Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek

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On the Way Outta Here (actually, it's more about change)

I have this habit in my classes, when someone proves that they are good at something, to say, "I've seen that. Stop it. You're boring me."

Well, I don't say the last part. I get told that I'm an unorthodox kind of teacher, but I don't actually tell a good student that they're boring me. I just imply it. The reason for it is that, while it's good to have ability, while it's excellent to have a voice, there's also a tendency in early writers (and very old ones) to produce work that doesn't have much of a difference to things they have previously done. There are more than a few authors who you can read and comfortably say that you've read their work beforehand. Of course, it's not always easy to change your work from a commercial standpoint. Publishers are reluctant. Readers are reluctant. You can make the argument, I think, that people don't read authors anymore, but read genres. A particular author belongs to a particular genre. When they leave that genre, a large portion of the audience will not follow them, which is, from an author point of view, a shame; but from a reader point of view, it's not a malevolent thing.

Still, that's a big topic, and one that I've no interest in right now. Just writing in my stream of thought as I do. My point is this: I like change.

I am, slowly, building up to the point where, should someone read my body of published work, they'll find a stylistic and thematic stamp emerging. Since I imagine that I'm the only person who can be bothered trawling through the twenty five short stories, couple of poems, novella, Urban Sprawl Project, Dialogues series, and published sometime next year novel, Black Sheep, it falls to me to find the ways that I am repeating, the tricks that are becoming old, the styles that are becoming easy. Which is the way it should be, because I'd not really listen to anyone off the street if they came up to me and said, "I've seen this before." Strangers get no sway--and that goes for reviewers, too.

Though there is truth that I have used people as a form of inspiration before. There are precious few people I will listen too, but it's fun, upon occasion, to listen to the comments about your work, and then use those as the parametres to build a short story around. Simple things, for the most part, working the same way as if you read about an idea, and you used that as the base of a story. It's not something I do a whole lot, but inspiration for short fiction comes in a lot of different ways, lot of different forms. Change or die. Listen or drown. Ignore or suffocate. Pick your way to go about this--I reckon you can go every which way, so long as the work has a quality you can admire by the end.

Still, that said, there's nothing like tracking back through your body of work to realise how utterly shit you were. The population in Humble City grows daily.

In a year or two, I think I'll be done with the cycle I'm in. A lot of my fiction recently is about living in Australia, about living in Sydney, even, and I can feel the end of that conversation coming up. There'll be a need to switch, to do something new, to find a new conversation to engage in. I've a few ideas, a few books I'd like to write, a few story cycles I'd like to try, so I'm not worried about that, inspiration wise. The biggest problem, I think, will be if I'm in a position to do this. I don't write not to get published--being published is an important part of writing, because I view writing as a conversation with culture and people and history. But would I be in the position to do this and keep being published? The question probably doesn't have much weight to it now, because I've certainly not got any kind of lock on being published. Should taste run against me, I'd disappear, leaving on this blog as a stain of my presence.

Still, change. Gotta keep moving, y'know?
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