Perhaps not all of you consider writing to be art, or only wish to consider it art once it crosses some magic threshold only occupied my Hemmingway, Thoreau, Franzen and the like.
That's your prerogative.
I recently had an experience, while not entirely surprising, that reinforced my resolve to become the absolute best writer I can be.
Not just necessarily to sell a ton of books, to get rich and famous, or any of that, (Though I have never turned down a signed paycheck in my life) but to become better so that when someone reads one of my novels (the short stories and side projects are essentially practice and a chance to try out new styles, ideas) and reads it, they finish it and say, "Wow, that was incredible, I need to share this with someone else."
The experience was tied to the new side project that I created to explore a dark corner of what I hope to one day be a full time job-writing.
It is a Horror/Mystery/Sci Fi Blog Serial named D4RK R3QU13M, or "Dark Requiem".
If you look up "Requiem" in the dictionary it will describe it as a song dedicated to the memory of a member of the deceased. That is in essence what this story is about. It is a journey into the mind of a truly sick individual. A mass murderer, a serial killer, hence the "Dark"
I requested that anyone wishing to check it out send me a personal request so that I did not have to post the link into the cloud for everyone to see. Several people obliged, and I sent them direct links. I then proceeded to attempt to do everything in my power to dissuade them from reading it if they were not 100% certain that they would would be able to handle it. I stressed the Graphic nature of the content, I posted various levels of warning that needed to be akknowleged, and still they proceeded. So they were not going into the site unwarned.
One person, who shall remain nameless because this is not a personal attack on them, read the chapter, and promptly removed me from their friends list. This blog post is an attempt to explain WHY I am writing this story (as a challenge to myself), and also to give my thoughts on where I think my writing is going.
I see that in retrospect I should have chosen a nom de plume, or pen name.
Not everyone can separate a fictional story meant to push boundaries, evoke a response (in this case negative) in the reader from the character of the writer. They cannot conceive of why someone might attempt to do something magical using only 26 letters and punctuation such as make someone joyous or uncomfortable.
If someone tells you that they were going to attempt to write a story about the absolute worst person that they can dream up in their mind, and take on the task of explaining how that person devolved into madness by setting the story in the future and giving someone the ability to comb through absolutely every single thing that monster had ever seen, heard, thought, or dreamed, would you expect to make it through the process psychologically unscathed?
If you did, would it have been a terribly effective (or realistic) parable?
If they then explained that they are writing the entire thing as a exercise to explore a form of writing that they would never in a million years thought they would find themselves producing, the major reason being that they just wanted to see if they could do it, would you assign the actions in the piece to them as a person?
In short, just because people might choose to go slumming, poke a sleeping bear, or kick a hornets nest to see they can do it and come out the other side whole, it doesn't necessitate that they are a sadist.
Am I overreacting to a single bad review? Probably.
Do I need to develop a tougher skin if I am going to be a serious writer? Absolutely, and this project is displaying the ability to fast track my education on the front as well.
I initially began writing the story to clear my head of nightmares, as a therapeutic endeavor.
Yes, I did have a nightmare containing the disturbing events in Chapter One.
And yes, I did have the same reaction that the main character, Steven Jackson, had in the story.
Am I ashamed that my mind could come up with something so awful? You bet your ass.
Imagine having a recurring dream like that, imagine that you cannot sleep for a week and a half because you are afraid that of the every other night you have that dream, tonight will be the night.
Not pretty, is it? Not at all, and anyone that truly knows me outside of Facebook will tell you that they would never in a million years think that I am a bad person, of questionable character, or anything that might be viewed as unsuitable to share a conversation with.
At this point, you may be wondering just why I am ranting like this.
It's because I pride myself on trying to be a GOOD person. I try to help those that ask for help with something. I treat people with respect until they prove they are not worthy of it, and generally care what people think of me.
The fact that something I produced, a work of ART, whether you enjoy it personally or not, would push someone to choose to disassociate themselves from me, pains me.
Especially when I did everything short of take an EEG of their brain to verify that they were understanding what they were getting into, and this still happened.
I am not posting direct links on facebook to this blog for that reason. My son is on my page, a couple of his friends, nieces and nephews as well. (The page has still managed to rack up around 120 hits in 72 hours, even without me shouting from the rooftops of it's existence.)
I know that this story should never be exposed to them. It's not FOR them. At this point you have to either consciously conduct a search for it or ask me personally for a link to it, and then accept a splash page expressing that it is of a mature nature, and then also click on a chapter heading at the top of the page to read the story, as the blog entries on the front page are simply of an informative nature, and rated PG13.
So, yes, I am frustrated and disappointed. I am not angry. I simply wish that when I tell people repeatedly that something is not for the weak of stomach, they LISTEN.
I was extremely paranoid about something like this happening, and now that it has I see that at some point it would be unavoidable.
I am pushing my boundaries as a writer. I am not going to the trouble of producing two (soon to be three) sites so that I can amuse myself and feed my ego. I am looking for feedback on what I write so that I can get better. I separated that site to keep family and friends that simply wish to support my writing, but not see stories like that.
So, words cannot express how happy I am that you have chosen to check out my writing. I really do appreciate the support, and I will continue to keep this site free of anything that I would not let my own ten year old son read.
Yes, I forbid him from reading that story and do not write it around him, I take great pride in being the best father to him that I can be as well.
If you would like to take a look at the other site, please request a link through email at my personal email address at email@example.com, and I will forward it to you.
I had already planned to take a break from that site for a week or so to finish up a few other projects that I had been working on. They are Judgment Cove, AZTLAN, and pre://d.o.mai.n.
I plan to offer pre://d.o.mai.n to agents this fall, and can already see how attempting different styles has made me a much more interesting writer. Its mildly frustrating to write something that you consider really good, start work on something else and then look back at the first project wishing you had time to go back and make it better.
I doubt I will ever stop learning what it takes to be a good writer. I hope I never do.
I have already dabbled in the writing styles of other writers such as Nicholas Sparks, Edgar Allen Poe, Stephen King, and Thomas Harris. I'm still finding my way, searching for my voice.
Do I think one day I will be pretty good at this writing "thing"?
Of course I do. I am optimistic that one day in the distant future I will reach a truly impressive talent level.
At the moment my spelling and grammar checker still get's used too much, I still have to take rare glances at a thesaurus to verify that a word I remember vaguely is being used appropriately, and I am still pretty weak on plotting and organizing.
But I'm going to keep working at it because I love it like no other thing I have ever taken on as a hobby. It is something that I will be able to do into senility, and that gives me plenty of time to get better.
So if you don't happen to like something that I wrote, please tell me, and tell me why you don't. I already have the ability to create characters that are so far from my own personal belief structure that I have to think of how I would handle situations, and write the opposite.
This is not merely a diversion for me, I intend to make this my life's work one day. I have stories to tell, good ones, and more flood into my mind every day.
With every story I finish, I get a little closer to that goal. I want to fashion something that outlasts me, something that will endure and provide smiles long after my mind is able to scheme fresh ways to do it.
Actually, as selfish as it sounds, I hope to do it more than once. I want to write stories that give people enjoyment, and make them look at things from fresch perspectives, ask new questions that no one has the answer to yet.
I appreciate praise as much as any other insecure 31 year old, it gives me encouragement to go on, to keep plugging away. If you enjoyed something I wrote, please let me know, as that is the reason that I do this.
But constructive criticism is equally important.
Don't simply disappear, if something offends you, or you think it needs work, or if you simply think it's awful (and you can tell me why), let me have it.
I'm here to hear what you have to say, and I'm not going anywhere.