No Such Thing as Self-Expression

Statue of the "Tired Man" (Megfáradt ember in hungarian), referring to the poem of Attila József, famous hungarian poet. The statue is the work of József Somogyi

Statue of the “Tired Man” (Megfáradt ember in hungarian), referring to the poem of Attila József, famous hungarian poet. The statue is the work of József Somogyi

One of the blogs that I follow in my Word Press reader is Daily Post.  Today they posted this writing prompt:

Do you love to dance, sing, write, sculpt, paint, or debate? What’s your favorite way to express yourself, creatively?

The question jarred me because lately, after a couple of years of intense writing productivity, I find that I have little interest in writing. (I’ve been researching my genealogy in my spare time instead.) It is, in fact, the success I had in completing projects in the past couple of years, the burst of activity and inspiration, that makes it feel so unappealing right now. Since my novel Angel was released I have completed a couple of novels and a stage play to my satisfaction. I have also written 95% a novel I have decided to cast aside, a detailed proposal for a biography and a theological project that is ongoing. I approached each of these with focus and enthusiasm and the sense that it was important that I do the work– not that the works were necessarily important. I mean that it mattered that I put my energy into these projects. During my last ballet tour I continued to take notes and write scenes for another idea for a novel and for additions and revisions to all of the works I mentioned before.

When I got back home, however, it was all I could do to bring myself to make the revisions I’d so carefully plotted out. The idea of starting work on the next book is completely unappealing. I chalk this all up to the Sisyphus factor. (See last entry.) None of these projects, undertaken with such great enthusiasm, has yet found an audience. There have been a few close calls with some of them. Agents and publishers who wanted closer looks, even a couple who made me offers that– unfortunately, I had to refuse.  (All rights and no royalties…) Self-publishing is an option I would take only if I had the resources to put the work out in as professional a manner as my books with traditional publishers and at the moment I haven’t.

Look at how the writing prompt is worded one more time. “How do you like to express yourself?”

Writing is not expression if it is not read or presented. To express something someone needs to hear it, and preferably to appreciate it.

At some point, no matter how much energy and enthusiasm you put into it you need to have your voice heard in order to keep going, in order to maintain the sense that it is worth it.

There is no such thing as self-expression. You can’t do it alone.  Expression requires an audience.



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