James Tucker is our guest blogger today….
I once remarked to my then-girlfriend about how artistic people could be hard work sometimes. ‘Yes, you certainly are!’ was her response. I hadn’t really thought of myself in those terms but then I felt good about it. I could now strike official Artistic Poses, and my various gripes (block, comparisons, criticisms, doubt, obsession, etc) would be justified because I was a Tormented Genius.
Sometimes, though, the “artist” business strikes me as odd because writing is almost inherently introverted. You can do it in company but it boils down to you spending a lot of time with a piece of paper or keyboard and your attention focused on the work. It’s the kind of art that someone shy and possibly without any previously detected artistic talent or temperament can aspire to.
But I’m not sure there is any such thing as a pure introvert. Sooner or later, you will need to get some motivation or perspective from another person to keep going. Not to mention that writing is also a craft, and has to be learnt. One of my lecturers defined a writer as someone who would write even if they knew for a fact nobody else would ever see it, but that would be unpleasant and inefficient at the least.
So here’s a rub: unless you are that rare person who writes entirely for your own enjoyment, then at some point, somebody else is going to have to read it. Or, you will have to read it to them. It may feel like you are exposing something deeply personal; if you have spent a long time with your work, you may even be a little jealous of sharing it. You will discover whether being heard is a want or a need, or both.
After which, some of the people exposed to your work may say something back. If you are lucky, it may be something you can use to improve, and you take it as such. If you are very lucky, you may be that even rarer person whose first work is an instant success. But that happens less often than you think; To Kill a Mockingbird is often called a brilliant first novel when in fact it was Harper Lee’s first published novel, there was at least one before that didn’t make it.
Of course taking a compliment can be pretty tough, sometimes even less comfortable than criticism. Yet you probably aspire to more of it.
(Just to prove a point… this blog post is better for exposure to the Next Page group (Jennifer C Wilson, Elaine Cusack, Sandy Chadwin) and the Elementary Writers group run by Victoria Watson, not to mention John Evans at the Phil.)
If you successfully tread the path to major author, you will be expected to do readings and signings with talks. Best get some practice in early. You don’t have to be Jackanory but competence and comfort will be necessary.
So… don’t let the road be too lonely. Sometimes you may walk together in companionable silence, sometimes pause to share provisions and compare blisters, perhaps even take time to plan your route with someone. Or just nod to a fellow traveller as you pass. It’ll be worth it.