Despite my rather harsh indictment of Stephen King's "On Writing" the other day, I have to admit that there's one thing he said that got me thinking: "Life isn't a support system for art. It's the other way around."
King follows this theme up through the whole book, and it made me think about the way I go about writing. I started writing as a response to the fact that I was graduating university and there existed, to my knowledge, no Philosophy Factory that would bear me fruitful employment. But writing is something I've come to enjoy much more intimately than those egotistical-economical beginnings suggest, having nearly entirely replaced my previous artistic penchant towards the musically infernal.
King is adamant that he's never written for money or fame; only because he enjoys it. This instilled in my breast a certain moral revulsion towards myself. Over the past few months, I've become a writing stress-case; my attitude being summarized by the sentiment, "When's the big break coming, huh?" I think I've lost, not all of, but at least some of my potential by deliberately focusing on stories that I perceive to possess material value, either by way of being salable, or being of such-and-such a character that it provides me with a good practice field--and, thusly, makes my work as a whole more salable down the line.
In short, what King made me realize was that this way of writing--when everything's about the Benjamins, or, in Canadianese, the lake birds--is a dumb way to write. In the name of having more fun, I've kicked some projects back to my "TO DO" folder and started working on a story that's been brewing for a long time. It has characters I like, a setting I like, and a horde of silly encounters and conflicts. When viewed objectively, it's probably awful: it's unabashed man-lit, it abuses tropes and conventions like nobody's business, and it utilizes my poor sense of humour unendingly. But it's been a lot more fun to write for fun than with the ephemeral dream of literary success occupying my mind day in and out.
I think I'm a manic-depressive writer: either I'm writing a lot, or none at all. This used to bear onto my mood as a correlate: if I was a manic writer, I was equally a manic person; and the opposite, of course, held true also. But thanks to that little bit of King's advice--which, crushing the Ben-of-yesterday as it did, I was initially revulsed by--"manic" and "depressive" are now terms I need only apply directly to my writing production, and not how I feel about what I've produced.