I’m an applause whore. I tend to choose creative projects to work on based on the likelihood that the finished work will be noticed and appreciated. The Emily Dickinson routine, where you write the poems and then stick them away in a shoebox, has always seemed cockeyed to me.
Sometimes I guess wrong. Four years ago I wrote a long novel that my agent felt he couldn’t market. It’s still sitting in a shoebox. The point is, I believed it had some potential, or I wouldn’t have put the time into it.
As I finish up my latest piece of interactive fiction (look for it in the Spring Thing competition in April), I find myself looking around and wondering what I want to do next. The advantage of interactive fiction is that there’s a real audience. It’s an extremely tiny audience, true — but my work does get downloaded, played, reviewed, and so on.
Is that all there is? Or should I set my sights a little higher?
One school of thought argues that I shouldn’t give it a moment’s thought: just do what I feel passionate about, and trust that the universe will respond, perhaps in some way that I can’t now envision. I like this idea, in principle … but I also feel a need for some form of reinforcement or support. Left to my own devices, I tend to just blunder around and not finish things.
Oddly, one of the things I enjoy is playing the piano. I’ll never be good enough to perform or record; I do it strictly for my own pleasure. The universe has shown no inclination to support this activity, and I don’t care. The main reason I stick with it, week after week and month after month, is that I have to. I’m so bad at it that if I take even a few days off, my technique (what there is of it) starts to fall apart.
If I had more time, I’d play the piano more. But I’m not sure that drilling the fingering on a Bach prelude qualifies as a creative activity. It’s more like a sophisticated, up-scale version of doing jigsaw puzzles or crosswords. No, I need a creative project.
Revise the novel? The main reason it didn’t sell was because it’s too long, and if I revise it it will only get longer.
One of my perennial fascinations is just intonation. I’d love to write some music in just intonation. But would anybody ever listen to it? Besides which, even with today’s amazing computer music tools, composing in JI is a very tweaky activity. It involves typing columns of numbers — stuff like that. I can’t quite imagine becoming passionate about it. Writing interactive fiction is tweaky too, but once in a while you get to write a few paragraphs of description, or a short passage of conversation. At that point it becomes slightly more tactile or visual.
Lots of possibilities, no clear answers.