So. There are things you know. There are things I know. We all know some things. Some, we don't. We write by pulling stuff out of those things we know. Because we think, since we know, this is how it's supposed to be done. But it isn't. The more I read, the more it gets under my skin. It's not about knowing, it's about not knowing. UNKNOWING. There are no rules. Rules stem out of fear. We see a book. We see it sells well. We buy it. We read it. We try to learn from it. We think, hey, if this sells, if this writer wrote it like this, I will try the same. It's safe, to try it. Like that. Isn't it? If someone with a big name did it, I can do it too, right? Well, that's where trouble starts. You begin your writing career by mistrusting yourself, by ignoring your instincts. Because someone big out there, someone famous and important, did it the other way. Or someone not necessarily big and important, but whose book you liked. Doesn't matter. What matters is, you get locked into this pattern of self-hate. Why? Because of course you can't write like that someone.
You're NOT THAT SOMEONE. You're YOU. And you start rejecting everything you ARE, for everything you want to BE, while who you are, suffers. Bleeds. Big time. It can't create. You won't let it.
"It's not how it's done!" You shout at yourself. After a while, you manage to successfully shut yourself up and proceed. I know, I did it. The end result is, well, not so good. It's okay, but not your best. So of course you hate it. Or you dislike it. Or you pretend like you like it, but you secretly wish it was better. You don't tell anyone, you try to put up this happy facade. Hey, I wrote my first book! Or second, or third. Certainly, I would hope, by the time you write 20 books, you would gain this insight I got. I don't even know if it's an insight. It's a feeling in my gut.
I see things a certain way. I hear things, taste things, smell things. MY OWN WAY. I notice them because I NOTICE THEM. Not for any other reason. One of my readers sent me this poignant little book, Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg, and I think you should read it. (I usually only recommend to people On Writing by Stephen King, but this will be another one now.) It only confirmed what has been brooding in my head lately. It's okay to be ME. It's okay to write like ME. It's okay to write the way it feels and choose the words I choose, because those are the words that sounded important to ME and not to someone else. I can write about things smelling, A LOT, because I smell, A LOT. (There are a lot of smelly things in my books.)
AND YOU CAN TOO.
You see things your own way. You have seen them like that since you were able to see them, but then you started seeing them how others told you you're SUPPOSED to see them. And you did. You did as you were told. And you forgot. You felt strange when nobody else got what you got, so you shoved it deep inside, and locked it up, and forbade it to ever come out. Remember your teenage years? Trying to fit in? Yeah. I'm unlearning this now. I'm learning that I need to be learning from inside out, not from outside in. I already know things, but I need to shed that knowledge I think I'm SUPPOSED to know. Everything I ever read about writing, I need to cut out of my head and sail free.
If I say this is a sentence, it is. So. "So" is a sentence. So what. "So what" is a sentence too. So what do I know, I know nothing when I think I know something, but I can't be sure and it nags at me and it makes it difficult to breathe and there is not enough air in the air and I don't know how else I will survive the next minute unless someone, anyone, tells me that what I'm writing is right, because if they don't, if nobody will, how can I ever be sure? THIS LONG BEAST YOU JUST READ is a sentence too. Why? Because it's how it feels to me. It's a beginning of a story, or an end to it. Or a middle. How. How so? Thus. It's how it happens in my head. I've been afraid to write this way, my way, so most of the time I ended up with poor imitations. I mistrusted my inner gut feeling, when it told me what I wrote just didn't sound MY WAY. I refused to change it, because it looked like so-and-so wrote. Oh, the tangle of self-doubt.
Writing is really telling a story. When you tell someone a story, listen to yourself. It's full of unfinished thoughts, ideas, incomplete descriptions. You hop from place to place, you meander around some central storyline, and eventually you get it across. But you search, while you tell. Same with writing. You search, while you write. We, readers, search with you, while we read. Something we find something together, same things. Sometimes it's different things. Sometimes we find nothing and that's when we put the book aside. It doesn't mean it's bad, it means it's not US, and it's okay.
What we look for in a book as readers is US. We want to find that same ME, to connect, to stop feeling lonely. Secretly. Because that US we shut away, earlier, is still sitting inside us. We can safely read a book and feel TOGETHER without telling anyone. It's safe. The funny thing is, you find others who like the same book, and you feel like you're best friends forever. It's a ridiculous feeling, it can't be true, but we feel it, and it makes us happy. Well, then. Here comes the question.