I am a frustrated writer. It’s the kind of low-level irritation that, if it were an audio frequency, would be carried for miles and miles by the perfectly configured woofer; it’s that bass frequency that you can hear from across the continent.
Here’s my frustration:
As a writer, I can churn out stories relatively easily (given the right circumstances and the presence of the Muse – more on her later). A fortnight ago I wrote 10,000 words in 3 days, which is pretty good given a book is on average 80-100,000. The muse was with me that night. She’s hanging around nearby but I’ve yet to get her attention; she’s a bit drunk on what looks like a quart of absinthe… yes, Absinthe, she just swigged the bottle and giggled, the bitch.
What I find irritating is that there seems only to be one way to get work ‘public’ – to rely on publishing companies that are inundated with manuscripts, or to try to find a magazine that has a gap or likes your work.
I’ve whined about this issue to friends: artists have the option of galleries (and I’m not talking the major ones as they’re the equivalent of the publishing companies). Art is something you can look at, regard, like or dislike in a community setting. There are many different open galleries that can exhibit your work.
Musicians have a similar way of getting work out there. My fabulous housemate is at an open-mike night in Northcote tonight (I’d be there too if it wasn’t that I finished work only about an hour ago and was ravenous to the point of tears. Not going into that at present). A musician can stand on a street corner and strum. If I stand on a street corner and start reading, odds-on I’ll be heckled as a religious nut. Could be amusing though.
I’m aware this could be sounding like sour grapes. It’s my blog and I’ll whine if I want to.
A writer is, by definition, a lonely person, slaving over a hot processor creating work of potential genius… for… what? Sure, we can submit work to competitions. We can try and get things published, but there appears to be no way to cut out the middleman and just perform the work in some way, get it out for general consumption without involving the money-men and what’s ‘likely to sell’. Publishing is, after all, a business.
Am I wrong? Have I missed something?
I just can’t find anything. Writers groups have meetings and chat about their work. It’s a community, sure, and by joining one I get a stack of magazines I’m not interested in, cheap courses that I don’t want to do, the right to go along to meetings (which is nice) and I can even get, in some cases, a professional assessment of my manuscript (for a few hundred dollars that I don’t have. I’m a penniless writer as well as a frustrated one). It’s like when I joined the Australian Society of Technical Writers; what did it get me? A place on a mailing list and nothing else in particular. I’m thinking in purely selfish terms here, I’m aware: the society is great for many people, as are writers groups. But I know (pretty much) how to write, and throughout my life — regardless of courses on offer, being told I should read a great big book cover-to-cover — I’ve learned how to do things by simply DOING them: Practice Makes Perfect. I’m simply not interested in courses on writing, in someone standing at the front of the room telling me ‘this is what makes a story good’ and ‘this is what makes it bad’. I’m not for formula, I’m for innovation through experimentation. And I know this won’t necessarily make me a bucket of money, either. I’m in it for the enjoyment of the writing; I’m in it to see where the muse takes me.
So what’s the answer?
It’s looking increasingly like I have to get off my arse and just do something myself. Have duplex printer, will produce zines. The magazine I produced with good friends back in 2004-5 worked to a degree. The magazines certainly disappeared from their spots in cafes. And I even managed to sell some. Perhaps that’s the short-term answer to my bleating: take it to the people.
Opinions greatfully accepted at this point. Me, I’m going to eat my rapidly cooling dinner. Au Revoir.