24 responses to “Paying Attention to What You Want”

  1. marta

    When I read excerpts from your novel, they come across as excerpts from a published book. Perhaps it is the rhythm that makes me feel that way?

    I’m don’t have enough professional knowledge to know really.

    And I didn’t mean to be stark, but, well, my mother started novel and I’m sure these rough pages were not what she meant anyone, least of all me, to see.

    Writing is so very oddball. But when I talk to people who have no desire to write (or to make art or anything!), I just don’t…hmm. I find myself wondering what’s wrong with them? Of course, they’re wondering what’s wrong with me.

    There was this headline the other day about bacteria. I meant to go back and read the article but forgot. It’s just popped back into my head. Anyway, the headline suggested that bacteria divide us into three different types of humans. And this silly rash thought came to me–That’s it! I’ve got writer bacteria!

    Oh. And another thing. Are you familiar with the book The Midnight Disease? I blogged about it years ago. It had some interesting insights into the writer mind. One story is about a woman who never wrote and never wanted to. She got sick and when she started her medication, she was overwhelmed with a desire/compulsion to write. She wrote pages and pages and pages. She couldn’t stop writing. Until she stopped the medication. Then she didn’t care to write anymore.

    So. Food for thought.

  2. marta
  3. The Querulous Squirrel

    I believe Alice Flaherty had bipolar disorder and a common symptom of mania is hypergraphia — an intense and unremitting compulsion to write. It can also be triggered by temperal lobe epilepsy. I have also seen it with obsessive-compulsive disorder in various forms, from detailed things-to-do lists to detailed journals. In none of these cases does it really matter to the person whether others will read the writing. In fact, with my own compulsive journaling when I was younger, I destroyed all the writing at some point. It served a cathartic purpose at the time, but I didn’t want to writing to outlive me and certainly not to be seen by my children. My blog is somewhat compulsive, but I like that a few people read it. I don’t want a large group of readers. It feels too personal and would feel out of my control. A lot of my fiction is just fun to write, though I really do wish my fiction and memoir writing could eventually be published. Because I have a job that feels very creative and satisfying, my desire to be published waxes and wanes. I don’t seek the social aspect. I’d be fine if it were published after I was gone. We all have very different, complicated motives. You have to have some narcissism to desire the admiration and recognition of publication, which isn’t necessarily a bad motive, no worse than anything else. It’s impossible to generalize.

  4. Ashleigh Burroughs

    I tried a diary and couldn’t believe how self-aggrandizing it read. When the kids told me that they, at least, would be interested in reading my blogging output I tried again and now, 655 posts later, I’m finding that I am writing for myself more than for others.

    Surviving January 8th brought me 100’s of new readers and 100’s of new sources of input and 100’s of new responses and ideas. Suddenly, I was writing to reassure my readers.

    Now, as the bloom is off the rose (so to speak… the roses here in the desert are gorgeous right now) I find that my blog is a quiet space in tumultuous days. I find that my thoughts are more organized than I’d imagined and that I am more in touch with myself than I’d imagined.

    I write for myself; I publish for you.

  5. marta

    @The Querulous Squirrel – Being published (for me anyway) shouldn’t have anything to do with the social. But getting published does seem to require these days. Woe unto the recluse. Having met other writers is great. And some of these relationship I wouldn’t trade. But they aren’t why I write.

    The admiration…that’s tricky. And uncomfortable. I’ve met people who have expressed admiration for my art…and I never know how to process that. Recognition…well acceptance, I guess. I want publication, yes. I’d be fine if they didn’t put my name on it though. Fine for a while. Who knows.

    Getting what is in my head on paper and from there into the world, well, on one level that is lunacy. It certainly is a complicate tangle of emotions.

  6. marta

    @John – I saw it on the Huffington Post, but yes, that’s the research. I love how you find things.

  7. marta

    @John – Why do we do it if we get far more rejection (negative reinforcement!) that acceptance? What kind of mind seeks out this sort of thing? It’s like mental masochism. Is that a term? Should be.

    I’m blaming it on bacteria.

  8. Jayne

    Well, I’m long past fantasizing, but I do often wonder why I write. I wrote an Ars Poetica not long ago, and I had to lock myself in a room for a weekend to scratch it out. What is it about writing?
    This post made me think of that Ars Poetica. And as much as I wanted to pack it away for good, it’s been stirred again after reading your post.
    In any event, an excerpt:

    But writing is getting at the truth, no matter how illusory: the truth in reality, in fiction, in the smallest gesture and grandest idea; it is a tangible manifestation of both my gentle dreams and nightmares, my need to create, expose, illuminate and provoke. It is the process of finding these truths—as I perceive them—through storytelling, which is at once terrifying and freeing. It’s a treacherous white-knuckled drive through an ice storm, the roads are salted and pocked, slippery and questionable, a pole is missed only to tumble into a ravine; but the vehicle is restored and skates on, unsteadily, to its intended (and sometimes, unintended) ending—the ordeal nothing but a calamitous blur.

    There, that’s what it’s about. It’s painful, I tell you. It’s Hell. And I can’t stop doing it.

  9. The Querulous Squirrel

    John: Yes, a lot of people talk about being pregnant with their novel (mainly women I suspect). But postpartum is a very vulnerable time for women with any hint of a mood disorder because of the hormonal triggers. In fact, during pregnancy was the only time in my life I felt emotionally fantastic for nine straight months. After my first birth, I sunk into an epidsode of depression. After my second, I soared into an episode of hypomania. But Kay Redfield Jamison wrote a book Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament. Thanks for what you wrote about my blog. It means a lot.

  10. Jayne

    John – Not at all. And thanks for that trailer break. I’m going to have to look for that movie. And medication. ; ) @John

  11. marta

    @John – I haven’t seen Black Swan, but from what I know of it, here’s hoping I don’t go too far down that mental masochism road!

    I read a review that called it Full Metal Tutu.

  12.'s brudder

    While it would have been considerably more dull and less affecting for your readers (me inclusive) most of what passed here could substitute “creative person” for “writer”.
    My perception of the central question of this post haunts me every day – why do I get up to do this, given how little of it anymore has to do with the design/creative aspect of what I feel compelled to. And that’s part of the rub, I suppose – compelled. I feel compelled to try and create new and better places for people to live, work, play, worship, interact -but in each and every moment of that compulsion I feel simultaneously thwarted. Why do this? Is it for me? Is it for my clients? Is if for the appreciation of others? Is it for the betterment of society? Who actually does, know?
    If anyone were to ever view/review my sketch books (frequently started in times of crisis, too, btw) could I stand/withstand their critical observations or worse yet – boredom?

    Full Metal TuTu – I think I see a Will Farrell F.o.D. posting sometime soon with Amy Poehler in the Natalie Portman role. And “Limitless” – don’t get me started on how devilishly tempting that ENTIRE movie’s plot development was to me (or maybe ANY architect). If only I just didn’t have to sleep… we could make the world so much better. Don’t know how much bi-polar I could be, but there is no Architect I know that couldn’t dream of the megalomaniacal possibilities of that drug! Talk about your mash-ups – Limitless meets Inception……NOW we’re talking!

    Oh, and another btw regarding marta’s initial comment regarding your writing: It generally does feel like it’s already been published. For me, I think this was exceptionally true back in the Ashland days, when I was regularly reading your short stories. I always felt like I really was reading something that was right out of Harpers, The New Yorker, or Atlantic Monthly and that I was just privileged to be seeing the original type written copy. From “The Head” to “Sing, Sing, Sing” to countless others. Compulsion or otherwise – please keep giving me a reason to read something joyful because it’s so clearly “thought”-ful, nearly daily. Thanks.

  13.'s brudder

    that would be “thought”-ful, of course.

  14.'s brudder

    write on, dear brother, write on!

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