Friday, June 8, 2012

Literary Exhibitionist or Secretive Lover?

copyright 2012, David Berger

Does writing intoxicate you? When you’re typing away, do you have that smirk of confidence that says, “If I could do this all day, I’d be in heaven”? Do you dream about writing? Then, you love doing it. But, when you’re cranking out your story, does your audience ever come to mind? Does it matter to you who would read this piece of scripted gold? Can’t you just write what you love without considering who will read it? Shouldn’t that transcend the audience barrier?

Well, that depends. Don’t you want to know who thinks like you do?

Having a healthy balance of both makes successful writers, but just how much of each? Ever since I was a kid, I loved fantasy fiction, starting with comic books and moving into novels as I got older. I am a true escapist—when this world gets to be too much, I find a David Eddings novel or lose myself in The Return of the King. So, it’s no surprise that when my fingers clack at the keyboard, I’m envisioning Xanth, Mount Olympos, or Mordor. My heart gallops when I write fantasy worlds with swords, sorcery, monsters, and especially, gods. It’s that L-O-V-E love that makes me want to turn off my phone, lock myself in my office, and—yes—log out of Facebook.

As I’m building a world, do I care who will read it? Probably not right then, but I do have to stop and wonder at some point if anyone else would be interested. Don’t I? When I’m in the middle of things, I write for me, not caring about other fantasy readers. As the muses do their work, this crafting is intimate and personal. Truth be told, if I could just write and feel like that all the time, I’d quit my job. It would become my addiction. I imagine many writers feel the same way, especially those who can generate a few novels a year. Then it comes down to the “others,” those who validate us or vilify us: the audience. While we’re crafting what we feel is this intricate tapestry of language and meaning, imagery and metaphor, we have to realize that the “others” may find our work less than their ideal. So what we spent much of our energy on, sold our soul to Mephistopheles for, and would have walked naked through a forest of poison ivy to deliver is at the mercy of the reader.

And yet, we love it. Somewhere, deep inside that storyboard you keep locked up in your mind, behind that character you wish you were or that landscape you can’t bear to flee, you think about those outsiders who will look at your syllables, your words, and get tangled up in syntax and diction. You want them to. But, at the same time, you put your blood, your synaptic energy, and your inspired thought into that story, the one you hope will win you a Pulitzer but may never get that far. You're really doing this because it satisfies that longing to swim with sentences or prance with prepositions. This plotline makes you an insomniac, hearkens you to call in sick to work, and makes you want to pay the babysitter another $20 just so you can have an hour or two more to craft your ideas. Ultimately, it comes down to the question: will you be satisfied if you’re the only one who sees this? Can you bear to keep that stacked pile of paper, your betrothed, to yourself, or do you, like your mother told you when you were young, need to share?

I wrestled with my novel for over 25 years. We had it out, and I wasn't winning. As a short story, “The Olympus Corps.,” it dangled itself in front of me, asking to be finished. We’d have a falling out for a time, and then the novel, in its adolescence, would challenge me, goad me, like a petulant teenager. Nights beguiled me to continue; days lured me into otherworldly places where I could build my story. I was writing this for me, mostly because I never thought I’d ever see it published. In fact, for a short time, I didn’t want to finish the story because even I wanted to be surprised by the ending. Getting toward the adulthood of the work, renamed TASK FORCE: GAEA, wrapped in a cocoon of syllabic silk, I was stuck. Freedom meant being able to make that choice of giving an audience a risky chance to endorse my work or shun it. Once I came to that conclusion, the only one I could really approach, the web fell away, and I realized that the “others” mattered more to me than I thought.

As I neared completion of the work and, later, the editing process, I shared some of the pages with people (since people always ask if they can get a peek anyway), and letting them become an audience made me uneasy. I felt nauseated, dreading the inevitable tepid response or the truly honest friend who would say, “Don’t quit your day job.” Thankfully, that didn’t happen. What did happen was the ignition of a spark of validation when one of the “others” actually understood what only I had known for so long, and it made me… giddy. Sharing my dearest with others didn’t frighten me as much as I thought it might. Oh, make no mistake—I was terrified. I still am. But, even if people don’t buy what I write, the relationship I have with my muse will never end.

So. While you’re having your own torrid affair with the computer, you’ll have to decide if the product of that union is worth sharing or not. Does the audience matter that much in the process or are they that voyeur, lurking behind you, whom you can just ignore? Some of your work will never be sensual serifs on the printed page, while some of your literary offspring will be found at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords, with a myriad of readers, flipping pages, ready to be the “other” in your life. 

And, face it, you like it like that.

About David Berger: 

Bio: David Berger, a Long Island native, received his B.A. in English from SUNY Albany and, later, his masters in Secondary Education at Suffolk University in Boston. Writing since he was young, David has a portfolio of short fiction and poetry, with one short story being the impetus for his debut Greek myth-inspired fantasy novel, TASK FORCE: GAEA. He has been an avid reader of fantasy fiction and comic books, especially Wonder Woman, since childhood, taking from that experience and reading mythology to build his work. After spending over 25 years on this first novel, he aims to finish the sequel by the end of 2012. Currently, he's living the dream teaching AP and IB English in Land O' Lakes, FL. 

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