Sitting in this writing class where everyone wrote only in English, and spoke openly of such things as ‘honing your craft’ and ‘marketing your work’ gave me a first glimpse into English speaking world’s views on, what is referred to as ‘nuts and bolts of writing’. The view that writing is just another product … perhaps somewhat specific, but still a product. To sell. So it has to be polished, packaged and marketed as such. For an audience … for the market.
I realized that I know nothing about it. So I did the usual; went into hiding for another three years. Read a lot of good books … and kept on wanting to write. Until about a month or so ago.
Suddenly there was nowhere to hide. My lovely daughter has all grown up, and so hiding behind being a busy mother was no longer an option. I found myself alone in a different city. I found myself alone with me. Neither of us have anywhere to go. And we did not know what to do with each other … writing was the only escape.
This is how I started my blog … to help me cope with the urge to create words in an environment I know so little about. It never occurred to me that blogging will led me into the whole forest (jungle?) of information … that threatens to extinguish my little lantern. By its share size and strength.
Before I started blogging I was only remotely aware that internet offers many resources to writers, especially aspiring ones. I subscribed to some great literary journals such as ‘Glimmer Train’ and ‘Brevity’, some poetry web sites such as ‘Poet Hunter’, and for the most part followed established publications and made use of ‘Project Gutenberg’, my local library and number of good book shops in the city. The only book ‘on writing’ I owned was Anne Lammott’s ‘Bird by Bird’ which I greatly admire as ‘instructions on writing and life’. I also owned few dictionaries and Ha Jin’s book of essays on writing as a migrant or in a language different to one you started with. That was all I had.
It is easy to imagine how simple, basic and even naïve that sounds to anybody who is familiar with waste proliferation of new blogs, websites, tweets and feeds that are popping to life every second of every hour. Until a week ago I never send a tweet and still do not use Facebook.
I soon learned that there is virtually no end to supply of readymade wisdom on ‘how to write and attract audience’. And in some cases even when the authors of that wisdom are not able to show any of their own literary achievements. Products on offer are countless; from freebies, to low cost eBooks, to expensive courses and mentoring’s. They are promising to turn you into the ‘next big thing’, providing you follow their advice and, preferably, buy their products, or sign for their courses, or blog rolls, or whatever. And in the process contribute to expansion of their audience.
I spent days and hours trying to find my way through it. Every new website led to another one offering even better, more up to date, more polished and more inspirational material. I was busy downloading files, eBooks, reading tweets, trying to absorb as much as humanly possible … and starting to panic in the process. Like somebody lost in the waste and unknown jungle … I knew I have to start making some sense of it all. Before the fears set in for good. So I turned to the only tool I have; writing. The result is this ‘clarification’ in three parts.
I clarify for myself that;
- While there are some helpful and inspirational websites on writing, blogging, creating, attracting and retaining an audience, in most cases the same wisdom is re-polished, repackaged and reoffered,
- Even if I spend all the hours I have on trying to read material offered, there will always be more,
- Keeping only limited supply of material that truly resonate with me is helpful, anything more than that is unnecessary and can be overwhelming,
- No amount of good advice and inspiration on writing will, by itself, produce any written material,
- Learning about platforms and marketing strategies is helpful but only once there is something to promote,
- Write first (however badly), everything else comes distant second … or not at all (that includes housework).
On the end I realize that I have a choice. It is to; a) read about writing or to b) write.
I chose b).
P.S. I am starting to suspect that even my great Russians started with a ‘shitty first draft’!