Recently it was pointed out to me that, overall, discussions on literature around these parts focus on writers who want to publish. I'm one of those people. I don't understand not writing your work for fame or money. However, I do know someone who's all about improvement and has no interest in publishing. So I asked raspil
to answer a few questions and she did so in the best raspil style. Fair warning: we will have a laugh over haters.
preface: i am going to give you what you want and what is expected. no bullshit, total honesty and odds are, some inappropriateness. if that makes this hard for some folks to read, then that's how it is. i don't apologize for who i am. as they say at Regular Ordinary Swedish Meal Time... haters are welcome.
(yes, we are starting with the boring shit.) how long have you been writing?
i have a vivid memory of writing my first short story in 3rd grade so i guess i was eight years old. it was a "story" of a group of girlfriends who get together and did stuff. back then i concentrated more on descriptions and dialogue than story. i was eight. i don't know what the excuse is of people twice that age around here who do the same thing. i wrote my first novel during my senior year of high school, just like everyone else. after graduation, i dabbled a bit in free verse poetry. some of it was good. i do my best to not suck at what i do because that just is a waste of time.
what kind of stuff did you start with (length, genre, format)?
short stories, not sure how long they ever were. i've always written what i'd consider to be "mainstream general fiction". pretty generic label but i don't know what else to call it.
is dA the only stuff you post writing? (just checking)
so I know you weren't planning to publish. was this an active decision--'I will not publish'--or more of the passive approach where you just didn't look into it?
when i was younger, I'm sure i entertained the idea of being published as well as an actual author. when i was about to graduate high school, my dad asked me what i wanted to do with my life. I said i wanted to be an English major. his follow-up question was "what do you plan on doing with that?" he stumped me and i learned how to work with my hands. however, i knew i was still gonna write, even if it wasn't going to be professionally.
i'm not a fan of producing on demand. i mean, deadlines are one thing but i'm working on my own timeframe, no one else's. who the fuck is some bean counter to tell me i need to have something done and ready to go in 18 months? have they ever written a book? no? then they can eat me. i'm not saying i can't produce on demand to meet a deadline, i can. i don't need to be "inspired" in order to produce. but if i'm not in the mood to write, i won't write. that's just how i am. i'm a grown-ass adult, no one can make me do anything i don't want to do.
recently, one of my short stories was published. it was about a very religious lady who suffered a head injury and turned into a cannibal. that was the first time i'd ever sent something out and it was accepted. was that a fluke or am i just that frickin' good? i don't know, it doesn't matter. but the itch has been scratched and i'm cool with that.
what keeps you motivated to write?
a basic curiosity. i always want to see what i'm made of and what i can come up with next.
what keeps you evolving your writing style, if it's not the requirements of some magazine or whatever?
again, curiosity. to see what i can do. i grew up reading a lot of Bukowski and he was my first influence. he was my jumping off point. i liked his blend of grit and philosophy. he's pretty frickin' redundant with his topics and over the years i found my own material being somewhat redundant (always writing about drugs and sleazy behavior, especially with Angie and Nina). once i made that realization, i decided I had to change it up, so i experimented with other ideas, with characters who weren't driven by money and dope and basic monkey survival. i'd write about relationships and families and pretty much the complete opposite of what i'd been doing. one of my favorite pieces is between a father and his 7-year-old son. i've written about a nun and her sex toy. i've written about Mexican gangsters. what i like to do, ultimately, is keep myself guessing and, as a result, keep the readers guessing. it keeps everything fresh so no one can ever say i'm predictable.
when do you decide to give stuff up and go in a new direction? why is improvement important?
i never really give anything up, i modify it. i improve upon it. if we aren't constantly striving to improve, then why are we doing anything? why tread water?
what's your incentive to become a better writer?
i'm all about evolution. one of my old goals was to write a book and have it banned. be alongside Blume and Nabokov. when your book is banned, that's free frickin' publicity!
when it comes down to it...do you still believe it's important to appeal to an audience, or are you truly writing for yourself?
when it comes down, anyone who says they are writing for themselves is kidding themselves. if they were, they wouldn't post anything online. they'd keep it in notebooks under their bed. the best we can do at this stage, or any, i suppose, is to be true to ourselves and tell the best stories that we can. to stay true to how the story is written and not pull our punches. if we're going to tackle something controversial, tackle it head on. if we have to use language or words or write a story that you think would make a reader uncomfortable, go whole hog. go big or go home. if you can't run with the big dogs, stay on the porch and piss with the puppies. we should challenge not only ourselves but our readers. if we upset someone, we have touched them in a way they weren't ready for and by doing that, we can change their life. we can change their perspective. we can't control how our readers will respond and we can't appeal to "everyone", those are fucking impossible to do. what we can control is what we do. we are in control of what we write, not some goddamn "muse".
finally, how about some raspilings for new writers who aren't sure which path they wanna take.
oh, hell... where do i begin. i know i'll leave out something but here goes:
1. have a goal. it doesn't have to be huge, it just has to be something. without a goal, you won't accomplish anything, it'll be too easy to give up when things get hectic in life or if you lose interest in what you're doing. that isn't limited to writing, either; it's about life.
2. be pro-active in your continuing education, which continues until you die. you don't know it all (hell, some of you don't even know how to use Google) and you won't know it all but know something and know it as well as you can. it'll help.
3. take responsibility for what you do. like i said above, you don't have a muse. if something doesn't work, you're super quick to blame a muse but when something does work, are you just as quick to take the credit? yeah, fuck all that shit. grow up. and stop your whining about goddamn fucking writer's block. just shut up; you're looking for sympathy, not solutions.
4. in addition to life, when it comes to writing, think about what you're doing. stop thinking you're in a race. if you're not being paid to write, slow the fuck down and think about what you're writing. don't use the first idea that pops into your head. write it down and save it for later, but FFS, writing isn't about Occam's Razor -- the first idea isn't the best one. think harder. take some time. you'll be surprised what a little time will do.
5. don't be afraid to edit your work. not every word you write is made of gold.
6. if you want advice from someone more experienced, don't just accept it. USE IT.
7. love what you do. know that it's alright to like what you create. that doesn't mean you're arrogant. if you don't like what you do, why do it? why waste your time? i think that's all for now.