Tuesday, 14 August 2012

I'm a horrible person (or prone to needlessly melodramatic blog titles)

I'm also out of knob gags and innuendo. Last time I tried writing one of those 'writing and naughty bits' posts, it got far too dark and tragic. But I used to write serious blog posts and people seemed to read those too, so here's one that's hopefully on the spectrum somewhere between knob gags and dark tragedy...

A friend of mine released an album last week (his sixth). You should check it out, it's really good. Mind you, if you pay any attention to me on Facebook or Twitter, I've probably already stuffed it down your throat at least once. I get quite enthusiastic about new music by musicians I really like, doubly so when they're my mates.

The thing is, I have pretty much exactly the opposite response when it comes to books by my friends. I know a fair number of writers these days. Seldom does a week go by without some new release by one of them. But I'm actually afraid to buy them (and even when - as most of the time - I can't afford to buy, this goes for checking out samples, asking for a review copy/offering a review, grabbing things on free days etc.).

Why afraid? Because of two things: first, I really don't handle not liking my friends' work very well. I've been known to avoid people for weeks because they wanted my opinion on something I didn't enjoy. It's bad enough that there are a handful of books by friends that I've read and not liked, and the friends in question don't even know that I read them (because I haven't had the nerve to say so yet - and no, I'm not naming names here, obviously).

The second thing is that, over the last year and a half or so, I've noticed myself becoming really picky about prose fiction. It's a byproduct of learning the craft, I think, but being quite a rules-based thinker, I've become hypersensitive to violations in the 'rules' of writing (or at least, the ones I understand. I'm a fascist ninja for point of view errors, but I wouldn't know passive voice if I was hit in the face by it).

I don't know why I don't have the same problem with music. Over the last half-year or so, I've been working quite hard at learning and understanding the craft of song-writing too (without wanting to get anyone excited, I may be putting out an EP sometime soon, if I can stay on top of my thesis). But everything I learn about songwriting enhances the experience of listening to music. It makes me notice new things that are being done well in music I might otherwise have disliked.

Maybe it's that I've learned writing in terms of 'don'ts', but I've learned songwriting by listening to music I love and following through how it works structurally. So I've learned to notice bad writing, but good music (I still sometimes get the vertiginous feeling of not knowing whether what I've written is good or just okay).

Anyway, the point I'm making is that this makes it quite difficult for me to support other authors in any concrete way. Rules-hypersensitivity would make (and on rare occasions has made) me a good beta reader, but I don't have the technical expertise to be an editor and laden down with a thesis, I'm pretty much unavailable for anything more than short pieces of beta reading.

So, uh, sorry, I guess. Hopefully once I've had some success of my own, I'll stop feeling so insecure and I'll be able to overcome this problem (although it's also possible that I'll go the other way, and stop being able to listen to my friends' music 0.0). If you can think of anything I can do, generally, to support other authors without having to, y'know, read their books, I'm all ears.

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