Notes from the amateur ego underground:
“I enjoy writing and think what I do is worth reading” ≠ “I am the best writer in the whole universe!!”
I talk a lot about the writers who remind me that I’m worthwhile—that if THEY merit an audience, then so fucking well do I—because the internet’s for yelling, and the shelves aren’t skint on bullshit. But I have plenty of writers who keep me humble*. People who do things with prose that I don’t, who do things with worldbuilding or structure that I can’t, whose words and ideas are weighty in ways I can’t carry. I find them inspiring, and in their way, reassuring: it’d be a shit ton of pressure to try to become The Best Writer In The Whole World. If my books don’t get, like, a billion awards (or any awards!) in the future, that’s okay, because there will always be people who I think deserve awards for doing things I can’t do.
I don’t get the “WHY DO I BOTHER????/I’LL NEVER WRITE AGAIN” reaction to genius. I’m not a genius, and I’m not going to write books that will change the world, that will alter the course of literature. I’m not sure I’m gunning for immortality. I’m twenty and an aspiring genre writer with a taste for pulp and a pretentious addiction to writing character-developing sex scenes. Please. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t write, as there is one, if only one thing that I can do that is unique to me, which is: write the stories I carry in my head. Nobody else is doing that, because no one else has access to my head. If I want them to exist, I am obliged to write them, and that’s that. That’s the whole artistic compact, the responsibility and justification in one.
I think it’s preposterous and silly to jump from “I write, and like it” to “I AM BEST AT WRITING”. And it is, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel the implication every time I talk about writing, and my own ridiculous enjoyment of my own work. I know how it goes. I’m not supposed to do that. I haven’t anything to back that queer feeling of positivity up with. I swallow the impulse to disclaim LOOK I KNOW I’M NOT NABOKOV, CAN WE ALL TAKE THAT FOR GRANTED, every time I post something about writing (and can we take that for granted from here on out, okay).
But of course: we’re not conditioned to expect or accept anything but artistic self-abnegation. Liking what we do is hubris: it implies that we think we deserve a place in a canon that we’re supposed to revere, to crawl toward.
One: the canon is flawed. Period. Two, and more critically: I’m not going to put on a hair shirt because I don’t “deserve” a place in it. I write, I will always write, I would like to do something with that. When I do, if I succeed, that’s not going to canonize me in and of itself: I’ll still have written a book about girl witches, and the NYTimes is probs not going to review it. And the hair shirt will still be on offer, and if I’m asked about what I write, I’ll still be expected to bow my head because I am not Serious, because I am not Literary.
If I concentrated on this, it’d turn the pragmatic potential AWESOME of bookwriting into a horror story. (A gendered one, too—yes, it’s the same vocabulary used against women who like themselves at all: oh, so you think you’re HOT SHIT, don’t you? You think there’s no one hotter, better, more deserving? Who gave you the right to this confidence and honey, don’t you know better to bring that ego out in public? But fortunately the gendering has prepped me for this game. Honey, I took my self-surety out in public a long time ago, it’s not a domesticated animal anymore.)
So it strikes me as a good move to get all those self-abusing undercut impulses out now. If I can’t tell 400 people on the internet that I’m awesome and deserve to exist, how am I ever going to be able to hold my head up in public?
Thus: I write. I like it. So I shall keep writing. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t do it. If I didn’t like myself I wouldn’t spend so much time with the inside of my own head, probably. But I do like me. Ain’t perfect, but I’m the only me here.
*Not Dickens, tho. Fuck that guy.