Sunday, June 1, 2014

In Which The Girl (Still) Writes

So, anybody remember that thing I used to do? Like, stringing words together? It used to be the only thing that made any sense. The only thing I was absolutely certain about.
Thing is, I've been caught in a slump. Call it permanent writer's block. All my old stories kind of fizzled out over the year I was too busy to work on them, and I've had a hard time picking up the threads. I've been busy with school, and a bit short in the inspiration department. I've been unsure of my own ability, since, as time passes, I keep looking back at things I wrote that I thought were marvelous at the time, and realizing that they're sort of rubbish. I'm not sure I'll ever get better. Also, I don't know what I want to write. I've always thought it was YA, but now I'm not so sure. I don't know what I can write that there is room for in the publishing world. I don't know if I really believe in the current model, with a handful of names skyrocketing to fame and movie deals and the rest getting read by, like, thirteen people, half of which they're related to. Kids like me, armed with dreams and a portfolio of half-finished novels and a handful of decent short stories, are a dime a dozen. I'm not so sure my writing is ever going to get me anywhere.
That is, I wasn't so sure. But the weird thing is, things keep happening. Little things that make me feel like I'm being chastised for giving up too soon.
First, Thought Catalog published a personal essay of mine, something I submitted on a whim because I'd written it for myself and it seemed like something their readers might appreciate. Essay proceeded to do well in the likes-and-shares department - not spectacularly well, but comparatively, respectably well. And that felt pretty cool.
Then there's my English teacher. See, homeschooling, I never got any feedback on my academic writing from anyone who wasn't related to me. Wasn't really sure where I measured up in the scheme of things. But this year, my teacher (who's an utterly spectacular lady, by the way), who has nothing to gain or lose by offering her honest opinion, has given me really positive feedback. Like, "You're a natural at this, you've got grace and style, you need to keep writing," positive.
She also gave the whole class a chance at extra credit if we entered the school literary journal's quarterly writing contest. Never one to say no to seven points of extra credit for doing something I love, I entered two pieces (we could enter up to three): the short story about Vincent Van Gogh that I wrote my senior year of high school, and a new piece I'd written for a Figment prompt contest just a couple of months ago. After having entered them, I didn't give it another thought. Until the email showed up in my inbox. Both stories made it to the semi-finals. Not one or the other. Both.
And then, ehm, I won. First place.
Then there's the strangest thing. There's this subculture of Tumblr users, devoted to writing and consuming, devouring, a thing called reader-insert fan fiction. It's written about characters or celebrities, but with the "reader" acting as a character in the story. It's written in the second person. Have you ever tried to sustain writing in the second person? Ugh. But anyway, I stumbled across this subculture one day, and I wondered if I could do it. If I could pull it off. Second person, yes. Also, writing to a very specific audience. Screw up the characterization of the character you're working with, and you find yourself with angry fangirls on your hands. Also, for a reader to allow you to recruit them into your story requires trust, which you break if you take the reader-character too far into its own personality. Any reader has to be able, not only to identify with, but become this character. This character has to be literally everyone who reads it, not only as they are, but as they'd like to see themselves. Egos are funny things. Is it great, high literature? No. If Really Great Literature is a four-course meal, this brand of fan fiction is, like, chocolate and morphine. But it's a challenge, and it's fun, and it requires minimal commitment. Even by the standards of the blog I submitted it to, it's been popular. I'm going to have to finish the story.
So, I guess, the girl still writes. What does that look like? No clue. Zip. Zilch. Nada. But, erm, I guess we'll find out.

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