I went back to thinking about identity today, via thoughts on audiences, what they are and what they do to your work. I was following up on a post on BoingBoing that I had seen a day or so ago: “A blog written by a stripper who is also a fine writer“. Of course being BoingBoinged, the blog was hammered. The blogger seems to have freaked somewhat:
Who are all of you people? What are you doing here? Why are you yelling at me? Last thing I knew I was in here in the dark talking to Tara and Diopter and maybe Sixty, if he’s still around, and now all you guys are here and you’re scaring me.
Now, one would imagine that the thought of suddenly garnering yourself thousands of readers, when you thought you were talking to a few friends, would be enough to get any blogger going. This blogger seemed so put off by it, at first, that she deleted archives. And she admits she is a little crippled by all the attention:
So, this is what I was about to publish when all the crazy people from the Internet showed up and I got paralyzed by self-consciousness. Oh, well. Here goes nothing.
I found it refreshing. I don’t know if it’s genuine and I don’t really care. A lot of bloggers are link whores. Or soon become so when they get a taste of the lovely sweet rush of a link. Attention! Someone can see me! Someone is reading me! I want more! ‘Grace’ will no doubt get there but for the time being, it’s enjoyable to see someone who is writing. She’s going to have a lot to say, and very knowledgeably no doubt, about how a blog’s audience affects your writing. I dunno if she’ll go there so I’ll just imagine it.
Anyway, after looking at this blog and thinking about this I got to thinking about Lynn Freed and her book about writing and her discussion on family and how difficult it can be to write the way you want to write, about what you want to write, when you have family, real or imagined, reading over your shoulder.
How do we allow this ‘audience’ to inhibit us or our writing? Obviously if you’re not published, you don’t blog and no one is reading your stuff you don’t have an audience as such but there is stil an audience somewhere that is affecting the way you write, or don’t, as the case may be.
As Freed points out, the fact that you have a family that you sense may not like what you have written, or you want to write about them, forces you to create a censorious audience for yourself. You are aware of Gertrude Stein’s ‘little dog’ and you write as that person, that the dog knows, that identity. Most people seem to blog in this identity, and for good reason. They get hammered when they don’t. (Anonymity and the immediacy of the internet put family grievances in the shade when it comes to the fallout caused by your writing. Of course, internet snark doesn’t mean nearly as much personally as family snark but the savagery is enough to stop you working). Grace seems to have been writing in what Stein conceived of as the other identity, the one that doesn’t require the little dog to acknowledge to come into being and was thus not limited by expectations or projected expectations.
Although her audience has expanded greatly I do hope she can keep writing while ignoring the little dog (as much as I love them).
So, lots of questions and no real answers. I’m just thinking. And watching the footy.
I should have mentioned this before as the closing date is at the end of June but anyway: Meanjin are holding a novella competition. Entries are to be between 12,000 and 20,000 words on the themes of ‘love’ or ‘desire’.
What do you win? $1500 and consideration for publication in Meanjin.
Today in the Australian John Coetzee is reported as taking aim at Australian universities for equipping graduates to write books or play music but failing to teach them the history of their discipline.
Should we be worried that the graduating students are equipped to write novels and stories and plays for today’s literary market but not well informed about the history of these forms or about what has been achieved in the forms in the past?” Coetzee asked.
This struck a chord with me for a number of reasons.
For the past few years I’ve been trying to complete a MA. Before I had my son I started a Masters in Information Management. I was thinking I would give in to the family tradition and become a librarian. Needless to say I am still not a librarian.
In the end I decided to go back to my roots and study literature. I told people I was going to study lit because it was what I loved, I didn’t care if it was totally irrelevant. I had also found that the more vocational Masters I had been previously enrolled in had the very definite stench of vocation. I am not discounting the value of more profession-based postgrad degrees but I wanted education. In the broad sense.
For a lit postgrad to be acknowledging the uselessness of their higher degree there must be something wrong. Even now I am still mulling over whether to go back to my thesis (now a supervisor is available) because, to use a sporting cliche, at the end of the day, what use is it really? Should I just do the creative writing Masters and be done with it? I have shyed away from creative writing courses at Uni because, as I found during those impressionable undergrad years, by the end of the semester ninety percent of the class was writing in the manner of the person who got the most positive reaction in the first tute. (Being the pain in the arse that I am, I refused to follow suit). Should I do something that is more in line with my work, something in which I have no formal training and am not all that enamoured with?
Have I, like Coetzee, got some romantic idea that literary history and theory actually matters? Well, yes, I think it does matter. I would hate to think that the situation Coetzee describes actually exists – that universities are churning out writers and musicians to suit the market. But that could never really happen, could it?
The life of a writer eh?
Justine Larbalestier kicks off a discussion on the humiliations suffered by writers everywhere.
Typical conversation at a party:
“So you’re a novelist, huh? That’s cool. Will I have heard of you?”
“Well, so far I only have one novel out—”
“Dan Brown has only one novel.”
“Ah, doesn’t Dan Brown have—”
“So, have I heard of you?”
“Well, what kind of novels do you read?”
“Oh, I don’t read novels.”
“Then, no, you won’t have heard of me.”
Another award for ’emerging writers’ has been announced: the ABC Fiction Award.
The competition seeks the best, original, unpublished, quality fiction manuscript, written by an Australian resident over the age of 18. The submitted manuscript cannot be under consideration by any other publisher or award.