Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Tell me a story.

I've had an online journal of some variety for close to five or six years now. Although my first baby steps into the electronic journaling world have since passed into the ether of the internet, my desire to express myself has continued on with undiminished ardor. Although after five years of faffing about on livejournal I'm not sure if it's really self-expression or self indulgence at this point. I prefer to think of it as the former, but the realities of the latter are never far from my mind.

It's all been one long devolution, as much as it pains me to say. The online journal that once existed in diaryland space was initially an ink-and-photocopy paper zine; written over the course of several months and lovingly decorated with collages composed of pictures clipped from glossier publications. My time in the zine world was brief but intense. I never was much for the political or subject-oriented ones, but I had a passionate love of the so-called Perzines (or personal zines), that were largely about the lives of their authors. Most of them were either in high school or college (like me) and spun tales of their exploits in the towns that they were from. Nothing particular about these exploits were cut from the cloth of excitement. Some could even be called mundane. But I felt like there was something truly glorious in those xeroxed pages that I adored reading. I wasn't very serious about it, and found the whole constant mailing and letter writing aspect to be daunting, and was getting tired of having to defend my unwillingness to shop exclusively at thrift stores and spend my evenings dumpster diving. I did my best for quite awhile, though, before I eventually succumed to the world of the online journal.

They were sexier than zines, at least to me. I was hooked on the immediacy of it all - zines could take months to produce and distribute, but the turnaround on a journal was instantaneous. And best of all, most of the journals I encountered weren't overly radical: they were full of the day-to-day lives and thoughts of regular people from all walks of life. I was hooked. I kept a diaryland journal for awhile before I was at last introduced to livejournal. After a slow and somewhat awkward courtship (I shudder at the memory of all the quizzes I did in lieu of actual entries back then), LJ and I were like peas and carrots. I wrote long posts and short posts. I joined communities. I made LJ friends that led to other LJ friends that led to flesh & blood, real-life friendships that I treasure as much as I do the friends I've made through more conventional means. That should be where the orchestra swells and "The End" flashes across the screen, but it's not.

I'd really only intended Livejournal to be a scratchpad for my daily natterings, and not something deeper. Granted, I've always loved the complex labrynth of filters and privacy screens that their interface affords, and have used them to some modicum of success over the years. Livejournal is a bulletin board, a community squawk box and a way to make plans. It's a slam book and lovefest all rolled up into one neat little ball. But it's not always something I want to share with the rest of the class.

I started to get more serious about my writing in 2005. I'm currently at work on two novels, one entitled Best and Brightest, the other entitled Freelancer. With the help of my intrepid Write Club (more on them another time)I've committed to doing this writing thing for real. 2006 will be the year that I try my damndest to get my work noticed and my name out there.

Now, I'm not going to do anything asinine like quit my job and spend all of my days on the Great American Novel. I have a great pay-the-bills job that affords me a comfortable existence and a great apartment, but it's just that: a job. It's not my passion. Storytelling always has been, and probably always will be. I make the distinction between 'writing' and 'storytelling' because writing is something you do in a notebook tucked away in some corner and may never show to anyone. Storytelling you can do with words on a page on your own or over a cup of tea with a group of friends. The tales can be true or made up, it doesn't really matter (although I do think you should indicate which side of the fiction line you're on, at least before you and your story wind up on Oprah.)

Writing is a flat word. You can write a check, a grocery list or a thank-you note, but that kind of work attracts a fairly limited audience. Storytelling, however, is an entirely creative enterprise. Something that, I feel, one can easily do while holding down a full-time job and interacting with other human beings. It doesn't require sitting in a garret and doing stupid writing exercises all day long just to produce, produce, produce. There's not artistry, no craft, and no fun, I feel, in that assembly-line set up. If I can't enjoy writing, then I'm left with nothing. I never want this to feel like a job, or a chore. It's my passion, after all. So, I am a storyteller. Whether I do so on paper or verbally varies, but this isn't something I "work" on. It's something I love to do, and will be doing as long as I have the ability to string words together.

So, I decided to create a proper forum for it. I'm not getting rid of the squawk box anytime soon, but this is a place for me to keep my better stories; stories about my life and the lives of others. This is a place I can keep them and show them to others without being concerned about the other things in my scratch pad. Hopefully this will be a successful endeavor. Right now I'm not setting the bar too high - I plan on posting at least once a week and see how I do from there. Most of the time I'll have topics and probably will have spent some time really working on what I do here. Not all of it will be as off the cuff as this one, but I'm not ruling that out completely.

After all, sometimes the best way to tell a story is to make it up as you go along.