"Indeed, I cannot think why the whole bed of the ocean is not one solid mass of [pastiches], so prolific the creatures seem."
-- Sherlock Holmes, "The Dying Detective," edited for topic.
Yesterday morning, I had an idea for a Sherlock Holmes pastiche that I rather liked. But while I enjoy writing, and even writing fiction, the thought of writing a pastiche just seemed . . . well, I hate to even use the word but . . . pointless. Is there a crying need in the world for one more novel or short story of Sherlock Holmes? Is there a single reader out there with access to a library or bookstore who has no tale of Sherlock Holmes to read?
I've gotten a similar feeling before when walking into a Barnes & Noble and looking across the aisles at the massive amount of new books in that one building. Does the world need yet another book added to this great sea of books? What could I possibly have to say that would add to this mass of words in some meaningful way?
Those are very depressing sorts of thoughts, the sort of thoughts that kill motivation dead and freeze the corpse. Motivation is a funny thing, though. It doesn't take much.
I recently saw a creator being asked about what he does when he has no motivation, and his response was basically, "Do it anyway." It's funny how we look at motivation one way for our creative efforts and another way for day to day life. We want inspiration to write, but we brush our teeth, wash our dishes, go to work, and do a thousand other things with no motivation whatsoever. They're just what we do.
Writing became like that for me at some point in my life, more habit than inspiration. This blog, for example, whose pace only starts slowing when other writing is going on, like the recent chronology newsletter or Nanowrimo. Left alone in a cabin with no hope of an eventual reader, I would still write. But writing a specific thing, like a Sherlock Holmes story? Well, that takes one more ingredient -- the yeast to the flour, to using a baking reference. (Sherlock Holmes of Baking Street, still available on Amazon!) (Wait, did this blog post just have a commercial?) And that ingredient is a target.
Sometimes all it takes is knowing that one person would enjoy reading the specific thing I'm going to write. Or one person asking that I write a thing. Or one person that stumbled into a trap set and thought a novel was real when it wasn't and then I feel guilty and write it as my penance, just to make my fabrication into a real thing so I didn't actually lie if you think in four dimensions. (Well, that one was a rather unique circumstance.)
How much fanfic has been created just for the delight of that one friend the writer knows would have their day brightened by a tale of a favorite character? And even if you're your own best friend -- entire books have been written because the author wanted to read a thing and it wasn't available. (The Elementary Methods of Sherlock Holmes, for example, barely available anywhere.) The key to a really enjoyable write always seems to be just having a reader in mind.
It's a great lighthouse for steering your ship in the vast ocean of creative work. And sometimes, when an idea comes along that doesn't have that target reader, it gets washed away by all those reasons like the ones I started this essay with. (Or just lack of time. That might be the actual case this time.)