Saturday, September 10, 2016

Quick Thoughts - Vacation Thoughts (novels, reviewing, and me)

When I started writing, way back when, it was novels that inspired me. Novels that took shape in my mind and then inevitably dissolved into a pool of incoherent thoughts and poorly defined characters. From what I know of writers, this isn't really strange. I grew up on chunky fantasy novels and it was always my desire to write them, to craft this huge tapestry of a novel, of a world. I made settings and notebooks of history and subjected people to D&D campaigns set in the settings I created. I considered myself a writer, not because I actually finished any of the novels I started, but because I aspired to be a novelist. Still do, kinda. But the goalposts of writing, of being a writer, have certainly changed since I first started poorly imitating the epic fantasy I read as a child.

I am solidly a short fiction writer now, with some poetry thrown in for good measure. Not that I have never finished a novel. I have written six or seven fairly awful novels which are sitting on a flash drive somewhere. I still occasionally get really inspired to sit down and write something longer. changes. Goals change. Realities change. I feel like this idea I had as a child of being a novelist is one that was encouraged constantly. Even through college I feel that short fiction was treated as practice. As something you got through. In some ways this is a heartening idea, because short fiction (in my opinion) is leaps and bounds ahead of novels when it comes to inclusivity and treating identities with respect and depth. It is by no means perfect, but short fiction is still where I feel the most comfortable, as a reader and a writer. And seeing more and better short SFF writers "graduate" into novels means being able to read more and better SFF novels. So win-win, really, except that it creates this idea that there is a path that involves going through short SFF and then beyond into more lucrative and more respected work.

I'm just sort of rambling, here, to be honest. I'm on vacation for a week and I will admit that there is a part of me who feels this time and thinks "Write a novel!" Because sometimes it takes a week off to realize just how much time the rest of life takes. How much I would be writing if I didn't have pesky things like bills to worry about. I did just finish a novella, the first I have ever written, and I'm rather excited about it. It's got mech suits and Arthurian myth and so many queer people and sex and some kinkiness and it's really rather exactly what I want to be writing. And I would write novels of this. The setting and the characters spread out before me in such an interesting and complex way. I'm thinking of maybe crafting a mosaic novel of connected stories for now, because I guess I don't really want to think about the story not being picked up. Ambition is a double edged sword for writers, I feel. Or for me. It motivates me to produce what I hope is my best work, my most imaginative and fun and complex work. It also makes rejection hurt that much more, because if I believe in something so hard but no one else seems to care...well, possibly I'm just wrong.

It is always terrifying for me to start something new. I've consciously shut off my novel brain basically ever since I started this blog. Because it would kill me to keep up with this and try to write novel-length work and try to write short fiction (and I'm going to be writing short fiction regardless, so something had to go). I have not regretted the decision, so no worries. I put out about 30-40,000 words of reviews every month (August actually saw over 45,000 between all of my nonfiction SFF). I am quite proud of that, even as it means that I cannot write the novels that child-me was so excited about. For me, I don't feel ready yet. Part of my push to review is to learn, is to gain by osmosis and constant examining of SFF some better understanding of it and myself. For now, it works out quite well. I feel I'm getting better at knowing how I work, and I feel like I'm getting better.

Taking a week off has been somewhat illuminating. I had a chance to read Kelly Robson's piece over at Clarkesworld and had a world of feels about it. There is this feeling that every single moment is wasted unless it is spent doing something that will not only be paid for but which will find a wide audience and garner positive engagement. And especially in writing, there is the sense that any story that doesn't sell, any novel that doesn't get picked up by a large publisher, is wasted. And to further complicate this is the knowledge, pressing and persistent, that there isn't enough time to write everything I want, to read everything I want, to do everything I want. But that trying to wring every last moment out of life and time is exhausting and, perhaps, not really the point.

These are perhaps some big thoughts to be had when I had meant only to sit around mostly-naked and relax. But fuck, relaxing is hard. When there is time I want to fill it. Why? Because there is so much time that I have to fill with shit I don't want to do, and my financial situation is not really one that I have a great deal of options regarding that. I see things occasionally that are supposed to be motivational that people who want a thing bad enough will make it happen. I...don't really agree with that. But that I disagree with the sentiment doesn't mean that I will use that to do nothing, or even do less. It means struggling with these feelings. As the Robson piece closes, the only way to fail is to stop. And I'm not stopping. I'm just forced to limit what I can start, which at this time includes novels. Which is in some ways heartbreaking for me but in other ways what I know needs to happen. In a year, in two, maybe that will change. For now, I'm...well, for now it's what it is.

This piece has probably rambled on far enough. I have tea to sip and stories to revise. Thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

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