Behold the Turtle

I don’t want to do this.  Blogging that is.  What I want is to write stories.  I want for people to read my stories. I want for people to enjoy my stories and tell their friends about my stories.  I want, maybe, to pay some bills with my stories.  But first, I must share my stories.

I don’t want to blog.  But it’s my understanding that, in the vast sea of literary detritus my stories are to one day inhabit, if no one seeks out my stories they will be lost among the refuse.  Perhaps this is appropriate?  I do not know. What I do know is that in order to give even one of them a fighting chance I must build an audience.  There must be seekers who sort through the debris in hopes of unearthing my creations.  To appeal to the seekers I must make myself known; more importantly still, my creations must be worth seeking. I’ve spent a long time thinking about this blogging thing.  What to write, how to write it, etc.  I’ve never been a fan of the practice.  It feels pretentious to place my thoughts online as though they are significant.  It seems narcissistic to assume any is interested in what I have to say about anything.  It feels painfully self-indulgent to put on paper thoughts which reside quite comfortably in my head.  What’s perhaps most ironic about this, though, is that I still apparently view the internet as a place where pretension, narcissism, and self-indulgence are inappropriate.

Despite this, all avenues of research I’ve explored on these topics; self-publishing, digital publishing, regular physical media publishing suggest that one build an audience by means of social networking.  So I must put myself out there, be seen, to interact with my audience.  It is no longer sufficient to hide behind a dusty desk hacking away a squeaky old typewriter.  So I reluctantly blog.  I make no promises of frequency or quality.

I toyed with a laborious metaphor about a turtle coming out of its shell, about how I, as a writer, have spent the majority of my non-career largely insulated from the outside world.  It’s true, to some degree.  I’ve always been a writer, or rather, I’ve always been a storyteller.  Typically these stories were crafted and presented to a very specific person or group of persons with no intention of life outside that circle.

It began with Dungeons and Dragons, I think, crafting stories on the fly for my friends to explore every Saturday night.  None of those ever made it to paper, and I remember a certain frustration with my gaming group because, to me, my worlds were rich and deep with detail and nuance.  Details which always seemed just beyond the reach of my players because it was always about slaying the dragon and the phat phat lootz.  No one ever wanted the dragon’s side of the story.

Later I took up sketching as a hobby and found that, as I drew my pictures of places or characters I often created stories in my head which, again, only I could enjoy.

In my sophomore year in high school I created what I think was my first actual written story.  The assignment to each student was to create an oral presentation about your hobby; any hobby.  I had few hobbies.  I didn’t play sports; I didn’t fish, or build model trains or knit.  What I could do, though, was make up stories.  So, utilizing a technique I’ve since honed to razor sharpness, I waited until the night before to start. I worked until 1AM and woke my mother up on a work night to drive me downtown to the nearest Kinko’s to make copies.

My last minute project required a “visual aid” so my mother ponied up over a hundred dollars that night to run of 10-15 copies of my story; a little over 150 pages single spaced, Times New Roman size 12, dot matrix goodness. The following morning, half asleep, I showed up for class with a box full of paper as my visual aid.  I didn’t dress to impress, rather, I stood at the head of the class in my torn jeans and t-shirt fidgeting uncomfortably as I placed the box upon the wooden stool in front of me.

I coughed once, and mumbled, “I like to write stories.”  A lie.

Then, after deliberately making eye contact with the teacher and about four other students at random, I began reading. A low-fantasy love story, rife with tragedy and tears, necromancers, war, roses, and silver birds that whistled when they flew.  In retrospect I can honestly say that it was the 7,500 word version of every angst-ridden, teenage heartbreak ever written overlaid with swords and sorcery.  I turned to some of the sappiest, most over-wrought passages in the entire piece and began reading, out loud in front of a jury of my peers.  I recall my pubescent voice cracking, I remember my heart pounding, I remember my blood drumming in my ears and the hot wash of my face and hands, I remember one eye watching the clock counting down the minutes until I’d reached the ten minute mark and when it did I cut it short; may have even been mid-sentence. I’d never really written anything down before that, for fear someone might find it and read it.  I’d never opened up or shared my internal monologue, let alone with such a group of people whom, on most any other day, felt completely alien to me.

I fumbled through my box and produced my feeble visual aid.  The room was quiet then.  I offered up the few copies I had to anyone who wanted one.  I expected a whole room full of apathy; 30 kids all trying to avoid eye contact so they didn’t have to turn me down directly.  Instead I was met with a field of raised hands.  I won’t go so far as to say that everyone wanted a copy, only that I had to have a few more made in the school library in order for everyone who wanted one to have one. I don’t know that I’d say that was a turning point in my life, but it’s certainly a memory I look back on with fondness, especially lately as I consider the next step of making my work available to the general public (though I’m only now realizing that somewhere a copy might survive… That’s troubling).  It was the first time that I can recall my work connecting with an audience who wasn’t expecting to get a +5 Sword of Demon Slaying out of it.  It was just a classroom full, mostly, of people I didn’t really relate to, and yet, my work had resonated.

I’m not certain why I keep coming back to that.  Rose tinted lenses?  Maybe.  Maybe it’s because that memory is the tempting treat coaxing the turtle from his shell.

Whatever the case, here I am… Blogging.  Don’t ruin it.


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