Once upon a time, nobody but me had the chance to read my writing. It was always written by hand in a notebook, and there it usually stayed, waiting to be typed. On the rare occasions when I did type up what I’d written, it wouldn’t go very far.
I might have thrown a story or two up on a personal website that’s been defunct now for many years, or perhaps even a poem. The shorter these things were, the less time I’d spent on them, the more likely it was that I’d be willing to put them up.
The likelihood of being terrible seemed high, and putting up something I’d slapped together in an afternoon felt like an added safety net for my iffy constitution for critical analysis. Barely touched it, I could say. Just did it and posted it somewhere, because I could hold onto whatever excuses for poor quality I liked.
Didn’t matter if it was a story or a blog post, if it were a script or a game – the faster the better, and the less conventional always won out. It was an easier path, because it didn’t need to be good. It could have some elements of quality, but if it could be considered an unpolished stone rather than a refined yet featureless rock, that was a positive.
That attitude is neither fulfilling, nor sustainable.
Still it remains. I still throw in off-the-cuff jokes or references that the majority of people won’t get. Sometimes there’ll be in-jokes that nobody but myself will get, but I do purposely use them in such a nondescript way, that if they fall below the radar it doesn’t get noticed. No, don’t look for any of them in this sentence – there’s not a one to be found. They’re not in every post either, and it’s not a purposeful “HEY GUYS CHECK THIS OUT, I’M REFERENCING A FANDOM” I’m trying to shift out of this attitude, though I’m not about to stop throwing in throwaway lines in the interest of being serious. Serious is still not the thing I’m going for, but substance is.
I was lucky enough to meet someone that was fairly close to whatever passes for a personal hero in my head these days – a writer on one of the games I love. Spoke to him a little, and introduced myself as a writer and a gamer. Not all those other things that people might consider me, but the things I really considered myself. It’s been a slow process, but I’m gradually trying to move into an approach that while still filled with humour when I can be, really treats these subjects that I care about with the proper gravitas. When I talk about the stories in games, I know that much of my audience mightn’t relate, but these are moving stories. When I have an idea of a story to write myself, it’s not just an off-hand reference to “a nano novel”, but an actual full-blown story that matters to me.
It is fiercely important that you acknowledge what you care about – both as a writer, and as a person. You need to be open about what you care about, even if legitimately believe that your writing is terrible, you need to be proud of the passion you do have for it. It’s a mistake I’ve made for far too long.
I recently started writing a new story on the side. Normally I would leave it at that. For one, it’s fan-fiction. Another, it’s about a game. I’m writing a post-ending story for the Mass Effect universe that I came up with, and rather than try to push it into a unique setting (or one of my ready-made universes). The best version of the story would exist in the Mass Effect universe, and as someone that doesn’t really feel 100% comfortable with fan-fiction, it’s been a struggle to acknowledge that’s what has to happen. Yes, I did an alternate ending a while ago. This doesn’t quite rely on that, and could fit within one of the canon endings. The point is that I had the idea, it is now important to me, and I need to write it. I will most likely alternate between it, and a flight-punk adventure I’m working on the second draft of, and that’s okay.
This is especially true for new writers, or those that don’t feel as though they’re established, but you need to take the stories you want to tell and grab them, shake them, and shout them out. Don’t hide them away, because they’re your stories for a reason. You ought to be proud of them, and realise that they’ve consumed you for a reason. Trying to pretend otherwise is to deny a part of yourself, and that never runs well.