Compartmentalize Your Writing So You Can Still Love Doing It
The writing advice I’ve read recently seems focused on productivity rather than craft. I get it. Attract followers. Go viral. Make money.
My advice: be careful with that.
Writing is not merely a way to make money. It’s not only about having your voice heard. It’s about exercising your voice so you yourself can hear it as well. It’s also about choosing what you want others to hear, and what you want to keep to yourself. And yes, it’s about considering your readership and what they want to hear. But isn’t it also about innovation and encouraging readers to venture into new territory?
I’ve lived a lot of my life trying to please everyone. In my writing, I try not to do that. It’s the one place I can be me. I bristle at being coached heavily to please readers so they’ll read me.
What I’m trying to say is that it’s important to learn how to compartmentalize as a writer. I can give readers what they want most of the time. Sure. However, when it comes to my unfinished novel, I’m going to come clean.
My Foremother in All Her Unfinished-ness
I wrote the first draft of my novel in graduate school. Here comes the clean. That was 20 years ago. I know. I can feel the tsk-tsking as I write that.
My novel was inspired by Mary Wollstonecraft, a remarkable British woman who wrote towards the end of the eighteenth century on women’s rights, way ahead of her time. She also lived her life freely, heeding the advice of practically no one, and paying a stiff price for it, including not having her writing read and taken seriously until half a century after her death. Her death is notable, too. She died ten days after giving birth to another Mary, who would eventually be known as Mary Shelley, famous author of Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus.
When Mary Wollstonecraft died, she left behind an unfinished novel, Maria, or The Wrongs of Woman. It apparently was complete enough, as her husband, philosopher William Godwin, published it for her, justifying in the Preface of the novel the need for minimal edits, his “most earnest desire to intrude nothing of…