Wednesday, March 31, 2010



Sometimes I wonder what all my writing will lead to. I never intended to make a career from my writing. People tell me: "Go write a book." But then they say: "You need to have a story that people will like, etc., etc." In other words, to be a successful writer I need to stop wandering and get focused. If I want a bestseller, I need to Grishamize.

If you read my blog, you know I'm no John Grisham. I simply write what occurs to me. But my writing is thematically consistent. An identifiable core runs through everything I write here. I think it's possible to glean my life philosophy from the topics I choose to discuss. That might not be a recipe for bestselling commercial writing. But what have I ever cared about commerce? If anything, I recoil from it. I'm an Aristotelean in that regard: Philosophy and commerce just don't mix.

Still, it's a lonely road sometimes. I look at authors who achieve commercial success and wonder why no one ever notices me. Maybe I am just too weak or too preoccupied to promote myself. On the other hand, I know that most Americans really don't care about--or care to think about--the issues I typically address in my writing. So my commercial non-viability is really twofold: (1) I do not promote; and (2) My substance is largely unpalatable.

To be clear, I am not complaining. It is exciting to write only about things that stimulate me. For the longest time, I lived life without commenting on it. Commentary simmered in my mind all the time; work just never gave me a chance to write it all down. This blog has given me the chance I always craved. It has transformed me. So even if this blog does not pay me in U.S. dollars, it pays me in emotional satisfaction. If I die tomorrow, people would know who I am. My voice would not be lost. This blog is as much a testament as it is a forum.

I always find inspiration and encouragement when I need them most. Yesterday, I sat thinking about the fact that no one will ever read what I write, at least not in my lifetime. It frustrated me a little bit. I even thought about my philosophical archetype, Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche never achieved commercial success in life, either. His books barely sold a thousand copies. When he was 45, he lost his mind and never recovered. He died young. I don't think I'm losing my mind yet, but I identify with what happened to Nietzsche: I am defiantly proud of the fact that I am anti-commercial; but it nonetheless hurts to know I will likely never receive wide recognition.

So I felt a little down yesterday. It was cold, gray, windy and rainy outside. I reflected on how poor I am. I can barely pay my rent. In fact, this month I can't even pay it at all. I need to budget out my money to buy food. Plus I need to care for Steve, who is incapacitated. It pretty much sucks. I still experience joy these days. But it only peeks through like tiny patches of blue sky on a very cloudy day.

I decided to crack open Nietzsche's Human, All-too Human. I paged through the aphorisms. I stumbled on this one: "121. A Vow--I do not want to read any more authors about whom people say: 'He set out to write a book.' Rather, I only want to read authors whose thoughts became a book by accident."

Is this me? It sure sounds like it. I just write my thoughts. I never set out to write a book. I simply allow myself to pour out impressions on things that fascinate me or incite me. There is consistency in my thoughts. But they do not reflect a conscious plan to "write a book" in the conventional sense. Could they "accidentally" become a book? Perhaps. As a whole, I like to think that this blog resembles a collection of Nietzschean impressions. Nietzsche's unconventional thoughts transformed into books. Perhaps mine can too.

That was encouraging. Without even trying, I fit into the category of "authors" whom Nietzsche might have wanted to read. I am not one of those authors who "set out to write a book." I do not sketch plots or try to cram my writing into a conventional format that people like. I am not John Grisham. John Grisham's thoughts do not become a book "by accident." No, when he sits down to write, he knows what book it's going in. He's just fleshing out the formula he laid down before he starting writing.

I'm glad I stumbled on Nietzsche's aphorism when I did. I was feeling low and worthless. I was losing hope. But after discovering that Nietzsche, too, faced similar struggles in his time, I felt encouraged to face mine. I felt freshly secure in my writing. It did not bother me that I am not a bestseller. Rather, I felt hope that perhaps one day--like Nietzsche--my thoughts would "accidentally" transform into a book. That thought brightened me, even if the "book" appears after I die. I do not really value my life too much anyway. I would rather have people remember my thoughts than my "too too solid flesh." As the Germans say: "Wer schreibt, der bleibt" : "He who writes remains."

I blog because it is the only way for me to publish without editorial control or commercial pressure. Nietzsche wrote longhand and hoarded his writings in his desk. He found a publisher who printed a few editions. I can publish over the internet, even if my audience is small. At least it's something. And I will continue. That is my vow.


Sarah said...

I may not comment all the time but I do read your posts, so don't feel too bad. Besides, you can self publish nowadays with little money. Keep it up and who knows? The fun is in the writing.

Timoteo said...

There are really only a few options these days--get an agent, (not the easiest thing to do) self publish and promote it yourself, and/or keep putting it out there on the web.

A few years ago I was focused on getting stuff in print--and I did have a few successes. But I felt a letdown after those pieces appeared. No feedback from readers. They see your name in a publication, but they don't know how to contact you. What did anybody think of it? In most cases, I never knew.

I came to the realization that it's really about the writing, and only the writing, and the rest can take care of itself. For me, there's something romantic about being one of the obscure writers with a small but loyal online following. They talk to you, at least. Sort of like
Nietzsche, and Van Gogh, and others who carried on despite it all, because, when all was said and done, it just had to COME OUT of them.

Best wishes--and keep the faith, my friend!