And It’s One, Two, Three, Who Are We Writing For?

Art is stubborn. To be creative is to learn it doesn’t do you any good to look up for a finish line that isn’t there.

Or for familiar faces along the way.

Writers share a lot of theories about the seeming obliviousness of friends and family to their work. However discouraged or not by the phenomenon, they will still notice it. This is what writers do. They notice things in the transitive sense. They write it down.

So I’ve been thinking about this subject. As I continue to add posts to this blog, as well as poems and lyrics to the author site, I’m tempted to update my progress to friends and family on social media.

It’s a bad idea.

I looked for thoughts on the subject. One post I read went into an elaborate scheme, starting with a category of people who will deliberately sabotage your efforts to succeed by doing everything they can to disrupt your process with interruptions, making desperate requests for your time, and so forth. Seems a bit extreme, as if that person had some specific neurotic person in mind, but the core theory is a popular one. Envy of realized or even potential success discourages support from the people you know.

I don’t buy it, though. I can’t be so cynical about people to accept that we are all just dung beetles clambering over each other to get out of some hole. I think the people in my life would like me to succeed at whatever level is possible, even if it’s just to give them a handy token of conversation to drop at parties. And the people who know me well enough to have some emotional stake in my happiness? Well, they probably suspect that success couldn’t make me any more impossible, anyway.

If not envy, what’s it about then? I went back to the search. Insecurity… envy… success… failure… round and round it went. After a couple of bouts of is-this-really-worth-it, I finally found some ideas that made some sense.

The answer has a lot to do with insecurity, but little to do with envy or even success. In my preferred genre of contemporary fiction, which deals more analytically with relationships and emotions than the formulaic, safe harbor stuff that dominates bestseller shelves, words drop from a place that is not regularly shared with friends and family. It’s difficult to create anything meaningful without exposing some of oneself.

For my novel The Robin Spring, I wrestled with this version of a disclaimer:

This is a work of fiction. What does that mean, exactly? You throw a bunch of experience into a blender, leave the top off, hit the switch, and describe the mess. That should be accident enough for anyone.

I thought it might set a humorous tone for what followed. I’m still thinking about putting it back, but the point is that there is a process that protects the not-so-innocent.

I know that, but can friends and family count on it? What is their incentive to step into the realm of “too much information” to discuss the subjects of my writing? Aside from those few who have an avid interest in such things, they will conspicuously avoid doing so. Nobody could expect otherwise.

So you keep it light. If they ask how it’s going, you have a polite answer ready. Friends and family are not a shortcut to the audience.

Leave them out of it.

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