Thursday, September 07, 2006

"So what have you been writing lately?"

Yeah, That Question.

Which I don't get nearly as often these days, as I haven't identified as "playwright" or hung in such circles much (a little more again just lately; it is awkward, somehow), for, oh, the last six or seven years.

What have I been writing?

Well, in terms of actual finished projects, prose or dramatic, as in, with an eye toward i don't know publication and/or production? Pretty much nil. Started a couple here n there. somewhere. i hate when i start something and then not only do i forget where i put it, virtually, but i forget what i was calling it, and thus can't find the file.

However, just in terms of sheer quantity, output:

Well, there's this here blog, for going on a year now. There's all my contributions on other blogs, not inconsiderable. and more verbiage in emails, some rather involved and (to my mind) rather eloquent, not just chit-chat. Before this, I was on a virtual community; at one point i -started- to try to extract and download all my posts; i quit after the first, i don't know, 100 pages' worth? it was a lot. hadn't gotten very far in the process, either. Besides that, a 700+ page personal journal, which hived off into a separate dream journal and a few other things. And a couple other things here and there, no doubt. mostly online. bulletin boards. i like the instant gratification of a response, see.

And, you know, i won't flatter myself that every single "yeah, I like pudding too" on a comments thread is the most profound fucking thing in the world, but a lot of it is, yeah okay I won't self-deprecate in this area for once, probably edited and sculpted enough that i -would- submit it for publication somewhere, if i, you know, got my shit together.

So essentially what this boils down to is: I've been doing nothing BUT writing. For the past six or seven years. And oh yeah, what is the phrase, "working on myself." Which has paid off rather enormously, in fact, and in myriad ways; although, once again, not in any way that tends to register as "progress" for people who don't really think in such terms.

And yet, people ask, "So what do you do?"

And I answer: (variously, over the last while): "I teach, online;" or, "I am a slave in the temp mines" or "I used to be in theatre; now I'm in transition; I am looking toward psychology" (depending on how much i feel the need to not feel completely pathetic). Stuff of that sort.

What I do NOT answer:

"I am a writer." "I write."


Because I'm not getting paid for it, duh.

See, nothing you do counts unless you're getting paid.

And clearly, I cannot ever get paid for this, this writing, because, well, hasn't happened yet; and, consider all the OTHER amazing writers who aren't getting paid, well, um, oh look, shiny thing.


Oh, and I've had leads, and...yeah. Shiny thing. Shiny someone else's drama. Lint picking. Buffy reruns.

Whatever it is, I don't think "writer's block" is the right term.


Renegade Evolution said...

psst...i write too, horror mostly.

Kristin said...

Totally disagree. A writer writes -which you do - an author is a published writer. You can be a writer without being an author, but you cannot be an author without being a writer. Unless, of course, you're a celebrity. How do I know all this stuff? I am a writer, I make stuff up. Notice how I said writer and not author. What do I write? Scads and scads of inane commentary on other people's blogs. Synopsis: You are a writer and you're good at it. Own it.

Kristin said...

Qualification: An author is a paid writer.

Ed Ward said...

And we do miss you on the Well. Or at least I do.

gandhi rules said...

I'll have to go with kristin here, oh look, shiny thing..

ToastedSuzy said...

I like shiny things, too!


antiprincess said...

what did you useta teach online?

Bitch | Lab said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bitch | Lab said...

a few people have called me by that name. i never answer and usually scratch my head b/c i don't put effort into Being A Writer. I hardly edit, just write differently in response to the actual physical and visual space around me.

e.g. writing on email different from writing in blog software from writing in form box at my/someone else's blog from writing in word from writing on paper.

something about my very visual memory.

anyway, writer is not an identity to which I've ever aspired. i've gotten/get paid to write, but it's nothing i aspire to. this disturbs people who want to be writers or who are writers. but when we talk about they eventually see: whatever i do is not done with the kind of craft and intention they actually work on honing. big difference.


Altho, do like kristin's comments b/c approp to those who see themselves as writers/who aspire to be authors.

dykotomy said...

Oh, but you are published Belledame - right here - that's if you count self-publishing...

I write as well - been published - but does being published as an intern count? LOL! For me, I actually have to SUBMIT something. I have many targets but no product to submit. I am terribly undisciplined.

midwesterntransport said...

yah, i'd say that if you want to take ownership of the writer title, you're more than welcome to it. given that you write scads of articulate...well...things (see, not a writer here) all over these here interwebs.

but really. the only difference between you and a columnist in a weekly or daily paper is that you're not getting paid for it (and possibly not hobnobbing with the yuckety-yucks, but who wants champagne when it's not a cheap bottle and accompanied by orange juice?). what you write piques my interest far more than maureen dowd or any other column writers, who are essentially paid to write their opinions and feel important about them.

anyway, yes, i'm also with kristin that it is important to distinguish between folks who strive to make a career and money from their craft and folks who don't.

also, the term "aspiring?" hate it. always have. i'm not an "aspiring" actor. i AM an actor. i aspire to get PAID.

Bitch | Lab said...

good point mwt: aspring, to me, means the essential difference between me and my friends and former employers who answer to the name "writer" and want others to call them that too -- which of course means getting paid in some way to write.

my job early with former employer was 'writer'. When i created my sig file, I came up with something else. i didn't list it as my occ on Tax returns. Did not like being IDd as writer. Did not identify with writers i knew and how they described what they wanted out of life.

writer friends have tried to impose that name on me & have gotten irritated b/c I don't fit their shoebox.

they talk about feeling overwhelming *need* to write. they are sometimes offended by my *shrugs* re: typos, "dude, i got other things to do. deal."

i find the passion from writers, artists, etc. fascinating but I could never live their lives -- the ones i've known at any rate.

belledame222 said...

Ed! Heya, good to see you! I'll log in again soon, promise.

And yeah, thanks all, and, you know, I more or less know all this, it's just, you know, haven't really been talking about it out loud, so...thanks.

Also by way of saying: i would LIKE to get paid for writing...something, on account of, I like writing, I think I"m fairly decent at it, and I would like to get paid; money: not everything, but, you know, does kind of come in handy sometimes.

that sort of thing.


belledame222 said...

And BL: see, that's just it, wrt the "overwhelming need to write:" I used to say the same goddam thing, when I heard other people say this sort of thing. I dungeddit. The NEED, the burning If you say so. I like it, I'm pretty good at it, I just wanna be happy. shrug. I am not, how you say, an ARTISTE.

But you know what is occuring to me: simply, if I am writing THIS much, day after day after day after day, then maybe oh I don't know it ISN'T just, obsessing, fucking off, procrastinating putting off what I "really" "need" to do, you know, REAL LIFE; maybe uh there is a how you say more positive way of looking at this.

and maybe, just maybe, for real now, finally, you know, seeing as how I'm already finding it sort of disheartening and underpaid the kind of "work" I've been applying for and sporadically getting and frankly don't even WANT to do, well, garsh, -maybe- it might be worth -finally- at least -trying- to, you know, send out some stuff. Which I never do, like, ever. Follow leads, that sort of thing. Well, maybe once in about like every four years. And it's like, okay, fear of rejection, duh, but uh I'm ALREADY getting rejected for all kinds of shit, it's really not like it's an either-or here, and yes, as they say, if you don't even -try-...

oh, what'd I teach? CREATIVE WRITING. (a couple of different forms). To adult college students who some of whom were interesting, but mostly were just taking it as a required course, to get the easy "A." And you know, after a while, try as I might, I just couldn't make myself respond to them anymore, and, well, it started showing up on my evaluations, and it was embarassing, and it wasn't fair, so I stopped. even though it was rather nice in that it was a way to earn money without leaving the apartment, which, you know, is something i find an ambiguous experience at best...which was a problem, also, except, well, anyway.

you see why eventually i stopped.

and no, haven't given up on the counselling idea either, it's just, that's gonna be a while, frankly, no matter what, so.

belledame222 said...

>i aspire to get PAID.

yeh, kind of the bottom line here. See, what I'm saying is, among other things, besides "identification," I truly haven't really been even aspiring.

at least not so's anyone else would notice, you understand.

belledame222 said...

and the thing of it is, I -do- often, not always, find myself going back and honing, editing, sculpting. I have been calling this "obsessive," but, you know, maybe that IS discipline.

belledame222 said...

and yeah, too, bottom line also: sometimes you DO got other things to do. I agree with this. I hate the whole romanticized notion of writing as though it existed in some kind of vacuum. If that's what you mean, BL. Sure, there are other worthy occupations; I might not like to write all of them off; and sometimes, too, you just gotta pay the rent. All of that.

But it's a good part of why I was attracted to theatre in the first place, I rather think. Or, well, among other things: what you want, what -I- want, is a response. It's a dialogue, for me, is writing. And theatre, you know, the audience experience, call and response. And then the oh what I saw as a -community- experience in -making- the thing, which also had the nice attraction of maybe offering the possibility of trying on a number of hats ("what I really want to do is Direct")...all of that.

And then well came The Graduate PRogram, and actually i think i will save that for another time.

Suffice it to say: ended up feeling rather sharply and deeply disillusioned on a number of fronts.

So, and, I think one of the reasons I love blogging, the WELL, and so forth, is, as I say: instant gratification. But it's more than that; I can be patient (sometimes..) it's, well, you SEE what kind of impact you have, it's not just, you send it out to the world, the world passively receives. It's a dialogue. To me. I realize that for bloggers especially, some more than others, that is exactly what it is: I talk, you listen. Or, maybe, you know, a chorus of rapturous applause; as Eve Harrington once said, it's worth more than anything, that, applause. -Approval.- -Love- (if that's what you want to call it). From a mass of shadowy figures adoring your limelit figure, eternally and without change or end.

At least it is if you're the sort of person who has a shiny silver cup where her heart should be.

I'm not like that. I don't think. At any rate, don't want to be, am mindful of that -part- of me, would like very much at minimum to acknowledge that it's there but also that it's not -all- of me, that this is not in fact the point, not to writing, not to -life.-

So perhaps at some level...well, maybe let's not go too far into the self-examination in public here, there's been plenty of that about lately. Or maybe i should, at that: hey, at least it's my own shit, here, I am talking about.

But yeah, there are a few different things going on here, I would say.

Which, I'd like to unpack and sort out and maybe get rid of some shit so that I can, you know, bring in some new and better stuff, stuff that I actually need, stuff that unlike the old stuff, -will- serve me (anymore).

belledame222 said...

RE: what kind of horror? i mean like who are your influences, subjects, that sort of thing? For some reason I am flashing on you as maybe a Poppy Z Brite fan, but maybe I'm completely off.

v said...

"RE: what kind of horror?"

that's exactly what i was thinking ;)

i don't think i could write fiction. i wouldn't know where to start. i don't think i have access to my imagination enough to do it, although i admire those that can.

i do wish i could get back into rpgs, which i did briefly as a kid, and which i think are like writing fiction, but as a team.

belledame222 said...

(hey, mwt: hope to see you on Saturday! gr, BA, antip, too, if it's feasible, email)

belledame222 said...

remind me what "rpgs" stands for--oh, role playing games? yeah, there's that, too.

one thing i -did- like about teaching the creative writing class was getting the comments at the end from people who had started off with saying, "oh, I'm not creative at all" with, "hey, lookie here, I did have something to say after all."

i just got kind of tired of showing/telling other people how to do what -i- wsn't doing.

also, wasn't too keen on the overall demographic of those particular students; they tended rather heavily towrd the conservative side, on the whole. I mean, it was interesting, i liked a lot of them, but after a while...

Renegade Evolution said...

BD & V:

Poppy is not a big favorite, more of a Neil Gaiman fan personally. I have dabbled with some vampire/supernatural stuff, some creepy southern voodoo themes, and, of course, some flat out sick dark erotica kind of stuff. I also like writing historical fiction and fantasy. I am kinda a geek :)

Yaki said...
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belledame222 said...

Yeah, RE, I remember we were talking about Gaiman. funny, i was just gonna post summat from "American Gods."

EL said...

I think there are a few things a person can't identify as without feeling like a bit of a fraud. "Writer" is one of them. But just because you feel like a fraud doesn't mean you are.

belledame222 said...

Maybe it goes like this, okay:

"What do you do?"

"I write."

...except then the follow-up is, oh! anywhere I raed? (assuming you mean published).

and, well, it goes from there.

not that in FACT this is actually my biggest problem here, of course; just a symptom really.

Sage said...

I don't call myself a writer because it's not the primary thing I do. I don't distinguish people who are writers (or authors - I use the two terms the same way) by whether or not they get paid, but by whether or not they have a passion for it. If you're driven to write all day, but make no cash from it, then you're a "starving writer"!

I've actually written two whole books and made good cash off them, but as far as my criteria go, I'm not a writer. They were textbooks. There's no real writerly creativity involved (im my experience). Doesn't count. And I roll my eyes when text writers I know consider themselves esteemed authors. You didn't write Hamlet, for chrissake, your organized information under headings! And my stories and articles for a little independent paper don't count for me either. Some of my blog stuff is the closest I've come to what I consider "real" writing because it's about delving deep within to purge out ideas.

I think I'm afraid of that feeling of fraud too.

belledame222 said...

Yeah, so, what is that really? that feeling of fraud? i mean, i am asking for myself as well. fraud by whose standards? what would it take to be "real?" What is the fear really?

baby221 said...

You know what's weird? I get this question from my dad every now and then. "So, you write anything new lately?"

The man knows I keep two blogs, to which I post almost obsessively. He knows how to access them. He's even commented on one of them, as much to say that I posted too frequently as to address the content of the post.

I make up to four posts a day, and yet he asks, "Written anything new lately?"

Does it not count because it's seat-of-my-pants writing? Does it not count because it doesn't tell a story, unless you count a slice of my life or my thoughts to represent a story?


Ed Ward said...

Bottom line: writing is fun. The money sucks. You takes your chances and you makes your choice.

belledame222 said...

well at this point, way I'm seeing it, any money will be better than no money.

and i'm prolific/verborrheac enough that i expect once i have some sort of confidence that i -can- submit and be published and even paid a pittance and shit, i can do this simultaneous with whatever the fuck else i'm doing, at least for a while.

and yes, eventually, -maybe- as soon as next year, back to school, with the counselling.

just: enough of this shit, i'm in a rut, i haven't been thinking outside the box. at least not as regards you know ME.

midwesterntransport said...

yup, i know what you mean, BD. getting stuck in a rut sucks big big time. i've been in one for three years and am just now coming out.

re: The Fear of Calling Oneself a Writer. i suspect (though i don't know) that it may have something to do with what you already mentioned - that moment of proof in the midst of conversation. "oh yeah? where would i have seen your writing?"

how does we judge art, as a culture? what equals success? i think we judge it by how many people know about it and further, how much money it makes. so you can be a shit writer, but if everyone knows about you, you're a legitimate one.

that puts folks who haven't been "discovered," as it were, into a rather awkward position. you can be fucking brilliant, but if folks don't know about you, You're Not An Artist.

so for me, part of not wanting to id as an actor is that burden of proof, and then feeling that if the person hasn't heard of me, i Must Not Be What I Say I Am.

hence: fraud.

midwesterntransport said...

and BL, yah, i think the mythology around being a writer or other type of artist can be rather offputting. i think folks buy into this notion that if you are Creating Art, you can't be a human being, really - everything in your life must be focused on this One Area.

which makes for some miserable human beings, i think.

this drives me batty when i see movies or read books about artists, because i think that for the most part, they perpetuate this idea that artist=miserable and fucked-up person. did you see pollock? that movie made me nuts because, imo, the movie justified all of that bad behavior by saying, "See? It's Ok! He was a genius!"

Crap. Genius he may have been, but i wouldn't have wanted to be around him.

anyway, some of the best actors and writers i know are first and foremost responsible, accountable PEOPLE.

midwesterntransport said...

...then, too, it's really exhausting to be constantly working several jobs, especially if you feel satisfied by only one of them.

i suspect that some folks want to make money off of their craft just to rest a little bit. it sucks to have to work to support your habit and then be so exhausted from working that you don't feel energetic when you get to what you REALLY like to do.

midwesterntransport said...

ok, i'm gonna shut-up in a moment, but: maybe not wanting to say that you're a Writer is partly about not wanting to deal with the laundry list of expectations that folks put on you when you claim that title?

i referenced that more specifically before, but ya know...folks have all kinds of ideas about Who You Will Be once you declare yourself a writer, and maybe you don't want to bother with all that junk?

belledame222 said...

yep, yep, yep, and yep: nailed it.

well first of all the "fraud" business is something i b'leve i would like to just Get Over It, It's Their Problem.

I mean, what, seriously? i'm going to turn myself inside out and maybe restructure not only my identity but where i actually put my energy (without really consciously thinking about it even maybe) on account of, what, i need to have the right answer at a cocktail party, assuming i even want to go to them in the damn first place? meeting dates? interviewing for the day job? (yeah, there's a fun one). please Mom and Dad? DINGDINGDINGDINGDING! god, i'm so frigging obvious. and really: that, too, seems like it -ought- to be in the Just Get Over It column, but, well, you know, old habits, and, well, there are complications, and so on.

and yeah the "je suis an ARRRRTIIISSSTE" was something that really turned me off in theatre, and particularly at the School, that suffocating little inbred hothouse. look, dumbass: what we care about is the work, not what you look like in (yes unfortunately a couple did this quite literally) a beret, or how rarefied your personal atmosphere, all i know is i'm kind of gagging on it, and mainly, the work it produces? that you produce? really kind of fucking dull. pretty-pretty at best. but, you know, if you get the ecstatic applause and the ass-kissing and the favorable ink the next day, THAT'S what counts, right? what else is there? anything? what? Bueller?

Alon Levy said...

Well, different people have different terminologies, obviously. I don't think Hedwig has gotten paid for writing anything lately, and still she calls herself a scientist/writer.

I sometimes say I'm an aspiring writer - not because of my blog, but because of a full-length novel I'm going to try to publish as soon as the person I entrusted with critiquing the first draft and I make it good enough to see the light of day. I don't know why, but I don't see blogging as identical to writing; personal blogs are more like journal-keeping, whereas political ones are more like punditry.

belledame222 said...

Mmm, there's a lot of grey area even there, though. anyway if it's written punditry (or journalling for that matter), technically, y'know, still writing.

belledame222 said... finally hit me: last time or most vividly i remember hearing "a writer writes" was from "Throw Mama From The Train."

which, well, in itself, not perhaps the example one wishes to think of when setting to work, any of it, really.

still, it is true, yes, at the end of the day.

"the night was humid."

Sage said...

This is a great discussion!

"The night was sultry. I'm leaving. It's too sultry in here." What a great movie.

BD said: "well at this point, way I'm seeing it, any money will be better than no money."

Hey, why don't you put one of those paypal thingies on your blog so people can donate when they read a bit of excellence? Or stick some advertising on there. I, for one, don't have a problem with ads on blogs although I do know some people see it as selling out. But WTF? Why shouldn't you get some cash for what you write here? If I got more than 10 hits a day, I'd be adding ads for sure. (I'm a socialist in my head and heart, but a capitalist in my guts, and sometimes they're loud enough to drown out the other body parts!)

MT said: "maybe not wanting to say that you're a Writer is partly about not wanting to deal with the laundry list of expectations that folks put on you when you claim that title?"

Yup. I would especially hate for someone to ask to see what I've written. My blog is anonymous (mainly so I can continue to slam people I know in real life without any consequences), and anything else is just halfway done. But "No you can't see anything I've written lately." is very suspicious.

Mainly it's my own judgemental attitude towards people who claim to be actors, writers, artists... that stops me from making that claim myself. I need to turn off that internal critic if I'm ever going to call myself a writer. I tend to say that I'd like to be a writer one day, further reinforcing that I'm not one now.

I have a friend who calls herself a writer and she always adds that she's not like other people who claim to write, she's actually half-way through a book. That just sounds so bloody pretentious to me! Another writer friend got one story published in the local paper over a year ago, and often discusses her craft with the opening, "Well, when I write for the paper..." My old boyfriend calls himself an actor even though he was in one stage-play about 10 years ago. Again, it seems like posing to me. (When Jurassic Park first came out he called himself a paleontologist (sp?) because he took one course on it in university. My eyes hurt from rolling so much!)

belledame222 said...

You know what else it is? Just in general the whole "so what do you do?" being "what brings in a paycheck?"

It's why "I'm a housewife/house-husband/home-maker" is still considered well whatever it is in many circles.

But seriously though: why is it always that?

"What do you do?"

"I keep an herb garden and sing in the shower and stand outside the governor's mansion protesting the no-gay-marriage-bill every weekend. Oh, and I do a wicked frug, make a mean salsa, and I like giving head."

No, it doesn't answer "so how do you make rent," but doesn't that actually say a bit more about who you are? or at minimum opens up more possible avenues of discussion...

belledame222 said...

Yeah, Pay Pal, I dunno, not now anyway. Ads maybe if there's a way to pick ones that i'm kind of more okay with ethically, content-wise and operation-wise. we'll see.

also i really really really do need a "proper" site i think: I hate blogger, and also, want to make pretty.

belledame222 said...

speaking of Pay Pal: in kind of a black mood right now: grannyvibe (whom i also knew from elsewhere, virtually), took her site down: seems she has lymphoma and no insurance. Her son is apparently running a Pay Pal for her, but, ehhhhh, for fuck's sake, you know? another really wonderful amazing person from the WELL just recently died, real young, too, from fucking fucking cancer, and I never even got to meet her, and Liz, well, she really is special, you can see that, and why the FUCK do so many people not have insurance in this motherfucking country?!?

anyway props to Twisty (among others) for making this known; that does count for a lot in my book. I'll be doing a post on that later.

belledame222 said...

...on grannyvibe i mean, info, i need to find the son's site again. fuck i'm depressed about that. of ALL people. and people like motherfucking Dick Cheney just go on and on and on, and get the best of doctor treatment for their non-existent hearts because, well, that's how it is.

and all the coolest and most interesting, kind--or well most of them--people i know are either out of work or otherwise struggling to keep their head above water to one degree or another, and what end in sight? what the fuck? and we are keeping this whole monolithic creaky countrysystem-whatever "number One" so that, what? "Coca-Cola, Wonderbra?" corporations are persons, is it? a handful of sociopathic fucks can continue to feed their gaping black hole of a soul with the wrong food (i.e. everyone else) and STILL never even be satisfied?

yeah, maybe revolution doesn't sound so bad at that. sure, put me up against the wall, what the fuck.

Sage said...

My wonderful mom died of cancer while I was living next door to a nasty evil woman from hell who was positively ancient. I have a theory that nice people keep all the crap in where it festers turns cancerous. Therefore, we must all bitch liberally to stave off illness.

So sorry to here about granny. I was hoping it was just a blogger error not letting me access her site. Sucks.

belledame222 said...

So sorry about your mom, sage.

Yeah, i actually think there's something to that, you know. although Liz always struck me as being one of the saner, most well-adjusted, evolved, truly alive people out there; which is why this sucks so VERY much.

i also think that some people manage to keep going through sheer meanness.

how else do you explain Strom Thurmond?

oh well; at least Julia Child was supposed to be nice. good life; long life; good death. i reflect on that example more often than one might suppose.

belledame222 said...

but yeah: while one can overdo that sort of thing so that it becomes New Age fatuous virtuous (one also tends to forget that sooner or later it's ALL of us, health regime, meditation, soul-blending and all), I do believe in a mind-body connection; or rather, i think it's all one, really: bodymind.

among other things that i suspect a good 70-75% of my regulars here would find hopelessly woo-woo at best.

but others don't.