As a writer or creative, you know what it means to be precious. You know preciousness is a detrimental and alluring trap we’ve all fallen into from time to time. But it wasn’t until recently that I looked at preciousness using a wide angle and considered what it means to be precious with your personality. This is in regards to being an individual generally as well as a creative. This is in regards to having a voice.
A cord of what I’ll shruggingly generalize as strangeness exists in many of our icons in writing and art. Gorey was a crazy cat lady with a fondness for fur coats whose trust benefited animal for god’s sake. Some simply vocalize opinions that rankle and estrange readers, right Bret Easton Ellis?
In this, our age of hacked nudity and eternally archived regrets, the thought of vocalizing or expressing oneself in a way that could one day be uncovered and used against us is galling at best. We wouldn’t want to alert the fanboysandgirls to light their torches and gather their pitchforks. We wouldn’t want to expose ourselves as deviants. We wouldn’t want to write something that might make that one person in SFO feel marginalized. But will we dilute our work to avoid the slings and arrows?
I look at the powder kegs of the creative world and wonder if there’s something to learn from them. They almost can’t help but express themselves. Their voices are so loud they can’t not be heard.
It might not even be a fear of expression that muffles some. I recently received a critique that completely turned around the way I think about editing and voice. Something clicked. I tend to over-analyze and edit to perfect, forgetting to enrich. It’s the academic in me–the technical essayist. It’s a problem. While NaNoWriMo helped me overcome some of that, it’s been writing my serialized, on the spot work Ghost and the Daemon that’s helped the most. It made me look at the way I write Ghost and compare it to the way I’ve been editing my longtime WIP and love of my life, Aurelia and the House of Dire.
I became aware of the danger of caring too much. I realized that you can’t be experimental or playful or innovative when your perspective is locked into making something perfect. I’ve understood avoiding preciousness for some time, but I don’t think I comprehended that it meant more than removing a sentence or even a chapter you had some freak obsession with because it sounded clever but didn’t add anything. It meant letting the IRL opinionated weirdo in me push aside the infallible writer I imagined I should be, allowing it to get in there and do some damage. I am who I am. I’m not what college prescribed and I’m not the writer my younger self wanted me to be. And thank the lawd for that.
I’ve been through a lot in my life and it’s time I accepted myself for who I am as a writer and a person (more and more they’re one and the same), now and in the future. It’s time I stopped giving such an almighty fuck about what everyone else thinks. Because there are a lot of boring sheeple in the world, and a lot of people who will tell you who you should be, how you should write, what you should read, and how you should live your own life. And there are all sorts of notions we can get up in our heads about by comparing ourselves to others. But as soon as we build those boxes, we damn ourselves to create within them and a box is no place for the imagination to thrive. It’s a place where you can be certain your voice won’t be heard thanks to all the others bouncing off the walls, drowning it out.
I almost wish I hadn’t wanted to be a writer for such a long time, developing all of these ideas about what it meant, piling on the expectations and building boundaries. But the good thing about discovery is that it can compel you to change for the better. You just have to find the nerve to break up with who you used to be, embrace who you are, and let the world know.