WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Writing for writing’s sake

I think this is where I find myself at this late date: writing for writing’s sake. For decades now, I’ve been writing with the goal of publishing and attracting readers to my work. Turns out it’s exceedingly hard to publish and attract readers. In fact, it’s next to impossible, since the act of publishing—traditional (if you’re lucky enough to nab a contract) or indie—doesn’t guarantee the readers will come. So you get to the point where you have to ask yourself, Is there any reason to continuing writing if you can’t achieve that lifelong goal?

Apparently my subconscious thinks the answer to that one is yes. It keeps serving up ideas for me to work on, though these days it’s mostly in the form of flash fiction. I’m always pleasantly surprised when my subconscious floats a cool idea, so I dive into the writing with enthusiasm, and the great thing about flash (generally <1000 words) is that you usually finish a first draft in one sitting. For me, it’s highly improvisational, so whatever emerges has a lot to do with how I’m feeling at that moment and with what happens to be on my mind. I tweak it in whatever revising I decide to do, but ultimately I come away with a neat psychological time capsule in a viable piece of fiction.

Novels are becoming a hard sell because of the cost/benefit picture. Typically I’ll spend six months or longer working my way through the first draft, another chunk of months on revising, and then the painful year of querying agents, only to walk away empty-handed. Indie publishing has delivered a mere handful of sales these last few years, leaving me feeling fairly smashed about it all. Traditional publishing is a closed universe of well-connected writers, MFA holders, and creators of popular genre fiction. For someone like me, putting in the time against those odds is almost futile.

For the time being, though, my subconscious keeps dishing up these flash pieces at a good clip, so I guess I’ll run with it. Sometimes I can even get them published. Here’s my current list of online flash:

“An Impromptu Volcano” —Every Day Fiction

“Robert Daniel Crandell”—Bright Flash Literary Review

“The Wake”—Twin Pies Literary

“We Will Do Your Dishes”—The Daily Drunk

“The Wiry Man With the Underbite”—Sledgehammer

Two more stories will appear in Fictive Dream and The Bookends Review in the coming months.

Heck, at my age, the words “life’s too short” have real meaning, and I’d hate to spend the rest of my years beating my head against the brick wall I’m up against. But I can still practice my craft and look at what I make with a lot of satisfaction.

Writing for writing’s sake. Not a bad way to occupy an active brain.

[Photo by Fabio Ballasina on Unsplash.]

3 comments on “Writing for writing’s sake

  1. kingmidget
    September 22, 2021

    I think you make a good point as I struggle with my own motivation. When I first started writing, I wrote dozens of short stories, but now … not so much. Maybe I should try to write more flash and shorts while the longer pieces continue to percolate.

    • Kevin Brennan
      September 22, 2021

      I guess part of it is sticking with the habit. I have a feeling I’d get rusty if I didn’t keep the routine going. It’s like playing scales on the piano.

      • kingmidget
        September 22, 2021

        That’s exactly what short stories and flash can do for a writer.

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This entry was posted on September 22, 2021 by in Writing and tagged , , , .
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