“Hello, my name is Ciona and I am a writer”, I say in the manner of a support group introduction. It has been a while since I have posted anything on here that isn’t poetry: there are a number of pieces I want to write and share, but I am taking my time with putting them down. This piece in particular, I feel, will be quite freeform, an exploration of the writing world and what I have deduced and experienced as a writer so far: I don’t intend to come to a conclusion about any of the ideas expressed either way, I just want to explore them and give them a place to maunder and marinate.
Lately, I have been butting heads with the phrase ‘previously unpublished’; there appears, at present, to be a stand-off between the two of us. I spend my time writing, every day, in varied frequencies of creativity and output- no two writing days are ever the same, even if the routines around them may seem so. This point is in regard to new content; I do, however, set aside time in a more tangible way if there are existing things I want to write up by hand, for example, otherwise the likely eventuality is that I will not get them done. It may seem that there is no defined structure to my practice of writing and part of me would say that is true- it works for me and that is as far as I feel I need to go with endeavouring to explain it. As well as creating every day and refining unfinished pieces, my process involves sharing (often on my blog, less so on social media- Twitter and Instagram) and looking for places to send my work, online and elsewhere, to the end of potential publication. And this is where the driving force behind this article is observed, my relationship with the word ‘publication’ and all its derivatives, and what I have encountered of it so far.
Perhaps I have been naive, wide and starry-eyed, in a way, to have not considered that the word ‘published’, allegedly, carries the same meaning and is regarded in the same way, irrespective of the medium in which it is applied, but I don’t believe so. My personal process, as a writer, is organic and many of the pieces are grown and cultivated over a length of time: sometimes, I’ll have an idea while washing my hands, for example, and be able to craft a piece in my head, have it written up and shared online within a couple of hours; other times, I will think of something and let it meld without writing it up right away and then, craft it over a number of days, or weeks, and assemble its parts incrimentally- there really is no formula, the pieces each have their own character and are individual and unique, so I let them come into being in the way that is most suited to them: I give them the freedom, often, to write themselves. In the manner that my writing process has its own motion, so does my knowledge of the writing world. I’m certain creatives in other fields will share with me a degree of empathy on this point, that, when you begin your craft- in this case, writing- nobody tells you how to approach anything or what to do. As in the world as a whole, there are multitudinous manners and ways in which to approach a myriad of things, which is true of numerous professions, but characteristic of the art world in particular. My personal acquaintance with navigating the world of writing has been one of picking things up as I go along, learning by momentum and, so far, it has worked for me. My encounter with the definition of ‘published’ has, only recently, become the source of a degree of disagreement, as I feel somewhat blindsided by its revelation.
In the way that it has been conveyed by numerous publishers and editors to who I have considered submitting my work, the word ‘published’ entails a range of media and, I am being nothing but completely honest and transparent by saying I don’t agree with its application for a lot of them. According to this seemingly ubiquitous, but, to me, dubiously agreed-upon definition, this blog makes me a published writer. Posting what I write to social media sites, or having it featured on a website makes my work published, as does having my work in print in a book, newspaper or magazine. There are numerous examples, I’m not going to list them all, but the latter three, I would say, are the most conventional and recognisable ways in which you would be identified as a published writer: I don’t agree that all online publication should be viewed equally because it is still, largely, an unchartered world and social media, in particular, doesn’t exist to serve one thing, so the markers for measuring what is dedicated writing and what isn’t are not clearly defined- you can, literally, upload anything and your words will be considered ‘published’, whether or not you intend them to be or, whether or not they should be, just because they appear on a publicly viewable platform. Then again, there are numerable established printed outlets that do just serve as rags for the distrubution of bigoted, vociferous vitriol, so the yardstick for assessing ‘quality’- grossly subjective in its nature- is ever-mutating. While I adore how the internet has democratised expression, anyone can use it to share their voice, I do feel that this openness is also its frailty, as anyone can use it to share their voice (exhibit the current Twitter-presidency occurring, and trolling)! I feel the need to elucidate my point, as I fear I’m coming over as some kind of insufferable snob who believes that art is only valid if it adheres to some kind of pre-agreed format- that is not who I am at all. I am an advocate for artistic freedom, however it is expressed. My vexation, then, comes not from the definition of ‘published’ itself, but from the way it is used by various publishers and editors to streamline submissions, which I, as a writer, find incredibly restricting.
When I started this blog in 2015, it was out of a decision to begin sharing parts of my life, with whoever wanted to engage with them, in a dedicated way, and that is the way it still stands. At the time, I was in the unrelenting grasp of a clump of harrowingly detrimental circumstances, which continued to impact on my health from the inside-out for a considerable time after that, not to mention the time of continuous build-up beforehand. I had written before, on and off, but had never bonded with it as something important to me, or as something that mattered in any way- in jest, but also in sardonic truth, I can thank my secondary school English teacher for those feelings; my own writing wasn’t something with which I had an intrinsic personal relationship, it just was- in a way, detached from me. The moment I decided to be committed and give my blog a go, I had no clue that it would, in fact, be vital in my healing and personal recovery, in restoring my life and desire to live, or that I would, with some degree of surity (minute, but it is there!) be able to refer to myself as a writer, as I had no aspirations to define myself as one and certainly had no projections about a future identity as a ‘writer’. I said that starting this blog was to share my life with others, but it was also, unknowingly at the time, for me, to be able to salvage my life and celebrate the wonder and worth of living, so I could begin to drag myself out of the ingrained horror and bullshit around me that had, for years, plagued my being.
Referring back to my previous point, the impetus of this piece, I find it incredibly jarring the way in which submissions are screened by certain editors and publishers, solely based on whether or not they have already been made publicly accessible. Fundamentally, I want people to read my writing and for viewing it not to be a constraining experience; I choose where I put my work and where it matters to me. In the manner of what I create means to me, it saves my life every day, so I’m sure I can be forgiven for not agreeing with the idea that my work, that into which I’ve put my life and heart and soul, infusions of my essence over time, is viewed as irrelevant, obsolete and threadbare because it has been shared once, or even a handful of times before. I don’t think it egotistical or inflated in any way to express that I am proud of my personal progress and that writing allows me to be true to myself and rooted in the person that I want to be and, to want to share that with others and affect and inspire life and the beauty of living in other people. In terms of accessibility, I also do not expect people to dig and delve to find what I’ve written, or for my expressions to be elusive or separating in that manner. There seems to be an agreement that any writing viewable by the public is considered published, yet a palpable disparity in how a writer’s ‘worth’ and ‘value’ as a creator is regarded. If I think my work is viable, but an editor and a publisher have their own ideas about what is viable- what they want and are looking for, which is fine, of course- then both parties lose out on what could be a fruitful partnership. The art world being so steeped in subjectivity does create for itself an impossible milieu- there needs to be some kind of bridge, a congruous conversation, a sustainable compromise between all involved. We are all a part of the same circle and we need to work together- I do think that there should be guidelines in place to harness stability for those, artists of any description, who are trying to cultivate and establish themselves, not just those who are ‘making it’ doing what drives them.
Conclusion? As I said, there isn’t really one; the perceptions in this piece are slices of conversations that could go on near-endlessly. If publishing is all viable, then everything is viable- it’s quite freeing, if you think about it, save the possibility of getting lost in the infinite pool. I won’t put my writing eggs all in one basket, I’ll have a think about it: this is what this piece is, me having a think about it.