What would you write if you could write anything at all? What would you write if you perceived no restrictions? If the opinion of publishers and critics meant absolutely nothing? What would you write?
Seems like a simple question. But it isn’t. At all. Especially for anyone who began writing before services like CreateSpace existed. Because all of us writers who hoped to be published always had that filter in our thought processes. Will an agent like this story enough to represent it? Will a publisher have enough confidence in its marketability to publish it? A terrible filter, harming if not destroying creativity before its very inception. Deflecting and diverting and skirting the essential, the heart of the writer’s being, altering and transforming it into something other. Into something people might like, into something generally acceptable. Is there anything worse than that? Twisting and contorting the creative soul to suit a lower common denominator?
This filter, it becomes so entrenched that recognizing its very existence becomes nearly impossible. It influences silently, invisibly, perniciously. It guides away from the wild, dark, crazy, mysterious, and disturbing towards a brightish, whitish, bland evenness. Only now, after thinking about this for the past years, have I even begun to comprehend how I’ve unconsciously, subconsciously restricted the wanderings of my imagination to the more acceptable and recognizable and hackneyed paths. So boring.
When did you last read a book that both thrilled and disturbed you? That was so unexpected and original and unpredictable that it still haunts you? Long time, I’d guess, if ever. About 15 years ago I read A Feast of Snakes, by Harry Crews, for the first time. Excellent recommendation from my writer friend Amy. That’s probably the only book I’ve ever read that falls somewhat into that category. And maybe also Hard Rain Falling, by Don Carpenter. They are two of the only books I’ve read that risk repulsing readers in order to dig down, way deep, and express something essential. But just what, I wonder, would both of those authors have written if they hadn’t had that filter. That publishing filter. Because they would have had it, they must have had it. Without it they would have been exquisitely devastating.
A challenge to you, to all of those real writers out there. Let your imagination wander. Let it truly wander. Let it wander to places that disturb you, to places that thrill and seduce you. Follow it. Keep going and going and going, way down deep or way up beyond the heavens. Then write a little story. Write like your life, heart, and soul depend on it.
Because now you can publish anything. You can send that story out to the entire world, without a literary agent or traditional publisher having the slightest power to prevent you. Amazing!