If A Tree Falls In The Forest, Are You Still A Writer?

“No one reads your blog” my sister said sharply. Her words cut me, mostly because they were true. I had been reflecting on the sad state of my blog’s readership well before my sister stated the truth so bluntly. The situation made me think of the philosophical question – “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Only as the question pertained to me – If a person publishes their work and no one reads it, are they still a writer?

Four years ago, when I started this blog, I had grand plans; I was going to be a celebrated writer. Like Kurt Vonnegut but less beardy. Like Jenny Lawson, only with fewer taxidermy bobcats. All I had to do was practice my craft, and wait for the world to recognize the brilliance of my prose. So I wrote and waited. Then I wrote some more and waited but still neither WordPress, nor the Huffington Post chose my work. And Oprah wasn’t declaring my blog to be one of her favourite things either. But through all those posts and those couple of years, I held to my dream of being a professional writer, of making it big, of being paid to tell stories and do what I love.

In that time, a funny thing happened; two of my friends became professional writers. One chased down and caught her dream of being paid to travel and write. The other, an accomplished scientist who happened to have an exquisite way with words, landed a position creating a magazine. From the sidelines I watched them, their success but also how their relationship with words changed – both ceased to write for fun. That seemed like a small tragedy to me because recording my stories and antics brings me endless joy, I would mourn losing that.

As my interest in the publishing and literary world grew, so did my knowledge of it. I learned how book talks are given, and the rigors of traveling to promote one’s work. Jenny Lawson, creator of “The Bloggess”, frequently recounts the horror and exhaustion which comes with being forced to overcome one’s introverted qualities and tout her work to the world. I also read how John Grogan’s meteoric rise to fame from a weekly column writer to celebrated author of “Marley and Me” affected his family; how deeply his children missed him while he traveled around enjoying the fruits of his success.

Through that time, my blog continued along, I continued to do ridiculous things like create absurd letters to my upstairs neighbours about what I’d do to them if I was a mermaid or a robot and then I would write about it. After watching my friends give up writing for leisure and learning more about the associated work of being a paid writer, I came to a surprising and slightly sad conclusion – I didn’t want to do this as a job.

This decision coincided with the worst month for my page views that I had ever had. Quite literally no one was reading my work. I had mistakenly thought that after nearly four years, I would have built a dedicated readership. Instead, even the people who had once routinely read and celebrated my blog, no longer would mention posts to me. My three hundredth post was met with little fanfare; to me this was an incredible achievement but the world didn’t bat an eye. It was then that I asked myself who I was writing for. The answer was and always will be- me. Suddenly my page stats and number of readers weren’t as important.

In deciding to let go of both my dreams of being a professional writer, and also my need for an audience, it makes me question myself. Along the lines of “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”, if a person publishes their work and no one reads it, are they still a writer?

A writer is someone who enjoys stories and communicating, someone who feels compelled to record their thoughts. A writer is anyone who takes the time to sit down and assemble words into sentences. At three thirty in the morning, I pulled myself out of bed to type this post because the words refused to remain in my head any longer. I can’t answer the question about the tree, but I do know regardless of who, or how many people read this, I am still a writer.

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An Open Letter To The Neighbours: More Cooing Dammit!

I don’t usually rant, but something has been bothering me since October. It was Mini-Tex’s first Halloween, so I dutifully dressed him up, ran him over to a fellow baby friend’s house and together our families Trick or Treated for twenty or so minutes. It was an abysmal failure; virtually every house we visited missed their marks, so I’m composing a letter to improve our experience next year.

Dearest Neighbours,

Thanks you for the sugary sweets, however as evidenced by both the presence and kempt appearance of the four adults in the group, we are both old enough and organized enough to purchase our own. We weren’t there for candy, those Smarties, even if the babies both had teeth would still be a choking hazard. No, we were there so you, our fellow homeowners, could lavish attention upon our babes.

With the exception of one effusive, older woman, all of you failed miserably at the task. Although my hopes are high for each of the neighbouring properties to be sold and a pack of infant-loving, grandmotherly types to descend upon the city, the likelihood of that happening is low. I mean heck, I would have taken a woman with a cookie house who wanted to eat our children as long as she had fawned over them sufficiently first. Admittedly, my false sense of bravado and adventuring comes from the fact that we were traveling with a member of the law enforcement whose home gym resembles Jillian Michaels’.

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I’d like to see the inhabitants of gingerbread homes just try to snack on this woman’s offspring. (Photo Credit : channelguidemag.com)

In lieu of a sudden influx of lovely, little, old ladies, I’ve written out some instructions for next Halloween.

  1. Fling the door open before we arrive on the stoop. This aggressive show of enthusiasm will communicate the extent of your excitement.
  2. Comment about how creative the costumes are, I mean for Pete’s sake, I almost dyed socks with food colouring for this moment!
  3. Hand out one piece of candy. It’s a rite of passage and if you’ve ever struggled to make a baby into a beluga whale by putting their tiny legs into a narrow, flippered tail, you know that a person deserves chocolate afterwards.
  4. Lastly you may choose from any one of the following statements and actions:
    1. “Yours are the cutest babies in the world! I’m going to turn off the lights and take in my pumpkin as this moment is clearly the pinnacle of my Halloween.”
    2. “Hold on, I’m going to chase down the twins from next door who just visited, as you possess the most attractive and adorable children in the world, you should have their candy.”
    3. “Well, having seen the most beautiful babies in the world, my life is now complete and I can die happy.”
    4. Or you can freestyle it with a similar statement of your own- points for originality!

Hopefully this helps to clear up the confusion so we can all have an enjoyable Halloween next year.

Five Things Friday: The Murderous Family Christmas Edition

It’s Friday in New Zealand. It doesn’t make any sense, but time zones are like that; they’re tricky devils, sometimes, for example last weekend, they jump backwards an hour for no reason at all. Time zones don’t obey the laws of physics. Scientists thought everything had to obey the laws of physics. And everything does, except for time zones. Also Cher.

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This lack of adherence to physics is the only possible explanation for this woman. Photo Credit: MTV.com

Anyway, on with Five Things Friday

  1. My In-Laws Gave Me Coal For Christmas

It wasn’t actually coal, it looked more like severed tree roots. Regardless, it sent a message -be nicer to our son; this is your Christmas gift. Following celebrating an early Christmas with Tex’s family this past weekend, I found a “present” at the bottom of the bag of produce they had brought from the farm. It was underneath the beets and the lone zucchini which was the size and shape of a baseball bat.

I turned the oddly shaped, dirt clod coated bulb-ish/shrub-ish thing over in my hands trying to find an identifiable feature so I could figure out whether to cook it or plant it. Finally I gave up and called my mother-in-law Zoey*. “Did you give us a piece of a tree?” I asked. “Pardon?” Zoey replied masking her obvious disapproval of my naughty behavior over the past year with confusion.

“I’m holding a plant” I said. At least I thought it was a plant, it very well could have been dirty petrified wood. “Is it for the garden?” I questioned further. “Oh!” Zoey burst out, “it’s the horseradish”. So it wasn’t coal, it was condiment ingredients. Close enough, it ended up making me cry. Message received -I should be nicer to Tex.

 

  1. I Drove Over Two Men With My Van

To clarify, I drove over a pit AND two men with my van. It was horrifying and I cried in the way that one does when they’re about to commit murder. I’d never patronized a Jiffy Lube before, consequently I was shocked when the garage doors opened and in lieu of a friendly mechanic trotting out to relieve me of my keys, a youth in a pit beckoned me to drive over him. Then to make matters worse, another young man jumped in with him. Double manslaughter, goody.

I drive infrequently because I loathe it, but more importantly because I’m terrible at it. The examiner had to coach me through a three point turn on my licensing test. Thus, the pit/youth situation spelled certain doom and jail time to me. However I somehow managed to very slowly maneuver the van over the pit and the youths lived to scare another unsuspecting customer.

 

  1. Babies + Oranges = Mistake

Mini-Tex is into eating exactly what I’m eating. I made the mistake of consuming citrus in front of him so now our floor is like a high school cafeteria- sticky and more than a little gross. I debated not washing it and leaving the job for Tex but thought better of it upon remembering the number of baseball bat sized zucchini my mother-in-law has in her garage. Death by squash is never pretty.

 

  1. I Don’t Actually Have A Fourth Or Fifth Thing

Cher took them to another time zone. I’m sending a search party to Taiwan and Austria, I’ll let you know when my other writing points turn up.

 

 

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of lovely, thoughtful women whose fondest desire is for their families to have well seasoned, delicious, local food. She also would never think of using her zucchinis for anything other than baking and is so gentle that she makes people who would never hurt a fly look aggressive. My mother-in-law is compassionate to the point that I’m pretty sure she mourns the dust-mites that accidently get sucked out of the air by the vacuum cleaner.

No Excuses November

Three years ago, I completed the National Novel Writing Month challenge which involves writing 1,667 words a day for thirty days. It was unforgiving, creatively taxing, time consuming exercise. For a month, I actually embodied that life of a writer as I sat drinking and writing my way into the night. I lost nine pounds because although Baileys and milk is delicious, and prevents you from reflecting too hard on your two thousand word defecit from yesterday and the day before, it isn’t dinner. Especially not for a week straight.

I’m not going to do that again because I have a child, so in addition to mixing booze and breastfeeding not being a good idea, I feel like child services might intervene if I threw handfuls of crackers at my son in lieu of all meals for thirty days straight. However, I can commit to 334 words a day. It’s one fifth of the NaNoWriMo goal but given that I have a small person who depends on me, it’s both a challenging and acheivable goal. Because I’ve been known to sneeze out four hundred words on occasion. Those of course would be the kind of sneezes where you cover your whole face and glance in a panicked manner around the room because your arm, face, sweater and the two people standing next to you are coated in snot. An epic sneeze in short, but a sneeze or almost a post no less.

Also, I’m changing the rules which states that the challenge begins at midnight on November 1st and ends at 11:59 November 30th. In case anyone was wondering, I finished at 11:58 November 30th in 2013 and I’m starting my challenge now on the 29th of October, it will come out November first so it totally counts.

I should add that I will be WRITING 334 words a day, not posting them, which takes longer and involves that dastardly and time consuming process known as editing. Instead I shall bank them so I can sit on my laurels a while.

Boom, That’s 335 words. Watch out world, Unwashed is coming.