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My drug of choice is writing--writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Mailbox- What Do I Want From Writing About Writing?

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer them each Thursday as long as I have enough to do.  I will use your first name ONLY unless you tell me explicitly that you'd like me to use your full name or you would prefer to remain anonymous.  My comment policy also may mean one of your comments ends up in the mailbox.  And while I'm happy to answer any questions, if they weren't all about me or anonymous trolling, that would be really cool.]   

K Asks: 

I have a question...which maybe you have answered elsewhere in the blog, I don't know. But. Is this what you *want* to be doing? Is it all about numbers of eyes? What's your end goal? Just curious.

My reply: 

Before I answer this question, I just want to make it clear to all five of my regular readers (hi guys!) that I answer questions as I get them.  Sometimes I even kind of go around digging through comments or Facebook or something for questions.  I've even been known to stop a real life conversation to say "That's a really good question.  Do you mind if I use it on my blog?"  Until and unless I get a bazzillion readers inundating my e-mail inbox with questions about the best cheese to eat while writing, I'm sort of stuck with whatever I've got...which sometimes isn't much. This isn't to say that K hasn't asked a perfectly GOOD question, but if it ever seems like The Mailbox has turned into Chris's Narcissism Hour, it's probably because I don't have much else to work with, and is a good sign that if you've ever wanted to ask me a question, it's probably a great time to do so.

Which is the long, convoluted way of saying that unless you want me to talk about my favorite snack food (no, I'm not kidding) next week, you should send me questions.

Seriously.  I'm not sure I have that much to say about Somoas.

Back to K's question: whenever I discuss my HDA's (hopes, dreams, aspirations) it is important for me to compartmentalize and rank what I come up with.  There are dreams and there are dreams and there are motherfucking dreams, yo.  And a crack pipe dreams are not in the same category as the carrot-tied-to-a-stick aspirations that you realistically want to be achieving in the next shortish term.  A little over a year ago, if you'd asked me my dreams for today, I would have told you that writing in a blog at least three times a week and breaking five figures in total hits would be the most I could hope for.  Today I average a post a day and I'm probably going to clock over 100,000 some time this week.  I accomplished everything I set out to do by an order of magnitude.

So...I promptly proceeded to set new goals.

However, if last year you'd asked me what my pipe dream was, I would have said 1,000,000 hits a month, celebrity endorsements, and really hawt groupie threesomes (like where the girls are really into each other, and no one is so monogamous that it is making them kind of uncomfortable or jealous).  I didn't reach that goal.  If you asked me today what my pipe dream was, I'd tell you the same thing.  I'll probably still be saying the same thing a year from NOW whether or not I hit the (realistic) aspirations I have for the Writing About Writing's second year.  And a year after that, I'm guessing I won't really be any closer.

Hello?  I'm a creative writer.
Unrealistic fantasies are sort of in the job description.
Why do I mention this?  I mean other than the shock value of sharing my chimerical sexual fantasies and making prudes a little uncomfortable?  Because when you think of your HDA's, it's okay to have the pie-in-the-sky pipe dream, but you need to have the equivalent of the rabbit on the stick goal that keeps the greyhounds running as well.

You need short term, realistic aspirations to keep you focused on just the next few steps...or else it's all just fantasy.  And if all you ever have is the pipe dream fantasy, you're actually doing yourself a huge disservice.


Is this what I want to be doing?

I'd like to write a little less blog and a little more fiction.  Right now though, the blog is still in its formative stage, and I lose a lot of traffic if I even skip a day or two.  If I were famous or established, and people hung on my every word, I could keep up traffic with a couple of posts a week, but I'm probably going to need to write regularly for another year before I can even cut back to four or five without noticing an immediate dip in my numbers.

I've enjoyed blogging a lot more than I thought I might when I started.  (This is one of the reasons I really pimp that cliche shit about journeys and destinations--you never know what you're going to try and love.  I fell for teaching in the same way.)  Blogging is creative, it's fun, it's fulfilling.  But if you're asking me if I'm building an audience for future books, that is also true.  Starting a blog was a very calculated move for me based on really listening to a lot of modern writers talk about changes in the industry.

"Writing for a living" wouldn't be enough for me.  It's enough for a lot of writers and they lead happy and fulfilled writing lives.  But for me, I've seen freelancers and tech writers flame out on the desire to do any creative writing to know that the word-smithing alone would not be enough.  I like writing creatively.  Now W.A.W. isn't exactly the five-book fantasy saga I have in my head, but I write what I want (generally), there are characters and it is creative.  It's scratching the itch but also leaving me wanting for more--which is a good thing all in all.

So I answer the question with pipe dreams and right now dreams.  Is this the pipe dream?  Not exactly, but it's more enjoyable than I thought it would be.  Is this okay for what I'm doing right now?  Totally.  I really, really like it (more than I even thought I would) and I'm watching my skill and exposure grow.


More eyes! Bring me more eyes!
Sweet, wonderful....with a delicate pop--
Om nom nom nom!
Is it all about number of eyes? 

People ask me this a lot.  If it were all about number of eyes, I would just post porn with highly incendiary political captions.  That would jack my traffic rates like Tigger on crystal meth. Obviously I'm towing some kind of line between integrity and whore--the question is just where that line is.

I do some things pretty much just to get traffic.  Totes....yo.  I certainly have my inner pageview whore.  The first posts I wrote on this blog are dreadfully long megablocks of text with boring titles and no pictures.  Many of them have like 11 pageviews, and I'm pretty sure ten of those people took one look at the text and left.  I've learned to adapt for the sake of pageviews.  I changed to get more viewers.  My articles are shorter, they have pictures, and I drop the f-bomb more often.  I don't lose any sleep at night about "selling out" though because I haven't really changed my writing.  I'm learning to do the writing I love within the brave new world.  Having an audience isn't necessarily betraying one's artistic vision.

Or at least that's what I tell myself while I'm gritting my teeth and looking at the ceiling, or while I'm in a fetal position in the shower, weeping gently--shortly after collecting my earnings from the nightstand.


What is my end goal?

You probably mean other than the threesome, right?  This is why it's important to consider the "layers" of goals and their realism.  My end pipe dream might be to be a famous millionaire novelist loved by all (except Jerry Fallwell--he can hate the shit out of me) with a big house, fifteen novels (six of which are major motion pictures), and a class on me at most colleges where I go to do Q&A's about myself and meet adoring coeds.  I'm going to be pretty okay if I die and never reach that goal.  My realistic goal is to continue to write every day in a way that fulfills me, making effort each day to improve my craft and widen my audience.  The space between is a vast expanse of possibility and gradation.

In fact, part of my end goal is still very much in the "To Be Determined" column.  If I can start to make a little bit of actual real money through the blog, I may consider tech savvy ways of freely publishing my longer fiction (online PDF's or serial posts), or go the e-publishing publish-on-demand route, or possibly use the exposure I make here as an accolade on a cover letter when I go the traditional route and try to find an agent.  I'm still sort of watching to see if the encouraging trends here continue or plateau.

Mostly though my "end goal" is just to keep writing until I die or my hands shrivel into arthritic stumps (hopefully by then we will have voice recognition software that can handle complicated words like "the"), or my Alzheimer's prevents me from remembering how to string sentences together.  I'd love to make enough money to pay the bills so I could write more.  And I wouldn't mind some day being able to see one of my books on a stranger's bookshelf--I think that would be a very exciting moment.  Sure, I'm always going to have the stupid unrealistic fantasies of fame and fortune and having the unenviable decision of which end of an Asian cheerleader/Scandinavian nurse sixty-nine I'll should start on, but I also know that wallowing only in those fantasies makes us lazy.  I make sure keep the more modest aspirations in mind and never lose sight of the fact that it is the writing itself--not where it's going--that brings me meaning in life.

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