Before I started writing this post, I almost made myself stop because I’ve been publishing too many different ideas and writing on this blog over the past week or so, and perhaps not really giving people the chance to read them. But then I said to myself: “that never really stopped you before, just post the damn thing, what do you care?” Well, I do and I don’t. I want people to read what I write obviously, but that want is not as important as the want to write itself.
After I wrote this post with Jane, I felt worried that I wouldn’t be able to get back into this feeling of having so much to say, and saying it, and not placing too much importance on who reads it. I will always be grateful to the people who visit this blog and take the time to respond, and I’ve said before that writing doesn’t really reach its maturity till a reader responds. This is still true. But for a writer to depend entirely on a waiting audience as the primary motivator to sit down and write seems lonely and alienating to me; it’s not how it works for me.
I’m relieved that I got my motivation to write on this blog, deep down inside, back because Jane and I felt quite despondent about the state of things when we published our co-written post. Perhaps we still do, but I certainly feel (I don’t want to speak for you Jane!) that I’ve learnt something too – something about vanity and ego and its pointlessness in writing. Look, I’m just like everyone else: I seek validation. It’s nice to have your work admired, it’s nice to receive gushing emails, it’s nice to be complimented. But I can thank my parents for teaching me the importance of a healthy scepticism about your own abilities, because most of the time, I don’t believe these compliments – they’re lovely to hear and to receive, and I know that most of the time they are coming from the right place, but I just don’t believe that about myself. Not yet at least, and perhaps never. And maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. A writer without self-scepticism is one who doesn’t sit down to work with editors and consider their input. It’s one who can’t handle constructive criticism. I really hope that will never be me.
Last night, I tweeted about a poem I read, prefacing the poem with this statement: “Every time I think I may one day be able to write good poetry I read a poem like this & realise I’ll never be this good”. There’s a great freedom in realising something like this: that certain writing beckons you as an audience member, as a reader, not as a writer – and that there’s nothing wrong with that. That your ego, your vanity, your need for expression isn’t the primary goal. Of course, I’m not trying to be unfair to the process of writing here: obviously writing isn’t just about ego or vanity or validation, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t one of the factors. What I like is that I feel, at this moment, that the need to be validated and pander to my vanity has slid far down on my list of priorities when I submit writing work to various magazines, journals and editors. There’s something else motivating me, but I don’t have a word for it. This doesn’t mean I’m not ambitious (because I’m incredibly so), or that I suddenly lack a sense of self or confidence about what I’m capable of doing. But it does mean I can put things in perspective better. This feeling made me think of an article I also read last night called, ‘On Being Nothing’: “With so much happening, society is poorly made to satisfy pride, but well made to satisfy interest, if we will only let go of our vanity and join the swirl of activity.” I’m happy to join.
So I think it’s fitting, on a post like this one, to finish off with someone else’s words – and what words they are. I don’t want to copy and paste the poem I tweeted about last night here, because I think it should be read where it was originally published. So please, do yourself a favour and go read it. I call this a ‘blood and guts poem’; a poem that seeps into your insides without bullshit. Blood and guts.