Saturday, October 16, 2010

Writing: Finding The Drive

I've been thinking lately that I need to write longer, deeper, more complicated, er, stuff. On the blog or off the blog. And I've been wondering why I seem to write mostly little short things - by which I mean, just a few paragraphs or even just a few lines, especially on the perfume blog. But I tell myself that short is the way I write, and I should embrace my own preferences, and blah blah blah.

But wait a minute.

I just started reading The Forest For The Trees, by Betsy Lerner, and read a bit about having to write - something like if you don't have to write, feel the need and drive to write, maybe that means you should wait for the drive. Something like that. And I thought, well, no, I like to write, but I'm rarely driven to write a blog post or story or some such thing. I rarely feel the words trying to escape, wanting to be written whether I like it or not.

But wait a minute.

I am driven to write. Long (comparatively) bits of writing, written eagerly, with a strong desire to express and persuade, and often with fascination with the structure of the writing, and eagerly edited and tightened and rearranged and re-read and re-read. I often write these several times a day - or, really, several times an evening. But I don't count them, because I'm writing them for forums, of all places. Internet forums. So for me, the urge and inspiration and the flood of words determined to escape comes on Internet forums, and apparently not anywhere else. What's with that?

I think that part of it is interactivity. I'll get back to that.

And part of it is the extent to which I feel that the writing represents me. Or, to put it another way, stage fright. The blogs have my name on them, and the presumption that I'm trying, at least a little, to write coherently and to write something that's interesting to someone other than myself. I think that I feel that coming to my blog has a "price of admission" aspect, and as such I owe people more. And so I end up giving people less, out of self-censorship. On the forums, I can contentedly write long, potentially self-indulgent, potentially overwrought, posts, and if I feel doubts as I press the submit button, I can quite easily shrug, "If they don't like it, well, too bad."

There's also anonymity, either real(ish) or imagined. On many of my forums, I've left (I hope) no link between my forum identity and my real life self. And on the others, my posts are buried in the forum clutter - it's not as if there are any secrets there, or even any guaranteed secrets on the forums where I hope I'm anonymous, but what I write doesn't feel nearly as "published." So if I want to ramble on and theorize about a problem with a toxic person, or my fears about something, or an attitude that I fear might be condemned, I feel more relaxed about expressing that.

So, back to interactivity. Forums hand me subjects, and people already prepared to disagree with me, or already eager for input on an issue. Like a recent NaNoWriMo debate about whether words unacceptable in everyday speech are acceptable in fiction. Or the ongoing debate on a blogging forum where I participate, over whether blogging is about money or not. Or someone asking for advice on what to do about a problematic family member. Stuff like that.

Do I have a conclusion? Not yet. But if you find that I start posting long, self-indulgent, overwrought posts, well, that'll be part of the experiment.

Image: By Ziko-C. Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Hi FC, Know what you mean about the drive - Bloggers block and all that but better to write nothing than just anything. Short is good too but prefer the word concise. Anyway, we take inspiration from each other but am rather overawed by the writing talent in the blogosphere. Good piece of writing this! Laura

  2. As someone who has frequented Internet forums for almost ten years, I understand what you're saying. I've been on two of them for a looong time.

    I've always been the opposite of how you're describing yourself. I always feel the need to tell too much about myself. But then, I'm also like that in '3D world'. I sometimes don't trust the people who reveal nothing about their off-internet lives. I know it's partly a safety thing, but these people don't seem real to me.

    There's one dude in particular on a forum I frequent that drives me crazy sometimes. It seems like he exists on there just to argue with others. I mean, that should be the point of a forum, right? But it bugs me. He never reveals anything 'real' about himself. Hell, he might not even be a he. You never know. And there are people on there who have multiple usernames...ack. I get tired of forums sometimes.

    That's why I like my blog so much! I can say whatever I like, and I control how people treat me on it, not some forum admin. I don't have any fear of getting banned, and heaven help the person who tries to flame me. :)

    You are very talented, and even though you don't reveal too much about yourself, you reveal enough so that I feel like you're a 'real' person. Be confident in your talent, and the appeal of your writing. And you shouldn't feel pressured to give us anything other than what your writing style is. If you like to debate (see how I used debate rather than argue), that can still be accomplished on here lol.

  3. I write because I am a verbal musician, a composer of thoughts and ideas. To write to reach a conclusion is only part of the joy, such as a painter paints to express what he cannot without brush or palette. Unfinished paintings aren't less beautiful than completed masterpieces. They are just thoughts without conclusions. Keep writing!!!!

  4. Hi CF,

    So where would I find your long, overwrought posts on forums? : - ) I don't tend to see your comments on the same perfume blogs/forums as I frequent, though maybe you are on other ones? As well as those dealing with completely different fields.

    Hmm...very thought provooking post...I do feel driven in the sense you mean most - but not all of the time - when I write on my own blog. And what I write is usually much longer than I plan, indeed my resolution is to write some shorter things.

    Topicwise, I don't really consider the audience at all, or else I would focus more on new releases and major perfume events / topics of general interest.

    The other aspect to this is perhaps how long one has been blogging. For me it is a year now and I wouldn't rule out the drive drying up eventually, as it appears to have done with the much missed Left Coast Nose, for the moment at least. And some other bloggers have become more intermittent, which is also fine. So I say follow your drive, wherever it leads you...

  5. Thanks, PatioPatch! I wouldn't say that I so much get _blocked_ - I can almost always write a short piece of nonsense. I'd just like to more often be able to write non-nonsense. :)

  6. Kyna! I really appreciate your saying that I have talent. :) And also pleased that you do see a real person behind the walls I hide behind. I love your blog and how much you do reveal of yourself, and how very well you express it.

    I am also annoyed by people who do little but argue on forums. While arguing is a fine and honorable forum activity, I dislike it when people seem to be there purely to disagree and polish their debate skills - as if they randomly chose the "pro" or "con" position and are only interested in the arguing game, not the issue itself.

  7. Hey, TS! Hmm, that's an interesting thought. I _do_ sometimes find that when I've finished writing a ramble, I don't actually need to publish it on the blog or forum - the writing was reward enough. And, of course, there's the sheer practice theory of improving my writing - theoretically, any writing I do is making my writing a tiny tiny bit better.

  8. Flittersniffer!

    Well, the longest and most overwrought tend to be on the forums where I'm anonymous. :) Support Groupish stuff. I'm sort of sorry that I ever drew that veil, because I'd like to unify both of my selves, but I've said just a _few_ things that I'm not comfortable linking to myself. Maybe writing some more overwrought non-anonymous stuff would get me past worrying about that.

    I'm on NaNoWriMo as ShinyPebbles. (I was keeping that rather quiet, but, really, why? Lift those veils! Admittedly, I've rarely said anything really embarrassing on NaNoWriMo...). I'm ChickenFreak on Bloggeries and WritingForums and Basenotes and Real Bloggers United and no doubt other places that I'm forgetting. But my posting is shortish there, except for the occasional "No, you're _not_ going to get rich from blogging!" rant on Bloggeries.

    I sometimes write too much, but usually in really boring environments like work emails. _There_, I resolve to be shorter and more concise. On the blog, where I want more length and depth, I'm short. It's weird.

    NaNoWriMo looms, though - fifty thousand words in thirty days! Maybe once I get that flow going it'll flow into the blog, too.

    Yeah, I have considered that it would make sense to focus more on new perfumes in my blog, but, well, nah. :) So I guess that in that sense, I'm not audience-driven.

  9. When I was in a band in my youth, it was very easy to play in front of people, because you instantly knew what was happening. If they liked you, you knew it, and it drove you on. If they hated you, you knew it because they chucked bottles at your head. It made you laugh and drove you on.

    When I decided that I needed to go down the route of writing, the very first thing that struck me was that I didn't have a clue what people thought, ot whether they even finished reading what I had written.

    There was more of a crisis of confidence with writing than I ever had with playing music or peforming in public.

    It's like anything; you have to develop a realistic expectation of what is likely, and that's that.

    The stuff I write for a living is well received, but it's cold, hard and investigative. I can gauge its reaction by the feedback, requests for more, and by the profile of the magazines I work on.

    My (serious) out of work writing is another matter. I know it has minority appeal, and is relatively dark. Some people can't see the point of reading books that are upsetting or disturbing, so when people tell me they can't read things I've written, i am forced to accept that fact.

    Stuff I write for fun (like my blog, and complaint letters to companies) is just for fun, so I'm not really going to worry too much.

    I think that people who write, even in a haphazard way, need to write. It's apart of the madness, no matter what level you write at.

  10. Hey, TIG! I'm impressed at the breadth of the writing that you describe. I have no serious writing, yet. :) It's almost all blog stuff.

    Well, and there used to be the online roleplaying, which may not technically count as writing, but may have given me an addiction to feedback. When you get used to typing in a really good pose and getting out of character laughs within thirty seconds, it's hard to get used to writing alone. :)