I think I owe everyone both an explanation and an apology at the month-long absence I took in-between the last two posts. I was working, for starters, and I had only nights to come back home and go online and do proper, web-fiction related work. But the real reason for not blogging at Novelr was because I was struggling with a couple of things that I’d like to share with you today, for luck. The short of it was that I was sick and tired of writing, and for awhile I was adrift in the sea of ideas that Novelr comes across for a day-to-day basis. But consider, for a moment, the fact that I think of myself as a fiction writer, and consider too the immutable reality that Novelr (and all of blogging) is an inherently non-fiction job. This might not seem like a major problem, not at first glance, but think awhile and you’ll realize that non-fiction is not the other side of the writing coin; it is a very attractive escape, especially for the fiction writer suffering from major writer’s block.
When I first started writing, I reasoned that the blank page was a beautiful thing; an invention that gave the outside world the inner workings of my head. I could give a gift of imagination – my imagination – to others; to allow them a smell of the flowers planted outside the palace of Samarkand, to give them a taste of stolen cloud, taken from underneath a flying monkey God. And indeed that was the ideal that I strove for, that little imagined place where both writer and reader could meet; not over ideas, but over stories and shared experiences.
But then take non-fiction, where you’re still writing, and you’re still using the same tools of the craft, but you’re not actually telling any story. I find that non-fiction is often a weaker substitute for fiction, in the same way some people may chew gum to make up for an addiction to nicotene; or watch porn to make up for a lack of human love. Writing essays and blog posts are easier; they’re instant gratification to the slow-release pleasure of writing a novel; they make you feel as if you’re still engaged in the act of writing, with one crucial difference: you’re not actually doing any storytelling. And we all know how much harder storytelling really is, compared to the direct, non-fiction electricity of ideas from head to hand. This could be one reason why so many novelists turn to essays in their downtime, between books. It could also be one reason why I’d been writing so little fiction over the past 6 months. And it was true, and it was painful – the crux of the matter was that between Novelr and my blog I didn’t feel any need to ease myself into the hard grind of crafting and telling a good story. And that was sad indeed.
I wonder now if writers like Malcolm Gladwell and Seth Godin write non-fiction because they believe in this lie. Or if they’d examined themselves as fiction writers, found themselves wanting, and settled for the still-respectable, instantly-gratifying joy of non-fiction. Because to me it suddenly seemed that if you were not writing fiction you weren’t partaking of the most powerful thing writing had on offer: the ability to take yourself out of time, to live beyond your years in the curls of your letters and the ozone of your paragraphs. I believe now that stories last forever; that only ideas grow old and die. And what I was doing, I found, was that I was writing so much non-fiction that I was putting aside almost nothing of myself for the timeless craft of the fiction writer.
So what made me come back? Two things, I suppose. The first was a 43 folders podcast, How To (…) Turbocharge your blog with Credibility!, a punchy, inspiring chat between two old-time bloggers that reminded me of everything I had started out to do when I first launched Novelr. But that’s personal, and you aren’t likely to identify with me on my reasons. It’s the solution to my second problem that I find worthy of sharing: I decided that no matter how much work I was going to do on Novelr, or how many essays I wrote for myself, I would always, always set aside some time for wrtiting fiction.
And the thought of this – the very idea of it – made me instantly happier. I’m sorry for the hiatus. But I’m back now, and writing again. Thank you for sticking with me.
N.B.: Have any of you struggled with this? Or has fiction/non-fiction been your one and only calling? I’m interested to know if anyone’s had similar doubts, and similar blocks. Drop me a line in the comments section; I’d be delighted to hear from you.