The Lament of the Socially Awkward
The common trope for fiction writers is that we are locked away in a log cabin, typing away on clickety-clack keys, spinning yarns for our own amusement and for occasional pay. A deer might even be nibbling on grass nearby. Alcohol is certainly involved. We rarely speak, stockpiling lofty words like opine and insouciant to spice our books. We are an antisocial bunch, venturing out only occasionally, blinking like moles and fingers twitching to return to our hovel.
According to this legend, we are a quiet crowd, drinking too many spirits, feeling too much, but providing a needed element to the earth’s periodic table. Readers buy our books and stories, thankful that we sit separate from the world to write their entertainment and tell them the truth.
Is writing for introverts anymore?
But there is a new paradigm. The solitary cabin is no longer our reclusive home. It has Wi-fi, trilling cell phones, and social media tickers. We are expected to write our daily word sacrifice on computer, which has the potential to distract us from our goal.
But worse is that we are no longer allowed to sit alone, weaving our words independently. We must also build a platform. We must cultivate our own audience like summer tomatoes. We are expected to converse on Twitter, befriending potential agents, prospective readers, and esteemed book reviewers. We must gather likes and follows and retweets like produce. We are forced to balance polite interaction with low-key marketing.
What are we to say? We are skilled at creating worlds which illuminate truth. This does not always mean we are good conversationalists. Fantastical personas, ingenious gimmicks, and lightning rod personalities rule the ‘verse. The bland need not reply.
The Fight for Words
I can only speak for myself. I fight for every minute that is needed to craft a story. Each line of text requires several minutes, if not hours. I spill out the first draft, often in a great flurry of excess. These words are almost never kept. They are placeholders.
Somewhere among the faux text, I find the dots which define the story and I go about connecting them. Again, these are connections are made with words which won’t make the final cut.
Finally, in fits and starts real, bonafide sentences begin to arrive. They arrive individually, slowly and alone. A polished draft is glacial in its arrival.
And then I must submit the words I have birthed over many months to people who are exceptionally cruel, killing hordes in great bloody swathes. They bruise and batter my poor draft, exterminating plot points, clever passages, and my very favorite parts. I am indebted to these vicious masters, for they are writers too. Every word of mine that they read and find lacking, is time away from their own words.
In the end, a manuscript is completed, imperfect but loved. And yet no audience awaits my words. I have spent too much time writing my words that I have forgotten to court my audience.
It’s an impossible balance. And one I fear I will never master. I have put my faith in craft, rather than marketing. I can only hope that someday I will write words which will be read, not because I cleverly marketed my stories or because I am a sparkling conversationalist but because my stories created such fans that they felt compelled to speak out, passing along my words and saying, You must read this.
After all, this is why I read my heroes. For the story, for the truth they coaxed out of dictionary words. For the words which stick with me, nourishment for my soul. For the time they spent locked in the cabin, writing stories instead of tweets. And for this, I honor them, trudging along in their footsteps.