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The Ages of Writing

book and glasses
Under the auspices of the current LiveJournal Bittercon (i.e. a convention-like gathering of sorts for those of us not at World Fantasy Con, Kate Elliott poses the question Why Do You Write as her own contribution - and specifically, she asks,

I’d like to hear more probing thoughts about the relationship between writing and publication. Does publication validate the act of writing in a way that writing without publication does not? Or in some ways but not in others? In your experience do some people only value published writing, and not the multitude of other forms writing can take?

Lots of good discussion ensued, including a few volleys by Yours Truly - but it got me thinking along certain lines, and questioning the evolution of the Ages of Writing.

Ignoring for the nonce the question of just exactly WHEN one begins to write and call it "writing" in the sense that one is consciously starting to produce something that's possibly, perhaps, intended as a conscious effort at story or poem and intended for actual readers who might be other than the writer him or herself and their invisible childhood companions - I think we all begin with an Age of Innocence. This is that period of time when you're just discovering something fascinating and new, falling in love, if you like, writing for the rush of joy and of adrenaline when something - a phrase, a paragraph, a poem, a story - actually comes together in something resembling perfection at least in your eyes - or, if nothing else, something that's coherent and consistent and that you wouldn't be inclined to shove under your bed if anyone ever walked in on you doing it unawares. Something that you have the first basic inkling that you might, one day, become very proud of.

This comes in a series of levels, of course, and you get the gamut - at the two extremes, people who basically DO write for themselves and themselves alone, or perhaps a few very close friends or family members and are perfectly happy with that status quo and would not care if it ever changed at all, and people who begin to feel an itch of wanting something else, something MORE, something *OTHER*, who begin to realise that all those books they so love reading have actually been produced by people not so very much unlike themselves, and start to wonder just how one gets to be one of those people. In other words, the first tiny tingling idea of the possibility of publication.

There's a threshold. You inch up to it, sometimes you back up to it, often you hover at it for a long, long, long time - but if you're the kind of writer who keeps on writing and who wants to be read, you slowly realise that you are in the nursery, that there are pretty pictures on your walls, that everything in the room that you're in is safe and padded and pink and gentle and geared not to hurt you - but that across that threshold, outside that door, there is a world that is at once far more dangerous and deadly - where the games are real and you REALLY die if you die and you don't get to sleep it off and wake up the next morning ready to try again - where the hurts hurts more... and yet where the joys are more incandescent for the simple reason that they ARE real and unfiltered and raw, where the things that are wonderful are the real things and not the toys, where you sink your hands to the elbows in the stuff of LIFE and begin to feel the texture of it, nubby and gritty and fragile like butterfly wings and sharp like broken coral and soft like moss on the south-facing side of trees - and there are mirrors which don't belong back in the fairy tales, but which reflect back nothing except unadulterated truth.

And you stumble across that threshold by accident at last, or something in that pretty nursery finally pushes you, or else you have stared out of that door for so long that your feet take matters into their own, er, hands, and simply take you across the thing without your quite knowing how you got there...except that you are aware at some deep fundamental level that you CHOSE to do it...

And now - well - it's my day to blog over at the SFNovelists site, so if you want to know what happens next, go scurry over there...

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
david_chunn
Nov. 5th, 2007 09:16 pm (UTC)
My answer for wanting publication is simple: I'd like to make a living doing what brings me the most joy. Plus, I'm going to spend a lot of time doing it anyway.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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