I've had a few wake up calls over the last few months, and often not in the way that you would think. Some of than have been of the subtle creeping up on you kind and the others, well, yes, they have hurt. But that's the point. Anything that brings you to a moment of realisation about yourself is bound to hurt, to an extent, because often they can be unexpected and brutal and very much to the point. If you are lucky, sometimes they don't, simply requiring a slap of the forehead, a few choice words and a change in direction.
I have been reading John Scalzi's excellent (takes a deep breath) You're Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to the Coffee Shop: Scalzi on Writing (available here). And it is an excellent read, truly. Rather than looking at the mechanics and process of writing Scalzi turns his eyes to the business/writing life side, as well the motivators that drive him (and others) to do it. Divided into four chapters, the book covers writing, writing life (Scalzi's), writers (mainly doing stupid things) and science fiction (Scalzi's genre of choice). The articles in it are taken from his Whatever blog and are insightful, pragmatic, bullish, and, on occasion, quite brutal in their stripping away of many of the illusions of writing as a profession and a calling/artform. They are also highly entertaining and had me chuckling out loud on quite a few occasions.
I have been to see a number of authors talk of late, and have been following a few of their (and others) blogs. The things that have struck me, other than their complete love of the genres they write in and the joy they find in writing, is how utterly pragmatic they are about it as a profession. Because that is what it is, and they do the things necessary to keep that profession going.
It has got me thinking about my writing too, and what I am trying to achieve with it, and the answer, as ever with me, is a little unclear.
Would I like it as a profession? Yes, absolutely. The odds of this happening are pretty slim, however. Just looking around the blogosphere/twitterverse (with reference to professional published authors) will show you the vast, vast majority of them have a day job, some, if lucky, to do with writing. It can be done, but it requires hard work and determination, and, maybe, a bit of luck.
Do I want to write stories? Again, a yes. But I have come to realise, as per my "joy of..." post, that my mental perspective about my writing leaves a lot to be desired. I am making myself write certain stories because I feel I should be, rather than just writing the stuff I want to write, and having a good time doing it. What I write doesn't have to have a goal, only that I should enjoy it and should, the crunch point, do a lot more of it. I am not hugely self-disciplined as a writer (this year's NaNoWriMo attempt highlights that clearly) but discipline becomes much less arduous in the face of enjoyment and enthusiasm. And when I am enjoying writing I write all the time.
Do I want to be published? Pffft. Of course I bloody do. But to get there I a) need to write something I would enjoy writing AND reading, b) stick with it and c) stick with it. A little while ago I posted about being a better me (navel-gazing...) and this is clearly one of those things I need to address. Not the published bit, but the sticking with it bit. God knows I love words, and sentences and paragraphs and stories and, on occasion, a complete lack of punctuation, and I very much love the flow of the words as they hit the page (virtual or otherwise). I just need to do it. And once I have done it, I need to make whatever I have written better, and then do that whole trying to get published thing. But that won't be the point, it will simply be the result (with luck).
What does writing mean to me? Enjoyment. Experimentation. Playing with words and meaning. Building stories and moments and emotion. Coming back to the points above (it is interesting how this, as a process, leads me back to the same place, whatever the question), I have been, in effect, aiming for the half-marathon when I should have been just enjoying the running. Now that I have realised that about my running, I am enjoying it immensely, and am having to hold off on running every single day (sometimes I want to run a couple of times in a day) simply because I know my body can't cope with it and, dammit, I have NaNoWriMo to write. The same goes for writing.
As for writing as an art-from or creative endeavour go, yes, writing is very much that. Yet this shouldn't obscure the realities of writing, especially as a chosen profession (to be), in that it requires a level of pragmatism, a sense of realism, hard work and dedication that is on a par with any other job or vocation you want to excel at. The heart of all that, as ever, is enjoyment. If you aren't enjoying it, whatever it may be, then you probably shouldn't be doing it, or at the very least you should be questioning why you aren't enjoying it, and how you get yourself back there.
Actually, the answer seems very clear after all, and, as ever, it has taken me writing it down to get there. I need to remember why I enjoy writing, and write the stuff I want to write. And enjoy it. Everything else flows from there.