The second interview in a new series focusing on writers who—le gasp! —aren't writing to get published. If you have any ideas on discussion topics or people I should interview, please drop me a note.
Writing Without Publishing: raspil speaks
Boring question first! How long have you been writing?
I wrote a lot as a teen, but then I had this writing block when I was in school in my late teens and couldn't write a single sentence, whether for essays or for my personal writing. I only started writing again once I mingled in with the Lit people here. (So now you know who's to blame.)
Slightly less boring follow-up! I know you're a doctor, so was there some point where you chose that over writing, or was it the plan from the beginning?
No, they're all part of the same person. I'm me, I write, I take blood from people, I eat a lot, and I go for long walks. It all coexists.
If you suddenly found yourself able to live off your writing, would you give up being a doctor for it? Why or why not?
No. I became a doctor much because I can't really live any other way. As difficult as my working hours are, and as much as I struggle, I just couldn't live without doing something significant for others, and medicine is the way I do it. That said, I could do with more money. Like everybody else.
How do you describe yourself: as a doctor, as a writer, or does it depend on whom you're talking to? Do you mention that you write in professional settings?
I don't describe myself as either, funnily enough, most of the time. It's one of my quirks that I never use my "Dr" title outside of work. "Miss" makes me feel young. Also, people usually use "Doctor" when addressing me when there's a serious problem I need to fix for them... T_T And as to calling myself a writer, that would be a mockery of the word. I'll only call myself a writer when my writing satisfies me. Which means never, I guess.
You mentioned getting a few copies of your NaNo novel printed. Could you describe the printing process as well as what you did with the books afterwards?
The printing process was via createspace, courtesy of NaNoWriMo, so it didn't involve a lot of input from me, actually. There were templates you could pick, book sizes and so on, and covers that you could modify. I got five copies - one for myself which I lend out to a few close friends in Scotland, one that I lent out to my friends in England, one that I sent to my brother CobaltDr as the "family copy", one went to my housemate ManicMedic who also does NaNoWriMo, and one went to ikazon, who's endured hours of me telling him all about the story. I really regret sending the book to people, now, it's such a horrible thing. I cringe each time I see it.
Is there something different about having a printed copy of your work, as opposed to just having it on computer? Do you ever handwrite work for that experience?
There's definitely a difference. Apart from powerfully hating all the mistakes and poor grammar that you let through, it just suddenly makes it a bit more real - before, it was just a number of words, now it's a chunky little fellow you're holding in your hands.
I've handwritten a lot back in the days when I had little access to a computer - but it's painful to keep track of what you've written without the CTRL + F function. Plus I move houses and cities every year if not more often, so dragging lots of notebooks around would be rather painful.
So going back to the NaNo thing...what makes you want to do NaNo and keep at it (especially considering the insanity of writing 10k words over the weekend)?
I have no idea. Just doesn't seem right to not do it. Writing 10k words over a weekend is the easy part, actually. Writing 2k words daily when you're working 98 hours a week is much harder.
Do you edit, or have you edited, your NaNo work? Why or why not?
Oh, I certainly do. I edit all my work like a maniac... for the past 18 months anyway. But not during the NaNoWriting, because there's no time for that. Also, once you start editing seriously it's quite hard to write anything - you can't help seeing all the faults in it!
Does knowing you have an audience for your work make you see it differently?
Yeah, it makes me really cringe that so many people are seeing this stuff. But also I guess it makes me feel relieved. The stories I tell have been part of me for a long enough time that they're a big part of me, so being able to share that with people makes me feel better. It's like having a lot of big secrets that you've finally managed to offload.
You mentioned writing because if you don't, it disappears into the 'deep dark abyss.' Why is that a bad thing?
As indicated in my previous reply... my characters mean a lot to me and their stories are often incredible (most of my stories seem to be a competition of how shitty you can make somebody's life before it gets better...), so I'd hate to have them vanish on me.
Any last words of wisdom you'd like to share?
Just that... I think writing isn't like pushing a button and creating a story. Writing is about telling that story that's already inside of you. You have to create it inside of you before you put it down in words. And by this I mean that your characters should be living, breathing, and doing all sorts of inappropriate things in your head before you start putting them in a story. Otherwise you'll only be using them to tell your story... as opposed to writing about their story.