I’d never heard of it before last September, just as I was in the final stages of preparing for NaNo 2012. I don’t remember who posted this strip, the first that I saw, but I remembered it vividly, so much so that I went back to read it many times.
Why did it touch me? It may have had something to do with NaNo, with some of the people revolving around NaNo, or some of the people revolving around my life. I was posting excerpts from my project, showing my chapter layouts and my time lines, and there were more than a few snipping remarks about how I was doing NaNo “wrong”, that I needed to “just write”, and that all this prep meant I was incapable of writing anything “imaginative”. There were a couple of people who objected to the title of my work, and, of course, a few who were like, “Why are you even bothering?”
The “Why are you even bothering?” crowd are always easy to figure out, by the way: they’re the ones who feel since you’re never going to make big money off your work, why don’t you do something else–you know, like clean the house, or pay the bills, or something? These are usually the sort whose most imaginative thought of the day is wondering if they should change their underwear, and if so, what should they wear.
In other words, they got no idea what makes a person like me tick.
Since that first encounter with The Zen, I’ve not only visited the site often, but I’ve showed it to others. Some have ignored it, some have loved it.
I have written many times throughout my life. I’ve tried a lot of things, actually: I’ve always loved art, loved reading, loved music, loved writing. I was never content to do things that were–shall we say, easy? I was never a good artist, but on a couple of occasions I let my imagination go, and the end result was to get some intense praise from the instructor. I didn’t just read, I was off into advanced stories and concepts long before high school. I didn’t just listen to music: I found things that made me think and wonder, and devoured the sources. And my writing? I was doing nutty stuff even in the mid-1970’s.
However . . .
There were always people around me who thought my art was “strange”. By the very fact I read I was considered a “weirdo”, and I even had one person who’d been a friend for years stop talking to me because he thought I was “nuts”. I was always being told I listened to “freak music”, and that I should stick to stuff more popular.
And no one gave a shit about my writing.
I finally took up writing in a serious way in the late 1980’s, and kept at it for a while. I once brought my spouse to a writer’s group I was in–more a collection of friends than anything else–and I read what I was working on at the time. On the way home I asked my spouse what they thought, and they comment was, “It was crap. I hate when you write stuff like that. The only good story you ever wrote was your first.”
My first story that they knew was a quick, fast, first person horror story that was filled with so many clichés that H. P. Lovecraft would have killed it with fire. But, to my spouse, it was the best thing I ever wrote, and they were of the opinion that I should go back to writing stuff like that.
Between a life time of hearing stuff like that, and having to deal with my other problems, I gave up on writing for a long time. You start believing that everything you do is crap, that you’re never getting ahead.
You become a willing participant in killing your dreams.
These days, I write in a vacuum most of the time. I know there are few people around me who care about this work, but screw them: I do this for me. I have a daughter who wants to be an artist. I encourage her to draw, and to draw as much as she can. She posts some of her work on her Tumblr, and has gotten great feedback.
I don’t have to tell her to do anything differently than is being told here.
When I am down, when I feel I am wasting my time, when I feel that all that I do will be for naught, I think about what has come before, and what could be next.