I think that you’ve got to make something that pleases you and hope that other people feel the same way — Thomas Keller
Creating a photographic image, a painting, a piece of music, a piece of writing or even a quilt, has to please the person creating it. Sounds a little selfish? I think it’s more along the lines of taking pride in the work. It’s revealing what you can do or showing off what a little gumption (which includes taking a really deep breath) can get you.
It reveals a part of you that might not come out all that often in everyday life. It is your creativity. The artistic kind. It represents what you think is beautiful and what your artistic sensibilities are. It’s your artistic expression. Sometimes revealing that expression can be the most terrifying thing a person can do. It is a sacred space that most people keep to themselves or only share with their closest friends and confidantes.
But when you get the nerve to reveal that side of you to a larger audience, beyond the friends and the family, sometimes you have to remind yourself it’s impossible to please everybody with what you want to create. So, you must start with pleasing yourself. Be true to yourself. Create what you want and go from there.
When I started seriously pursuing writing as a more than a hobby (which was right from the get go), I didn’t pursue it for any real financial gain. These days, earning an income by just being a novelist doesn’t happen all that easily. Those who are well-established and have a proven track record with their writing can probably do it.
I started pursuing writing because it was a creative outlet I had not fully explored when I was much younger and I had wondered whether or not I could be a storyteller. All my other creative outlets had their moments with me. But all those outlets have led me to where I’m at now. I still have a strong interest in photography. It was one of my first loves. That hasn’t changed. But it’s been relegated to more personal pursuits rather than using it as a source of revenue.
I’m funny about the writing in that way, as well. I know folks who write for a living. They do corporate work or write for niche magazines and newspapers. Kudos to them for making writing their livelihood. Me? I can’t seem to wrap my head around juggling these two things: 1) writing to get paid and; 2) writing because I want to tell a story. Writing, for the most part, is a pleasure for me. And that includes the times I stared at a blank screen wondering where the fuck all those great ideas that popped into my head when I was driving home from work, had disappeared to. The process, with all its warts, is something I enjoy. But once money factors into it, writing will eventually become work. That’s the fastest way to ambivalence and disdain. I love writing. I don’t ever want to hate it.
You hear the odd person remark that they can’t believe they’re getting paid to do something they love. Must be nice. I have yet to utter those words. I think that experience is saved for those who were born knowing what they want to do with their lives and get the opportunity to do it. To be honest, it’s a goal I’ve never thought to aspire to. I have far more interesting words to utter.
I write to get something off my chest whether it be good, bad or ugly. Sure, there are other ways. But I think those activities are deemed either illegal or unacceptable or both by society’s standards. When I write to get something off my chest, it could be anything really. I suppose it’s one of the reasons I maintain this blog. Other things that I want to get off my chest are stories… like the one my two boys are telling me. Those I can’t blow off onto a blog post. That takes structure and attention to detail to get that off my chest.
I maintain this blog not to attract attention to myself, even though it’s kind of naturally built-in. I maintain it to keep writing and maybe to hone my keyboarding skills. I remember taking typewriting classes in school. Who here remembers typewriters? They were the clunkier, heavier versions of today’s computer keyboards. I think I managed to type 30 words per minute. No more than that. I should figure out how many words I can type out per minute now. Probably 30 still. I wouldn’t be surprised.
Do I ultimately care about how many people have read my posts? No. There millions of blogs out there. I’m just one little voice. If I hit five views for one day, I’ll be happy. If I get zero, I’m fine with that, too.
When I wrote the first book, did I care about how it would sell? Not really. I cared more that I told a decent story. The content of the book might not be everybody’s cup of tea but I never wrote it to be everybody’s cup of tea. Without a shadow of a doubt, the second book won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, either. It’ll be my cup of tea… with a bottle of mezcal off to the side. If you like my sensibilities, you’ll probably like it, too.
I’ve been told that if you write your book, an audience will find you. Or something to that effect. I’d like to believe that. I don’t write for the masses because it would be too hard to do. My brain isn’t wired that way. I have to be true to myself. I write because I think I have interesting stories to tell. And depending on how you define ‘interesting’, those stories are not what everybody wants.
And I’m ok with that. I never meant to please everybody. Maybe just somebody.