Why Do I Choose Fiction?

ReadinginBetween_Why Fiction?

Clearly, I’m trying to post more often right now because our reading bundles will be launched this Saturday (see you there?). But this whole thing is also forcing me to contemplate why I wanted to be a fictionist in the first place.

ReadinginBetween_Why Fiction?

It’s not like it’s particularly lucrative—sure, some writers are amazing enough to do nothing else but write fiction; but it just so happens that I know, deep down in my heart, that I’m not one of them. Like most other writers out there, I’m the sort who needs to fight for every damn phrase and still ends up with an “ok” (not a “must-read”) piece of work. I’m the sort whose writing isn’t necessarily for everyone; I won’t be writing blockbusters a la Neil Gaiman or Jim Butcher.

I’m the sort who needs a day job to eat properly.

Of course, as many of us know, the appeal of fiction has little to do with revenue and more to do with the strange sense of wonder it generates. I want to write fiction because it makes sense even when little of it is real. I want to write fiction because, when I read other people’s work, I find balance in the truth and non-truths.

I want to write fiction because damn if it doesn’t become the best, most reliable friend you’ll ever have, in your darkest of days.

Am I alone? Am I being too escapist here? Because I honestly don’t understand why non-fiction is considered more lucrative/sensible by a whole bunch of people when it’s fiction that makes me feel so damn alive.

Take, for example, this short passage from Anne Plaza’s “Bloodline Maharlika”:

ReadinginBetween_Bloodline Maharlika Quote

I mean, come on! How vivid is that? That terrifying creature clearly doesn’t exist (anymore) but she described it so well that I can see it when I close my eyes. I can see it coming for me and, if I were close enough to sleep, I can smell it.

And sometimes it’s not just the descriptions—the characters themselves can suck you right in. For example, we have C from Alveel Kaith C’s “As the Night Ends”:

ReadinginBetween_As the Night Ends Quote

…who happens to have sass in spades. I’m not talking about those dinky little rose gardening spades, by the way. I’m talking about those spades that you use to bury dead bodies, which I think is appropriate in this case because OMG I’m dying from laughter right now. C’s so awesome.

So why wouldn’t I want to read and write fiction? Fiction is awesome. It makes you feel wonder, and it makes you wonder, too. It’s the best way to explore the “what ifs” of the world.

Isn’t that worth experiencing?

PS: Both excerpts referenced are part of the #IncredibleTruths bundle, which you can win for free via the raffle I’m running. Yes, I’m aware that I’ve been blogging about nothing but StrangeLit lately—but can you blame me? There are so many stories there and I haven’t even finished reading ALL of them. That’s how much value you can get out of these.

Writing Challenge 22 – Someone I Love

Considering the fact that I’ve already included most of the people I love in my “3 Things I Love” post  and that I’ve repeatedly brought up certain people over the last week or so, I realized that I’ll probably need to bring up someone I love that I haven’t mentioned recently. So I’ll have to avoid family members, friends, Tom Hiddleston, and my boyfriend. They’re all awesome, but I need to babble about slightly fresher blood here.

So I’m going to go on and on about Neil Gaiman instead.

Oh, I’m sure that I’ve mentioned how much I love this guy and his work before – if not here in this blog, then in some other public venue online. But I’m not sure I’ve fully explained how much this man has influenced the choices I’ve made since I was a kid.

Me and Neil Gaiman at a book signing.
“I took up Literature because of you, Mr. Gaiman.” Photo circa…I don’t even remember. I was in college. And it was too awesome.

As you know, my father raised me and my siblings on comic books. In fact, I firmly believe that the above-average reading comprehension scores we got as children were entirely due to the fact that my father let us read the comic books he bought as a kid – comics from the 60’s and 70’s, mostly. They were great fun too. But up until that point, I never really understood how a story can affect a person so deeply. I enjoyed stories. I enjoyed storytelling. I just didn’t realize that story telling can have deeper meaning.

When I was eight years old, my dad sat right next to me on the couch and read me Vassily’s story from Gaiman’s The Sandman comic series. By the time Daddy finished the story, I was obsessed. I started breaking into his book shelf, finding his stash of Sandman comics. Granted, they were rather mature for me at that age; but it was too late. I had discovered that stories were powerful, and I wanted to discover more powerful stories.

Thanks to Neil Gaiman, I discovered more obscure Mythological characters and gods. I learned what “hubris” actually meant. I came to understand that there is a price, there is always a price, and that there is always a choice–even if you don’t like your options. Thanks to Neil Gaiman, I discovered other writers who made me think: Susanna Clark and Pratchett, as well as the unmatchable Alan Moore. I even learned to appreciate unconventional art through Mr. Gaiman; my father bought and later on bestowed upon me an original Vertigo Tarot deck set, which I might add is FREAKISHLY ACCURATE. I still don’t know how it does that, but I imagine that Dave McKean‘s art, in conjunction with Gaiman’s handbook, is more powerful than they let on.

By the time I hit senior high school, the combination of my father’s and Mr. Gaiman’s influence had convinced me that becoming someone who reads or writes for a living is the only way I want to spend the rest of my adult life. I could have taken up a course that’s both creative and practical, like, say, Mass Communication (which both of my parents took up; it’s how they met) or Advertising (an industry in which my parents both ended up). But somewhere deep in my heart of hearts, I know that those courses will not make me happy. That’s why I became a Literature major.

Stories you love to read
And even if I gripe about Literary academics sometimes, I absolutely love the readings they gave us.

Of course, I didn’t become the kind of writer Neil Gaiman is. I’m a little bit closer to the kind of writer my dad became–more artisan than artist, in terms of profession. But here’s the kicker: because of this writer, I discovered REAL storytelling. I was inspired to go out of my way and try to understand how storytelling works. I try to incorporate it into the stuff that other people pay me to do. And a huge chunk of my success is due to the fact that I took up Literature (which I was drawn to because of Mr. Gaiman, even if he didn’t go to university himself).

Many people may not think that I’m living up to my dreams because of my professional choices. But the thing is, as far as I’m concerned, I’m still making good art. That’s all that matters to me. Being paid enough to be comfortable for doing what I do right now is a bonus. Neil Gaiman started as a journalist. I’m a web content writer right now. At the end of the day, as far as I can tell, Gaiman was, is, and always will be a writer.

I, too, am a writer. And Neil Gaiman is someone I love because he made a significant contribution towards the writer I’m working to become.

Also, he totally admitted to liking Dr. Zoidberg in Futurama. Which makes him extra awesome.

Neil’s book “Chu’s Day”, and I’m waiting for “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” to show up in local book stores. As far as I’m concerned, he has a story for everyone.

Someday, I hope to be the same sort of writer.

On Caring for My Inner Writer

Like I’ve said before, this month is pretty busy for me – thus, I can only write for this blog about once or twice a week.  That isn’t to say that I haven’t been writing – I’ve been working hard creating content at my copywriting job (the details of which I cannot divulge, on pain of death), and most of my personal writing (the poem rewrites and the ever-changing Apocalypse short story) ended up in a small-ish notebook with a green, black, yellow and gold cover.  Mostly written in gel pens of varying colors because I freaking love gel pens.

That being said, I’m also not going to lie:  I’m letting writer’s block get the better of me.  Every time I hit a dead end in my writing or revisions, I deal with it by either playing Okamiden on my Nintendo DS (I tell myself it inspires me, when all it really does is make me want to swear at drums) or reading random links on my social networks, which turn out to be major time sinks (like Text from Dog; care of Ms. Jeri Ryan, a famous actress I adore).  In other words, my productivity is completely shot.  And that’s bad if I really want to post a decent revision of that poem on this blog and submit that Apocalypse story by the end of the month.

Thankfully, I ran across some good reading that can help me take care of myself.  It’s this old post on the Timothy McSweeney site about how one should care for and train one’s very own writer.

It’s a little tongue in cheek, of course, and it’s actually addressed to the people around me (I should probably get my mother to read that), but I’d like to think I can apply the following to myself so I can get past this writer’s block that I probably led myself to:

On preparing the home for a writer

“Keep in mind that your writer may not write right away. Never shout at your writer. If your writer is frightened, he or she may run.”  So yeah, I will try to keep myself from becoming frustrated at my own inaction.  Maybe that can get me to work more.

On what to expect of a writer

“By mistaking research for leisure activity, well-meaning but inexperienced caregivers often disrupt critical chains of reasoning.”  I really should stop questioning whether it’s right to ogle Nathan Fillion on TV when I really should be thinking of ideas for my story and my poem.  After all, he can be the inspiration for my protagoni-HEY!  That’s a great idea!  Thank you, Mr. Fillion, for being so gorgeous and geeky (most awesome space cowboy EVER).

On the presence of babies

“Never leave the writer alone with the baby. Ever.”  While that article suggests that a writer will become jealous of a new member of the group, I only find this applicable because the babies in my life are adorably distracting and leave me in a mindless stupor for hours afterwards.  Yes, I know you that all people say that their infant relatives are the most adorable.  But I think my nephews are going to sublimate you into a hazy lavender glow the moment they smile at you.  At the same time.

With these thoughts as part of my arsenal, I hope to find more success in finishing the personal work I had set out to do (even as I’m making a dent on the workload at my job).  What are the things that YOU guys do to care for your inner writer?  Drop me a line. 🙂

Anti-Writing Excuses That Shouldn’t Work for Me (But Do)

A few days ago, I bookmarked a link I found on Twitter (I forget who was responsible for it, but I’m really grateful) and completely forgot to click it again until today.  The link leads you to this Terrible Minds list of lies writers tell themselves.

Needless to say, I’m currently reeling with guilt from the contents of that list.  A lot of the stuff written there were excuses I used to let myself off the hook from writing something for myself (either on this blog or in that short story I’m supposed to be writing).  For example:

“I Don’t Have Time!”

Yep.  That’s one of my favorites, because it’s so easy to believe.  Between my job and the stuff I need to do at home, how am I supposed to squeeze this writing thing in?

Well…the answer is apparently “You HAVE to make time to write things for yourself.”  It’s a simple answer, but one that I’m not entirely comfortable with just yet.

“It’s Okay That I Didn’t Write Today, I’ll Do It Tomorrow!”

This is related to that first thing.  If I thought I didn’t have time to work on something for that day, I often try to tell myself that I’ll have enough time tomorrow.

And it usually ends very, very badly for me.

“Oh Noes, Writer’s Block Again!”

Yyyeeeaaaah, I’m pretty sure I’ve done this ON THIS BLOG.  (I think I’ve begun a number of posts with something to the effect of “I don’t know what to write today”).

Note to self:  you do know what to write, because you have a DAMNED NOTEBOOK FULL OF POST IDEAS.  Granted, not all of them are good ideas, but they can at least be tweaked.

“This Draft Needs to be Perfect!”

Because really, how embarrassing will it be for SOMEONE ELSE to read this thing?  There are so many things wrong with what I’ve just written here that I might as well throw it all away and cry in a shadowy little corner where no one has to see me and pity my pathetic writing skills.

While I generally don’t have this problem with the stuff I write for work (because the instructions and expectations are so clear!), this happens again and again whenever I try to write something for myself.  Yeah, I know.  It doesn’t look like it, does it?  But here’s a little secret:  I schedule these posts; I write some days and write nada in others in favor of writer‘s angst.  Seriously, I agonize over them for hours, and tinker until WordPress says “ENOUGH” and posts them automatically.

“I Suck Moist Open Ass”

This is the crux of my problem.  I’m sure a lot of other writers out there have the same opinion of themselves no matter how good they happen to be.  I just happen to think I suck more than any one of them, no matter how irrational that thought is.  This is why I put off writing and throw away about 90% of my drafts.  This is why I didn’t seriously write for myself at all for years.  This is why I was willing to give at the first sign of criticism from anyone, no matter how well-meaning.

This is why, despite my supposed credentials (as my sister would occasionally enumerate them), I’m so damned afraid.

The thing is, all these excuses really aren’t healthy if I really want to make something out of the stories and poems and songs in my head.  I can’t let fear get the better of me when it comes to this kind of thing.  Besides, if a lobsterman who couldn’t read a word until he’s in his 90’s can become an author, then all my arguments against writing anything TODAY (on the blog or otherwise) are pretty much invalid.

With that in mind, I’m putting this right here:

A Man Prancing In Front of a Bear
Yeah, this will TOTALLY help me write.

What about you guys?  Do you have excuses for NOT writing?