Writing for Friends

I have finals in a week, and I'm heading to Rome to run a marathon in a week and a half, so of course I've been in the mood to focus on my writing. Now that I've sold 6 copies of my book, this business has officially become my most lucrative venture since elementary school, when a friend and I sold origami for quarters. So, I guess it's important that I start thinking about my goals with all of this. Here's what's been going through my head lately:

Since I've been writing - on this blog, and especially in the recent writing project I've been throwing into the ether - I've felt that what I'm doing is a little bit stupid, or self-destructive, or something. I'm basically writing things that only my friends and family will read: outsiders seem to only visit this blog based on searches for 'narcissism in church' and 'Episcopalian jokes', and I'm guessing that my book won't extend much beyond the 'second circle' of friends of friends. And, I spend the bulk of my time airing things that will potentially upset, disappoint, or embarrass my friends and family. Some of what I put out there, I feel/worry, could even be personally or professionally damaging. I try not to be too careless, but it's inevitable that when you babble on for 200 pages or 5 years of blogging you're going to say something stupid. And there might be some Freudian ish happening here - an old friend commented on one of my book postings that, in middle school, people wanted to be my friend but I pushed them away. The comment hit a bit close to home, because I think that's been one of the trends in my life, and it might be manifesting to some degree when I write (life doesn't change much after middle school - people just tend to get more subtle about their sociopathic tendencies). Difficulties with intimacy or something? I don't know. Why else would I feel so keen to self-reveal so much from such a safe distance?

The corollary to this, of course, is cost vs. reward. Writing absorbs a ton of my time, which could be spent doing things that would benefit me financially, physically or socially. I think I have some natural ability, but I'm not pursuing it as a career, and thus not putting in the time or effort required to get really good. I don't have time, energy or savvy to market myself, and there's very little chance that I'll ever recoup more than a few dollars from books or articles that come of it. And, of course, there are lots of other things I could be doing to get paid and/or improve myself.

On the positive side of things, I've always gotten some value out of writing: it's the way that I congeal my swirling thoughts and emotions into a concrete structure, and I think it's helped me to make some important big decisions in life. It's just generally fun for me, and I like playing around with words. I like the process of creating something, and I like the social side of it - getting feedback from friends and so forth. (Probably the least fulfilling writing I've done was my Master's Thesis, where I spent an entire year writing a dense book of theology on an obscure subject which no one will ever read or comment upon.) Keeping practiced in writing has helped me out academically, and is a professional asset - although at this stage I'm not sure what beneficial role it will play for me in Nursing. And, of course, now that I've put my book out there, I have the social benefit of being able to tell people at parties that I'm a writer.

In that context, I've started to try to figure out my place in the larger literary world. I have little doubt that I'm a hack - I don't have the time or commitment to do anything but crank out roughly edited and only lightly-planned personal narrative. I'm a blogger writing memoir, so I'm also undoubtedly a part of the delusional mass of naive, self-centered authors who think the whole world needs to hear their story. On the positive side, my ambitions are modest, and I kind of like the idea of writing primarily with friends and family in mind. I think I'd rather be a quaint local author doing what I want to rather than trying to sell my crap to people I don't know. I want to enjoy the process, and to crank out my thoughts as I feel like it, rather than as I feel obligated. And I want to use writing as a way to explain myself, rather than as a way to sell myself. I've had a weird feeling about my religious writing and embarrassing personal self-revelations, because I know it brings up a mixture of emotions for people who know me, many of them negative. But behind it I have an impulse to let people in on who I am, and hopefully to help them understand who I am religiously. If I have ambitions of being read beyond my circle of acquaintances (and let's be honest, every writer does), it's in part because I've agonized over religion for a long time, and I hope there are some people who'll be helped by some of my experiences. And, I want to be popular and I want people to think I'm funny and smart. Plus, if people are going to pay for it, I would feel better about taking money from strangers than from friends. And it seems a waste to not do something with all of that religious education.

And so, I think my ambition is to be a Seattle author who writes mostly for myself, and to try to amuse my friends and explain myself to my family. (Selling my crap is a side issue, but I'm hoping will provide at least some positive feedback to encourage me to keep doing it.) I think this first book fits that mold pretty well. I've started a follow-up that I think will as well. "Damnation" was a transitional book for me - it marks and describes a major shift in my religious life. The second one, which I'm tentatively titling "Replacing Religion", which is currently 10 pages long, and which probably won't be finished for a few years (unless I decide to put it out in really unpolished form) will chronicle and help me figure out the beginning of the next stage of my life. If I stick with mental health, I have some ideas for a fiction-ish third book somewhere down the road that I want to call 'Crazy People'. And someday a coffee table book about coffee tables.

Anyway - thanks so much to the people who have already given money to read my crap, and to all the people who've read and commented on what I've written online throughout the years.