Writing for the sake of writing: the Meta-Hobby

I believe I posted on Twitter something alluding to a post continuing my Worldbuilding post, and getting into some detail around gaming. Well, the more I pick at the scab that is my world idea, the less healed and complete it looks. Eww. But I digress.

The hobby that I only cover implicitly here is of course my writing. It’s implied I enjoy writing, primarily because I keep a blog and write posts on it in a semi-regular fashion, but I don’t speak much about the process of blogging itself. For the most part, it’s organic; that worldbuilding post that so many of you seemed to like was written half-drunk and never edited. Half-drunk and never edited may be a little less together than usual, but it honestly isn’t something I put much thought into save the initial idea and one round of spellchecking. That being said, there is a more interesting process here, and that’s the process that got me to where I am.

My first blog, realistically, was a livejournal I registered for around age 16. I’ll save you the trouble of looking, I deleted it shortly after starting college. It was pretty bad, it and a blogger account I had around the same time (and around the same level of maturity). Regardless of the quality, the intent is what I find more interesting. I wrote all about myself. I don’t think there’s anything wrong about writing about myself, and I don’t even necessarily think it makes for bad writing, especially if you’re interesting (as exaggerated as it may potentially be, Augusten Burroughs’ “Running With Scissors” is a good example of this). That being said, I have two qualities that will never make me a memoir writer. First, I think I’m boring (way worse than actually being boring), and second, I’m a relatively private person, at least to an Internet audience. This probably comes across in my writing, especially my choice of subject matter; from a personal perspective, writing about your car or your bicycle or your gaming projects are about as innocuous as you can get. Now, I kept a very introspective blog in college, but I never mentioned people by name, I never talked about my sex life, and I generally avoided the discussion of anything that alluded to me making actual moral decisions. Writing this out now, I see exactly why I get more readers writing about cars and fantasy worlds.

So why not? The way I see it (be warned, this is about as introspective as I’ll ever get here), my mind is a scary place, and while I may find sharing some of my thoughts cathartic, I prefer to do it in a controlled manner. Now more than ever before in my life I have multiple friends who I feel I can share anything with, something I didn’t have in high school and didn’t really even have in college. The impulse to shout to the world is muted, though overtaken by my narcissistic urge to find an audience in other ways. All in all, I feel more like a writer and less like a chronicler of my own struggles; my duty is to an audience that I can inform or entertain rather than to my own personal edification.

I swear that this post has a reason for being. Really. This evening, I clicked on a link posted on Facebook to the tumblr account of an old friend of mine (is tumblr capitalized? I have no clue). Being me (a total voyeur), I clicked through and read the whole thing. And was fascinated. This was a friend of mine in college…we had many overlapping social groups, though ran fairly parallel courses while living in Pittsburgh, due to a combination of completely different social predilections and going to different schools. Though our lives certainly intersected at times, most of what she wrote about were experiences I never knew about, even though I’ve met most of the players, at least in passing. I saw two things here that intrigued me as I rolled them over in my head.

First, the writing is good. It’s interesting, it makes me care about the narrator and what is taking place…and this fascinates me because my own introspective writing was never that good. My own reservations in social situations extend to writing, and not being able to fully narrate what you’re feeling makes writing about it a futile exercise. The expression of feeling, even the more muted expression, helped me identify one thing I need work on as a writer, if not as a human being.

Second, I found the line. The line is an interesting concept to me in introspective writing, that of where is the line between the information the writer provides, and the information the reader provides. When reading a personal blog, it’s especially striking because the reader, if they know the author in real life, can bring much more information to the table than is provided, sometimes completely changing the story. Understanding this dynamic helps answer an important question for me: is this interesting because it’s good writing, or because it relates to me? I may never fully know the answer, and indeed, the person who linked this friend’s blog did so because she was the subject of the post being so linked. Writing realistic characters the reader can relate to has been a primary challenge in fiction for me: I’m easily of the scenario-generating type, but what makes a character click and seem human takes more work. And of course, blogs like this are instantly interesting if you know the person, because you instantly relate. At the very least, asking these questions about why I like the writing and why I relate can help me figure out what I’m missing, be it my background knowledge or how the writing is presented.


It’s a case of writing begetting writing, ultimately. This is a friend I have done a poor job at keeping up with, and reading about experiences I do remember or even took part in in some cases tugs at my nostalgia strings a little. I think ultimately what made it compelling to me was honesty in what was presented, an emotional honesty I had immense difficulty with when I was trying to write introspectively. As I consider it now, even reflecting on the topic has given me some thoughts about characterization for my likely-never-to-be-started novel-length idea. Writing begetting writing? I can only hope.



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