Sunday, December 19, 2010

Today, I hadn't written in a while, so I thought, "Fuck it, I'll write some flash fiction. That won't take long. Then I can go back to watching reruns of 'Home Improvement.'" I mean, look at the evidence. Read some journals. They're full of flash fiction and most of it is shit. These folks aren't spending a lot of time on this stuff, and if they are, well that's just sad. Sure, every so often one of them stands out, but most of them are instantly forgettable. I'm not singling FF out--the same could be true of poetry or longer fiction. But FF is shorter, even than some poems. And one wonders if the bulk of 'fiction' writers publishing in journals these days even know how to sustain a longer piece of fiction anymore. But if I go much further with this, I'll have to start naming names.

To survive as a writer, one needs momentum. Now that can be tricky. Me personally, I often get it from positive reinforcement--publications, crowd reactions, etc. But publishing, especially online, doesn't really mean much these days. I keep sending my stuff out, and I keep having it picked up. And to be honest, most of the time I'm disappointed in myself when something I've written is picked up by an online journal. "I should've shot higher," say I to myself. Of course, on the opposite end of the spectrum, sending your work to some head-strong grad. student to reject from a print journal because his professor told him not to like it or because he doesn't recognize your name can be a little frustrating too. So where to get momentum? The project itself (whatever I'm writing) offers a good bit. Sure, it's hard to keep up the pace of writing a novel when you work 12 hours a day, especially when you're looking at maybe someday getting it published and then having probably nobody outside of your friends and family read it. So to actually finish a project, I, for one, really have to feel strongly about it. Am I the only one? (I know that's absurdly unfair--there are tons of great writers out there. It's called making a point.)

There is just so much white noise out there. So many mediocre writers pumping out so-so work. So little of it is interesting or creative. What little is interesting or creative is buried in the white noise. So what's the point of it all? Some of the white noise is created by folks trying to bolster their resumes in order to nab or keep academic positions, sure. Some of them are still laboring under the antiquated model which leads them to believe there's some challenge to getting published. I'm talking about status, which is quickly becoming a thing of the past, in writing. Sure, the grad. students try to hold on to it, but there's nothing special about an MFA when thousands of other people are getting them every year.

Writing is all about telling stories, sure. Christmas is about giving, too, but we all want to receive every now and again. It certainly is nice when someone sends an email or makes a comment about something you've written. It would be nicer if they enclosed a check. Still, given the choice, I would rather be Van Gogh--the genius toiling in obscurity, than work for Hallmark, sure. Absolutely. No question. Except, of course, that Van Gogh had a LOT of venereal diseases. So we can skip that part.


Karen Carlson said...

Here's some positive reinforcement for ya. I have "18" on postcard, came with my contributor's copy of Pear Noir #4 (you'll have to do some research to figure out which story was mine since it was under a pseudonym). It's magnificent. I link to "The Baby" in elimae on my blog, I first heard about it through, and it just runs through my head sometimes. These are things I wish I'd written - and worse, they're pieces I think I could have written, not because I have the talent, but because they have great meaning to me. It's hard to explain. I'm not trying to say I'm as good a writer as you - that would be ridiculous, look at the evidence, as you say - but once in a while I come up with a phrase that cooks. You are my guide, my goal. Scary, huh?

I am one of the mediocrities (Salieri's got nothin' on me) whose crap you sift through looking in vain for that one glimmer - except I am a resident, temporarily I hope, of the Low Rent District, so I've probably never annoyed you. I hope not.

I always thought you were one of the Famous. Somehow it's a comfort to know you're insecure, too. Then again, not. Someone once told me it never ends. Really scary, huh?

CLBledsoe said...

Hang on, Sloopie...sorry. I had to say it. Thanks for the kind words. Famous? Me?! I don't even know who I am. I'm just a school teacher in bumfuck. I like "Harold." Definately my speed. That's a damn fine issue, Pear Noir #4. I'm afraid to send them anything else--I don't want to jinx it. Hey, I've been low rent all my life. A prof. once asked me what my goal as a writer was. I said I wanted to be a mid-lister, some also-ran begging his buddies at university presses to put out yet another dust-gatherer. My answer kind of dulled his spirits, but I think it's a fine goal. Anyway, forgive me for sounding so bitchy. I'm really just talking about myself and my own crap I keep pumping out. But I wrote a nice one yesterday, so all is forgiven. Feel free to keep me abreast of your comings and goings. I did enjoy "Harold."

Glenn Buttkus said...

Boisterous rant, young sir,
and it serves as wisdom and
motivation for the rest of
the unwashed and unknown
who toil lovingly with words
daily, and have shelves of
dust gatherers to remind us
of our addiction and needs.
Over the last several years
I have tracked your work
to wherever I could find it,
and reposted it on my site,
because the more minds that
are stirred by you, the less
dust will gather between
their ears.