feat where you can't tell if the audience is listening, watching, or asleep. Attention is why writers do what they do. It's why pretty much anyone of any creative area does what they do. And it's not that "they want attention" in the sense of fame and notoriety (though I'm sure we'd all be happy with some of that) or because they're "attention whores," but they want their efforts to attract attention. They want to know that what they're doing has meaning to someone other than themselves.
What do I have left to write about? Do I have anything to say? Will it attract attention?
I guess we'll find out, because I'm not giving up. (Not yet anyway.)
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