Most of us crave acceptance and approval, and I’m no different. Every morning when I sit down at my desk, I need to give myself a firm talking to. It’s very hard to believe you’re a genuine artist when you’ve got nothing except some hit/download numbers to attest to the fact – no reviews, no huge fan base slavering over your every YouTube appearance, no sales, no invitations to appear at conferences and festivals (which I would never attend), no prizes (which I’d be unlikely to accept), no contracts, no admiration (or envy) from colleagues – in short, nothing much at all. At least those creative writing students can hope for a drop or two of anointment, even if most are eventually convinced by their tutors that they’re not fiction writers.
The only problem is, no one can define art (though not for want of trying). And truly new art is often not viewed as art at all, at least not for a while. Beause that’s exactly part of what art does: rewrite the rules.
One of the reasons I’ve chosen the online route to publication is to sidestep the approval game. Of course I’m pleased if someone likes my work. Of course I’m dismayed if someone hates it (though it’s gradually getting easier to accept). But external assessments have very little relationship to my challenges, my frustrations, my progress, my process. The world at large likes to police its communities, and it takes considerable strength to resist such pressures: the borders of my interior world are often understaffed.
The fiction I write is not the fiction you read.