I'm feeling rather energized after finishing my zine and sending it to a few people. Say what you will about DIY media versus more established literary outlets, but there is no denying that elated feeling that comes along with finishing a piece of art and saying, fuck yeah, I did that!
So I have all of these ideas tumbling around in my head, but I'm trying to make a point to focus on them, one at a time, so I can actually get stuff done. (Don't say I never learned anything from the stack of adults-with-ADHD literature I plowed through several years ago.) And sometimes when I think about all of my ideas, and I think about all of the other writers out there, and how they all have a lot of ideas, and how we are all spending several hours a week clickety-clacking away on our keyboards in hopes of creating something that will speak to another person on the planet.
Such trains of thought always end the same way: I get completely overwhelmed and wonder why I ever bother, if I am just going to be one of those faceless, nameless clickety-clackers trying to carve out a little space for myself using nothing but cleverness and a decent vocabulary. I mean, how do you make yourself stand out? How do you differentiate yourself from so many other writers? How do you get others to take notice of you (and not for writing execrable prose or being a big fucking liar)?
(Seriously, what is it about art and writing that turns otherwise confident, capable adults into needy, whining infants? I'd like to know the answer to this, please.)
But not only is this line of thinking completely maladaptive, as my psychology-grad-student husband likes to put it, but it's also flat-out wrong. I mean, you only need look around my condo to see proof that this is ridiculous.
I have four bookshelves, completely jammed pack full of books ranging from the Sookie Stackhouse novels to Civilization and Its Discontents by Freud. A.M. Homes shares shelf space with Diablo Cody, who sits next to Philip Pullman, who chills alongside Maxine Hong Kingston. And these are just the books I've kept!
Let's head into my bedroom - specifically my nightstand. On my nightstand sits five books: Pilgrim in the Land of Alligators by Jeff Klinkenberg, Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner, A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf, The Varieties of Scientific Experience by Carl Sagan and Girls on the Verge by Vendela Vida. Littered throughout my books are about a dozen zines I recently received from Parcell Press, and sitting on the floor next to my nightstand is a basket full of magazines.
What about my purse? My purse holds the most recent Paris Review, an issue of Cometbus and the 2008 Best American Non-Essential Reading collection. And in my bathroom? Several issues of the New Yorker, New York, Elle, Ms. and even an issue of Creative Nonfiction.
And none of this takes into consideration my browser, which in the past few days has read countless essays and articles and interviews by famous people like James Wood and about a dozen other people I've never heard of before.
Do you see where I am going with this? I read the way others breathe. The printed word is my food and water. And I like variety in my sustenance. I am not just content to eat the same tried-and-true box of Kraft Dinner night after night. I'm willing to branch out and give oxtail soup a try as well.
And I know that most of those writers (the good ones, at least), as well as a lot of non-writers, read with the same kind of passion. That's a lot of people who expect access to writing and storytelling, who consider it an essential part of life. And that means there will always been room for a writer like myself, or like yourself, to make a dent in someone else's consciousness.
Obviously this doesn't mean we can slack, like we can just toss off a poorly written short story and expect readers to fall upon it like a pack of ravenous hyenas, but if you've been writing for any period of time, you already know this. But I think it does help to keep a bit of perspective, and to remember that we writers are not fighting over a finite amount of attention. Yes, only a few of us will ever see publication in the Paris Review or have our manuscripts lovingly polished by editors at Random House, but let's not act like this is all a zero-sum game, like another's success is our failure. There has been a thirst for good, vivid writing since the cuneiform was invited. That desire will not be suddenly wiped away by the internet and video games.