While wandering around the internet over the weekend, I came across something called the A-Z Blog Challenge. Basically, this is a linked series of daily postings, each of which is somehow organized around a successive letter of the alphabet. (Since there are only 26 letters of the alphabet and 30 days in April, Sundays are skipped.) The links are to other blogs, the idea being to discover new writers — and readers! — by the shared exercise. I thought this sounded like a cool idea, so I’ve decided to go for it.
Those of you who are my regular readers will probably be reeling at the thought of daily posts instead of my haphazardly weekly ones, but I hope you will bear with me. Probably they won’t be as long as normal . . . though actually I don’t promise one way or another on that. 🙂 My general plan is to move towards a more regular and slightly more prolific writing schedule, and a month of daily posts should help me with that. I will be trying to hit some of the main areas I’ve been wanting to write about — Dante, Maritime cheese, gardening ideas, fun mythopoeic-inn-related activities. That sort of thing.
Now — on to the more exciting half of the announcement, which is: I have a free short story available over on my author site! “Scheherezade” is a story, shockingly, about Scheherezade the Storyteller — about the thousand and first night of her storytelling, to be more precise. It’s at the more stylized end of my writing, but I hope you enjoy it. Scheherezade is a recurring character in my Tales from Ysthar, and a major secondary character in Till Human Voices Wake Us, the novel whose cover I revealed last week and which will be coming out some time this spring.
This spring is a time of big changes for me. On one level, I am going to be doing much the same things I have spent the last three months doing: writing, reading, researching, learning about small businesses, planning smallholdings and future novels. Once the spring permits it, I will be doing some gardening.
But this is the year, and the next quarter of the year in particular, that I move from being a hobbyist writer to being a professional one. Apart from being a lot of work, particularly in the business-development end of things, this has also required a lot of mental shifts of gear.
The thing I’ve been finding very difficult is the willingness to let my writing be read by strangers. Submitting my novel to publishers over the last couple of years was hard enough, and I have to say I had the expectation of failure (I can see that in retrospect). I didn’t believe anyone would want to take it on. Part of that is because before I revised it considerably last spring, it probably wasn’t quite ready for it. But a bigger part was that I wasn’t ready for it. I wasn’t ready for people to take my writing seriously, and yet I was utterly terrified at the same time that they wouldn’t. Who wants to write badly? Who wants to write stories that no one else wants to read? Who wants to presume one is good?
Many years ago my Dad and I had a conversation about “good” versus “good enough.” I maintained that my story wasn’t “good enough” to send out at that point because I didn’t want it just to be “good enough” — I wanted it to be “good.” I still want it to be good. Of course I do! I want it to be good with every fibre of my being.
I’m ready for people to read my work now, or as ready as I think I can be, because I’ve come to a place where I believe, as well as think, that perfection is actually impossible. (I mean, I’m a Christian, it’s a fundamental part of my theology that human activities cannot be perfect in time. They can be made perfect by God, but that’s a different matter.) It doesn’t matter how long I work on my stories — they are never going to be perfect. It is a fundamental impossibility due to the nature of things.
This has been surprisingly difficult to accept in any productive sense. Walking across England helped a lot, because it gave me confidence of a peculiar sort. I mean, I set out with minimal equipment and preparation. I had a guide book but no maps until I bought them, I’d spent my “training” period eating ice cream in Australia with my family, and I hadn’t walked more than, oh, about 12 km at a go in the past several years. But I was ready inside, mentally, emotionally, spiritually (I’m not quite sure), even at the same time I was totally unprepared (mentally, emotionally, spiritually). And it was difficult and occasionally painful and I really wished I was a lot a fitter at the start — but I still made it simply by putting one foot in front of the other, day after day, all the way across England.
So I am utterly unprepared for people to read my fiction, which I have guarded jealously up to this point. A few very close friends and a handful of unknown editors have read it. Do I presume that everyone will enjoy it? No. Some of you reading this probably dislike fantasy with a fiery passion. Some of you who do like fantasy won’t like it anyway — the genre’s as big as the proverbial house of many mansions, and they’re certainly not all to my taste — and some things are sometimes fare. I am frightened of what people will think of it. I am frightened of being judged for my writing. Not my writing being judged, mind you; myself.
But — the only way out is through, in this as in other areas of life. There’s no way I can succeed as a professional writer if I don’t put my work out there. I hope a few of you will like “Scheherezade,” and a few more will like “Inkebarrow” in May (it’s about Shakespeare!), and more might fall in love with Raphael and Kasian and the story of Till Human Voices Wake Us when it comes out, and I expect that a lot of people will enjoy Derring-Do for Beginners and the Red Company stories, once those are ready, and so forth. I can hope. I will keep writing them anyway.
People asked me what I was doing that first week in Northumberland, when I stammered out, red-faced and giggling with embarrassment and nerve, that I was walking across England. Ten miles from the start, no one believes you. Five hundred miles from the start, people do. Even though I still didn’t look like a “real” walker, still couldn’t walk thirty miles day after day with my eyes fixed on a far horizon, was still stopping to take pictures of half the hedgerows left in England’s green and pleasant land. — People believed me not because I looked any different, any fitter or better equipped; they believed me because I believed it. Ten miles from the start it was pure faith and folly that I could get there. Five hundred miles from the start I was looking towards the Thames.
It took me all the way across England to be able to own “I am a writer” — and I’ve been writing since I was fifteen, and seriously since university, and wasn’t doing anything else besides the odd bit of gardening along the way.
I am a writer. I am a wannabe — no, going-to-be — professional writer. And today, for the first time, I am posting a piece of my fiction to be read by anyone who happens upon it.
I am not at all ready; but I want to be.
Step by step, I’ll get there.