500th post ~ some introspection, some retrospection but mostly peering into the future

 

I don’t always do a good job of celebrating. It doesn’t come naturally to me, in many ways. You’re talking to someone who is always braced for impact, expecting the worst and not anticipating the best. I mark my birthday as much to please others as myself, but as the years go by I find some pleasure in having survived another year. I also mark my blog-i-versary, though unlike many, I don’t throw a party at reaching certain numbers of hits. How many visitors I get here is not really anything to crow about; however large or small that number, it is no credit or otherwise to me. It’s not something I have myself achieved.

But today, I do wish to mark something that I feel deserves a big pat on the back.

This is my 500th post here at Zen and the Art of Tightrope-walking. That’s 500 posts in just over 2 years, made up of multifarious topics. Short stories, poems, photos, anecdotes, travel writing, articles on dozens of subjects often related to mental health, creativity, philosophy and spirituality and many other issues.

Many blogs never make it past their first year, or fizzle out after a few posts. I have no idea why; this is variable in cause. It may even depend why a person started a blog in the first place. Writers are encouraged now to use social media to build a platform; I had no idea of this when I started. I still don’t; the only platform I’d like to build is one in a nice big tree and then build my tree-house so all my friends can come and play. I guess that’s what this blog has become. I have made a lot of friends along the way, met a few psychos (you know who you are) and have found a side to myself that I’d been concealing.

That’s the side that is just beginning to stand up and challenge the status quo around the creative arts. You see, I am watching the way the world is changing and am astonished that there is so little vision. The digital revolution means that anyone can now publish a book, and make it available online. So what happens but people focus on doing things exactly the same as they have always been done by traditional publishers? Why is no one asking “What is a book? Why does it have to be the same form?” I hear the same stuff about editing and rewriting and polishing. I don’t mean I don’t want writers to work at their stuff, but are we focusing so much on presenting work that conforms to an accepted FORM because no one has woken to the thought that actually, we may be able to discard many of the forms because they came about to fit paper.

We take it for granted that a book conforms to certain preconceived ideas of what a book is, when many of those ideas have come about because of the physical constraints of a paper book. Length, too is something that has reduced because of shorter attentions spans and a desire for a less leisurely pace. Reading some Dickens’ lately I became aware of quite how different the pace of his novels was. The conventions of fiction are just that: conventions. They persist because the readers demand them: happy endings, resolutions of difficulties by the final pages, main characters that the reader relates to.

What if we could sweep away all the conventions and experiment a bit? Write stories where it ends without resolution, like real life? Or where the reader can suggest endings or choose them? What about turning things on their head and having a villain who becomes a hero, or a heroine who turns into a villainess?

I can hear people shaking their heads and saying, yes, but that’s not what readers want. No, it’s what publishers tell you that people don’t want. Do you know people who’d read something that challenged them, or pushed them out of their comfort zone? I do. There’s not vast numbers of them; it’s hardly a mass market, but then I gave up on the idea of being a best seller a long while ago. That’s about as probable as winning the Lottery.

Why do we insist on aspiring to BIG numbers all the time? Why are Indie authors always being told they’ll never sell many books? Is selling books the WHOLE reason why writers write? Is perhaps the pressure to tailor your writing to a market or a genre or even to the ideas of an editor or agent a thing that might be curtailing your personal exploration of YOUR voice, YOUR stories, YOUR art? Where would they go without that pressure? (I am aware that there are plenty of people who write for a living and whose freedom is curtailed by the need to sell and pay the bills; I am not one of them. Once I would have liked to have been; not sure of that any more at all)

Art, whether it is visual or literary or musical or whatever, is a living thing that thrives on experimentation and exploration. The digital age is offering all of us the most mind-blowing scope for experiment and exploring. You could do anything. ANYTHING. The possibilities are beyond anything we have so far encountered.

All you need is imagination and a bit of daring to take that step forward and just try.

When I began this blog, I really had no idea really what a blog was, but as a part of a pact with myself I set out to say YES to more things I’d once have said no to, and 500 posts later, I find myself here, on the edge of a new world where anything might happen.

Would you like to come along for the ride and help make things happen, for you and for me and for everyone who has ever aspired to be a creator? Or would you prefer to stick with what you already know, what others tell you works and stay within your comfort zone?

The combination of internet, digital publishing and the explosion of social media is a combination as revolution every bit as dynamic and frightening as the advent of the printing press, the postal service and the arrival of cinema all rolled into one. The medium of The Book could change utterly, evolve into a new animal.

I simply don’t know where all this may lead. But don’t let the men in grey limit the possibilities by chaining it all down to profit and loss and catering to the masses and to the mediocre and the humdrum.

Let’s be daring and take flight. My wings are itching to explore new skies and new horizons.

Literary Post-Partum Blues ~ when the book is done, what then?

  The Flow Form pool, at the Chalice well gardens, in Glastonbury. I thought it looked womb-like.

Literary Post-Partum Blues ~ when the book is done, what then?

 

 I finally completed a novel yesterday. You’d imagine that’d make me deliriously happy, wouldn’t you? However, I think most experienced writers make few assumptions about how it might feel, because it varies so much. With some books you feel like having a party; others you feel like getting hammered quietly somewhere alone, curled up in a corner with a bottle of Scotch. And yet others you sit there and think, OK, what now.

I don’t mean the obvious side of things, like editing or proofreading, or if you are intending to submit to a publisher, query letters or the rest of that side of things. Nor do I mean leaving it alone for a month or two and then ripping it up and starting again.

It’s the emptiness.

I’ve said goodbye to people who have been intimately close to me for however long it’s taken. People, not characters. I’ve said goodbye to friends who mean a lot to me and I need to let them go. I mustn’t obsessively spy on them as they make their way.

And the emptiness feels a lot like a condition that affects a surprising number of women each year: Empty Womb Syndrome. You’ve carried this baby for nine months, under your heart and now it’s out. But the baby inside is gone forever. That tiny being with only potential to protect it no longer exists: the sleeping bundle in the crib cannot be the passenger who kicked and squirmed inside you for so long. I felt the same when I had my only child, and for a few days, the solution was obvious.

The solution for this ache is obvious and yet, just as it is for Empty Womb syndrome, so wrong.

I can’t just start another novel immediately. Just as my body needed time to recover from birthing a child, so my psyche needs time to recover from birthing a book.

So you see, the question What now, is a lot more complicated than it sounds.

Last night I made a decision that whatever comes later, I would go through the process of marking this event with a small celebration. So we had a Thai takeaway, a bottle of fizzy wine (I’m not a big fan of champagne, but bubbles of some sort are obligatory celebration aides) and I also had a large Scotch. (Highland Park single malt, if anyone’s interested. I really like good whisky and I have a collection of them.)

Today, I am waking up to face the emptiness and to sit at the side of that void and wait.

At least I don’t have to face nappies as well.

Blog-iversary

Today Zen and the Art of Tightropewalking is a year old. I had hoped to write something witty and entertaining but I’m only just home from a frustrating and tiring day at work and still need to try and chill out and unwind.

So a big thank you to everyone who visits, and to everyone who comments, and to the lovely friends I have made through the blogging world, and here’s to the next year!

THANK YOU ALL!!!