Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Writing what you need to write

I just read this article, by William Zinsser, about writing for the wrong reasons.  The article talks about different people, writers, who aren't writing what they want because they're working on something that will get them more recognition, or money.  All of the people he was talking about actually had something going for them, unlike me.  Published works, agents, journalists, you know.  People who have gotten much farther than I have, so the post was only semi-relevant.  Good advice, for when I get to that point.  Never give up the book you need to write for the book that makes you money, or gets you noticed.  Good enough advice, from someone who's already established, and probably doesn't have the same worries as someone just breaking into the field.  "Think about other financial solutions that will free you to focus on the primary task of becoming a writer," he says.  I'm a full time student, I work two days a week, and I'm already depending on my fiancé to take care of us, financially,  a position that neither of us are particularly happy with.  So I was perfectly willing to dismiss this article.  

Until I got to the last sentence.  "Your most important work-in-progress is you."  And that got me thinking.  That changed the meaning of the article, to me.  It's not about money, it's only about craft.  And that strokes a chord with me.  

I'm always thinking about my craft.  Trying to improve myself, and my writing.  I try new things, I'm taking classes, I'm putting myself out there in ways I'd never before dreamed of, and it's all at once terrifying and exhilarating.  The reason I'm telling you all of this is because I'm working on the project that I need to write.  I've written novels.  A few of them.  Two finished, one mostly finished stuck on an ancient laptop, and bits of others.  Mostly fantasy, science fiction.  Decent enough stories, but nothing with any real emotional connection.  I didn't have to write them because they meant something to me, I had to write them because I had this great idea that I wanted to get down on paper.  

This new novel I'm working on isn't like that, at all.  It's vaguely genre fiction, but it could happen here, or could have happened here.  Almost every bit of it is true, but the pieces of truth are put together in such a way as to make it fictional.  It's about a man who loses his wife, experiences a crisis of faith, and has to learn to live without both.  It's like nothing I've ever written, and it's the book I need to write, for me. It's a place to put all of the philosophies I've been working on. It's a place for me to experience real emotion while I'm writing. And most of all, it's a way for me to work through my own losses, my own loss of faith, and what that means to me. Even if it never gets published, this is a book that I need to write. It's my book. The most personal thing that I've ever written. And it's really hard.

I suppose that it's something I'm writing for the right reasons. And I agree, the most important work in progress is you.

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