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Doing it for yourself

Today I read a book. With pages. Not a computer file on my Kindle. It’s been a long time since I read a book. With pages. And the smell of pages, and dust on the pages. It was wonderful. The book was also highly enjoyable but I think I enjoyed reading the words and turning the pages more than “How to Write Movies for Profit” angle of the book.

I got to work today and I was filled with energy. Energy that came directly from the book, from the pages. From holding a physical object that other people had handled. The idea of the work that went into it. The effort of editors and writers, typesetters and cover designers. I could feel it all. That energy that has been missing from my life for a while now.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with Kindle eBooks. I have a rather massive collection of them now, mostly soppy gay romance novels I wouldn’t be caught dead reading on a packed commuter train. Books with titles like Devotion, Law of the Jungle, The Locker Room and my personal favourite title (although not my personal favourite sloppy gay romance novel) A Magnetic Couple Dilemma.

I used to have a terrible snobbish anti-eBook vibe going on. I’ve written about it in here before. The idea that any author would give away their creativity for free, or for 99 cents invoked a certain level of “well how good can it be.” Turns out, some of them are absolutely excellent. Others, big piles of pants that should never be unleashed on an un-expecting audience. When you’re reading free stuff – regardless of the genre you – take the good with the bad.

But back to when I arrived at work. My brain was over active. I was thinking of the stories in the book I’d read. I was thinking about the two men who had written movie scripts that had grossed over a $1 billion at the box office and no doubt that amount is still climbing. They talked about writing, about not be a precious git, and not writing art house movies unless you wanted to see Helen Mirren’s boobs. At least I think that’s what they were talking about. I know Helen Mirren’s Boobs get quite a few mentions in the pages I’ve read so far.

What they also talked about was writing. Not how to do, or how to structure it, or how to set about changing the course of humanity through the power of the written word, but writing. The sit down and do it school of thought. The shove your inhibitions and your self doubt in a box, shove the box under the bed and just write.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been in writing classes and heard the same thing. Sometimes the exact same thing. Particularly the bit about would-be writers being so precious they throw away the baby with the bath water. The writer – like I used to be – who got all offended and bitchy if someone told me they thought my work could be improved.

I used to carry that particular arrogant cross until I screen play course at the Australian Writers’ Centre. In that class – because I was utterly clueless to begin with – I dropped the walls and let the instructor teach me. I listened, I applied myself and I wrote a screenplay for a short film that even now when I read it I think “you know what kid, this is actually good.” Tim – the instructor – actually told me it was ready to be made, but I shoved it in a drawer. Baby steps people, baby steps.

As I was making coffee in the kitchen, and choking on my probiotic capsule as it wedged in my throat I thought “I’m sick of trying to write for publication, for production. I’m sick of writing stuff on the off chance someone, somewhere is going to actually like it enough to give me money for it. It’s too much pressure. It makes me feel like I’ve got a probiotic wedged in my throat with every word I type.”

I decided that instead of writing for profit, at first I’ve got to write for fun. I need to write the stories I want to tell, and write them for me. As the time goes bye and the editing works, then others will have the chance to read them, but to cripple myself before I’ve put finger to keyboard simply because I’m are terrified no one is going to like it in the future is sort of stupid really.

I was thinking today while trying to confirm speakers that all I really want to do with my writing is to entertain. I’m not interested in changing the dynamics of human existence. All I want to do is make people laugh, and cry, maybe check under the bed before turning out the light. I have always liked writing, because for me, reading is pure escapism.

I lost my joy in the world of words when I got my brain caught in “this has to be brilliant because it has to sell and make money so I can write and support myself when I retire (true story)” instead of simply letting the story flow, good or bad or indifferent.

I can’t say I will never have bad days, or days where I forget that I’m not writing for the audience at the moment. But I can say I plan on making a much more conscious effort to write for my main audience – me – and to give myself permission to explore emotions, to explore genre’s and to just enjoy writing again.

For me, writing had become both a chore and a bother, and a massively unclimbable mountain. I’m not a massive fan of any of those things. For now, it’s just me and the word processing package against the world. All I can do is try, and hopefully entertain myself in the process.

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43 year old Australian writer currently working on the first of a planned three book Epic Fantasy series. When he's not writing policy discussions, or tales of swords, Gods, and magic, he can be found making a mess in the kitchen, and turning perfectly good ingredients into crimes against humanity.

1 Comment

  1. Good on you. I started blogging as part of a communications course but actually I now just enjoy it as a creative outlet. You are so right about just sitting down and doing it. I am a terrible procrastinator myself – there is always something that gets in the way. It was interesting what you said about the screenwriters course and dropping the walls and taking advice – hey presto it sounds like you might have a hit in the drawer just waiting to be put on the big screen. I like a quote from Nelson Mandela which was about our deepest fears actually coming from fear of success and fear of achieving our dreams here: http://www.aetw.org/mandela.htm We’re all creatures of habit and we mostly stay in our comfort zones. All the best with your writing.

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