Fiction about not writing fiction – Vol. 3

// – You can read Part 1 here, or Part 2 here. Or just dive right in, go for it! – //

Identity Crisis

Can I call myself a writer now? Am I a proper writer if I’ve never been published? Is it weird to tell people I’m a writer when I only have a blog post about my failed NaNoWriMo attempts to show for it?

These are the sorts of questions that all writers (or whoever) grapple with at some point in their life.

Eddie Mars was grappling with these very questions while he tried to update his Twitter bio.

“Writer, gamer, biscuit lover” 

He mashed the backspace button in embarrassment.

“Science fiction aFICTIONnado”

Stupid – backspace.

“Aspiring author. Fan of Game of Thrones and Battlestar Galactica. #MountainUnbeliever”

Aspiring – the word felt accurate, but flimsy. Insulting. He deleted the whole thing.

“Can’t think of what to say here, existential crisis, lol send help”

That was the most eloquent summary of his Twitter-self he had thought of all day.

‘Can you even call yourself aspiring if you’ve only written 200 words in the past month?’

Eddie froze. If he’d had hackles they’d have been raised. He had definitely heard it that time. ‘Hello?’ he called as loud as he could. One of his housemates called back, but they were too distant to have been the original culprit. ‘Who said that?’ he hissed. There was no verbal response, even when he repeated the question. He eyed the glass of wine that sat beside his laptop, and wondered if that was the culprit.

‘It’s not.’

Eddie grasped the edge of his desk and closed his eyes. His head started to spin slightly. ‘Ok…’ he said, unsure how else to respond to an unplaceable ghostly remark. It had to be a glitch in his perception, that was all. A product of alcohol, a creative mindset, and probably also something to do with the blue light in the computer. He threw an old used tissue into the wine glass to stop himself from drinking any more of it, and his eyes fell back on the empty Twitter bio box. The cursor was blinking at him, mocking him.

He closed his laptop and –

‘Well if you can’t even write a Twitter bio…’

‘Right!’ He wrenched the laptop open and hammered his password in. “Writer-ish”.

‘That’ll do!’ he snapped, to Twitter, to the empty air, and to himself. The only sound left in the room was Eddie’s own wheezing breath above the tired whir of his laptop. He strained his ears for any whisper. ‘I need to calm the fuck down,’ he told himself.

Still, despite their probable non-existence, the words had dug at something sore at the back of Eddie’s mind. Can you really call yourself aspiring…?

He jammed his headphones as far into his ears as they would go and stared at the laptop screen before him, blinkering his eyes with his hands. He was still on his empty Twitter feed. He’d read an article somewhere – about a dozen of them in fact – that said authors need to be social now, even if it is just online. Gone are the days of hermitage and creative isolation; no more recluses, no more Salingers or Pynchons. The marketplace is crowded; she with the most retweets wins.

Eddie knew, of course he knew, that you can’t promote a novel that doesn’t exist. But you can damn well promote yourself. And was that definitely a bad thing?

‘Fuck it.’ He switched to a more electronically aggressive Spotify playlist and went to WordPress.

‘What are you going to blog about that hasn’t been said a thousand -‘

‘Shut up shut up shut up!’

Writing is writing is writing, I suppose. I hope so, anyway. Maybe we should both get going now back to Word or Scivenger, or whatever you’re working with.

At least when I hit that ‘publish’ button I can call myself a writer again for a bit. A blog post gets you a week, I’d say. But the year I got from that short story is due to expire.

 

JJ.

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Fiction about not writing fiction – Vol. 2

// – You can read part one here – //

Delusions of grandeur.

What keeps you going when you’re writing? What makes you spend your precious free time staring at a glaring white page, or agonising over whether to use a more descriptive verb than ‘he said’ this time?

Let me guess – you just have to write to get the words out? Or maybe you’ve wanted to do this since you were a teenager, and since you can’t really think of an alternative it just kind of stuck? Maybe you have a story that just needs to be told, or you’ve already told your story to several people and it would be weird if you didn’t actually write it now?

Eddie Mars had a way of reminding himself why he started writing. It helped him get through the day. He dragged himself out of bed and into the shower and, as he does most days now, he talked to himself.

‘So Eddie, thanks for joining us,’ he muttered, safe in the assumption that if anyone was pressing their ear to the other side of the door they wouldn’t be able to hear his voice above the running water.

‘That’s no problem,’ Eddie responded back to himself.

‘So, I want to talk about your new book, Tale of the umm…  somethingsomething. So where did the idea come from?’

‘Well, Jonathan, it’s a funny story,’ Eddie said, rubbing conditioner into his hair. ‘I was lucky enough to get my first big break with Clarkesworld. They published a short story of mine, Neil Gaiman retweeted it, and, well’ he paused to smile, for effect, ‘it all just took off from there.’

Eddie paused, and revelled in the giddy swoon his daydream produced. This feeling of expectation, and the drive to be someone who affected others through the simple act of stringing words together – this is how he knew he wanted to be a writer.

Eddie didn’t have time to write anything before work that day, and at lunch he opted to stretch his legs in the park rather than get a chapter in, but the conversation that morning had inspired a feeling of importance that lingered throughout the day. Pride in the intention, belief in the artistic value, and identity in the daydream; those are what make up a writer. Written words are simply physical evidence, we get around to them.

When he returned home he rushed up to his room, turned on his laptop, and sat himself in front of his mirror to practice his Hugo Award acceptance speech.

And I know what you’re thinking. Cart before the horse and all that. But you try working 9-5 in a job you don’t like, and come home and be ready to simply produce. Writing is time-consuming and difficult, and sometimes-

‘I read somewhere that Jack Kerouac wrote his novels during his lunch breaks.’

That voice again – Eddie kicked the mirror with a start and just caught it before it swung down on his head.

‘Hello?’ he asked, hands shaking as he replaced the mirror against the wall. ‘That’s not funny.’

There was no response, and Eddie was afraid to speak again. He looked at his own reflection and saw a pair of wide, watery eyes, irises ringing by too much white. He sat there for a few moments, sharing a moment of mutual confusion with his mirror-self, until enough time had passed to forget the immediacy of the voice and rationalise it again as an unfortunate collision of personality and environmental factors. The pipes are squeaking. The house is settling. I’ve drunk way too much coffee today.

‘I need to get to work,’ he thought to himself, finally sitting at the desk.

Truer words were never spoken. But really, I like to think that Jack Kerouac spent at least 90% of the time that he wasn’t writing or thinking about writing, thinking about being a writer. You can’t really call it your dream job unless you actually dream about it, right?

My mirror-self agrees.

JJ.