An Audience

Something that’s been frustrating the hell out of me lately is why I’m not writing as much.

There’s always an initial fear when you throw yourself 100% into something and I’m no stranger to putting myself out or to pivot in life. Hell, I left my job, sold all of my stuff and moved to the other end of the country for a new life and started working in a whole new industry. Then when I saw a door left ajar I went through that too and changed to a different company.

I think what sets me apart from the 20 year old me is how sure footed I am. I crush it at job interviews, learn fast and adapt to change faster. I’m agile, hungry, eager.

One of my first ever memories was writing, I have trouble remembering specific details and events from my life, except for writing. Parts of my life are defined by stories I’ve written from the first one I ever wrote (well at least I assume it was, it must have been close).

I was in grade prep, no older than five years old and was asked by the teacher to write what I did over the summer holidays. We were living in Macarthur at this point, a tiny blip on the map near a slightly bigger blip. I’m sure there’s about six people living there these days.

“On the weekend I went to the bitch” is what I wrote. My teacher, bless her, laughed, I remember that clearly and I’m sure they passed the story onto mum and dad, who probably laughed too.

I don’t know why that is still burned into my brain. Was it because I made someone laugh? It was the first time I used my primary form of communication, writing, to impact someone, getting an emotional response and that made me feel good.

From there on out, I wrote for myself, not an audience for the most part. I got better at writing longer, I improved my skill and as I matured, so did my content. My influences changed dramatically, from writing about a ghost kid who played junior basketball, which I wrote around age nine or ten to a novel-length story about a virtual reality fighting simulator, which was a mix of Dragon Ball Z and The Matrix. Virtufight was something I began at fifteen and (almost) finished around seventeen.

Then the spark died out. For a very long time too.

Almost a decade later I sat in front of a blank Word document and told myself “you’re good at this, just write” and I did. It took me some time to find my footing again, a heap of short, failed attempts at a story before I gave up again.

Then I tried again and again, began a blog (which I abandoned later) which had me writing every single morning for months. Then I wrote an ebook on health and fitness (then I stopped being healthy and fit again) and I took more time off, shorter this time.

I went on to write somewhere in the vicinity of eighty thousand words for NaNoWriMo in 2015. I bailed in 2016 part way through, but I still managed something like thirty-five thousand.

That’s a fuck load more than the eight I wrote when I was five. I have the ability to check the writing app I use on my Macbook and it tells me I’ve written AT LEAST two-hundred and fifty thousand words since purchasing it two years ago. That’s more than two full novels, nothing publishable, nothing worth reading. Just practice.

I keep beating myself up over not writing enough, then I look at that number and realise that I actually have written a lot. I’ve written a metric fuck-tonne of words, something like three hundred per day. That doesn’t include things I’ve written here, or long-form stuff I’ve written elsewhere.

That material has been me working out at the gym, or cooking a delicious meal, just for me. It’s selfish but I’ve loved it.

I am a writer, I’m just not writing for someone else right now, but that’s where it needs to change. I’m not going to make a broad declaration about some super secret project, or a promise that I will sit down and write one thousand words a day but I need to start writing for you. Maybe that’s a short story for just my wife to read, or something cool for my friend Lex or a something that only my mum will enjoy.

The big difference about this mindset change is how it’ll impact my way of writing. I often bail on a story because I don’t like it, it’s hard not to and I’m sure every other writer would agree. I can see writing for someone else being something that takes the pressure off me, knowing that the audience decides if they like something or not.

So starting immediately, I’m writing for you, I might not even know you yet, I may never know you. But someone out there will have that emotional response to something I wrote just like my grade prep teacher did and I won’t find it by filling my own drawer with stories.

By the way, this was another eight hundred plus words onto my word count…