Monday, February 1, 2010

The lies we tell ourselves may be true

My old local RWA still has me on their e-mail list.

I left the Tucson at the end of September and before that I don't think I'd been to a meeting since March--suffice to say I'm not very involved in the chapter.  But I am on their e-mail list, and I do get a lot of messages from them that I'm sure they don't even know they're sending me.

One of the things they've been going on about lately is the "false stories" we tell ourselves that get in the way of moving forward with our writing careers.  I wasn't at the meeting where this was brought up (apparently to profound effect) so I have no clue about all the details.  But I garner from the resulting online discussion that the group was challenged to think about all the things that keep them from writing / revising / submitting etc. and acknowledge in their heart of hearts how many of these things are real barriers and how many are mere excuses.

I did a 100 / 100 challenge last year at this time.  I heard every excuse in the book from the participants.  Do you know how little time it takes to write 100 words?  Do you know how much energy it takes to actually talk yourself into giving over that time to writing instead of the forty-eight other things you could be doing?  It doesn't compare.  Still - I didn't make my 100 words per day on a regular basis.  I gave in to the excuses, and I knew I was doing so as I did it.  It was a lie I told myself, and I was prepared to believe so long as it got me out of doing that minuscule amount of work.

And now I'm thinking about these false stories that my old RWA is chattering about.  I have read and heard almost every story of writing and publishing adversity out there.  Most compelling to me is Sherrilyn Kenyon's.  That woman persevered.  Look it up yourself.  I don't want to check facts on her story, because so long as I believe she walked uphill in the snow both to and from school for the sake of her art--and then succeeded--it's good enough for me.  "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story."

I read a lot *points to the right side of the page* and some of what I get my hands on is DAMNED good.  Some of it, of course, is damn rot too.  Then there's everything in between.  I know my writing is good.  How do I know?  The same way I know that I dance and sing well.  People tell me.  No one who's willing to pay me for it, mind you, but no one who was otherwise required to render an opinion either.  I also know my writing is not as good as those "damned good" works I come across on a semi-weekly basis.

It is not, however, as bad as some of the damn rot that has been bound and published for my pleasure.  I have a relatively healthy ego.  Shocking, I know, but there nonetheless.  I have long been detached enough from my writing to stand criticism.  But that was before the prospect of publication.  Now, I want my work to be good.  Really, really good.  Because, like the Internet, once in print, it's gonna be there forever. 

So I don't write.  I don't work on my work.  I fear editing and revisions because, what if I never reach the pinnacle of "damned good"?  What if I am destined to sit in fair-to-middlin land forever?  What if my imagination isn't big enough?  My plots not tight enough?  My characters so shallow I can't even wet my toes in them?  Aaaarrrrrrrggghhh!!!!!

This isn't one of the false stories.  It's true.  I'm not good enough to be great.


Every book I pick up is a double-edged sword.  (Triple-edged? Quadruple?)  The first slice is an opportunity for me to learn.  Learn what I like, what I don't, what works, what I believe, what comes off as insincere...  The other side of the blade I take as a chance to castigate myself.  The doubts creep in like mealworms, trying to ruin me ... I tell myself, "I like what she did there.  I would never have thought of that." "Man that's a great idea.  My brain doesn't work that way, I'd have fucked it up if I tried it."  "Check out that plot twist.  I'd have totally gone the other way."

The third edge of that sword reminds me that it's time to put the book down and pick the pen up, and then that fourth cut to the gut is all about "Yeah, but this author is better / luckier / smarter / more ambitious / etc than I am."

How much of it is true?  I'll never know until I submit, will I?

Just Finished: Break 
Just Finished: Unleash the Night 
Currently Reading: Now & Then 
Currently Reading: Wolf Tales VII
Currently Reading: Dark Side Of The Moon 
Currently Reading: Divorced, Desperate & Dating


Evangeline Holland said...

This is me so bad!

The fear and anxiety of just being an OK writer is particularly harrowing because of the gazillion reader blogs out there--where books are either praised to the heavens or cast into the pit on a daily basis--and because of the romance novels whose greatness never diminishes over the years for readers (and I want to write romances like that!).

I also feel a bit claustrophobic when I think about writing because everything is so immediate: blogs, twitter, facebook, etc. You can't get away from new sales, excellent reviews, promo, the market, etc. It's all at your fingertips and it makes it easier for me to beat myself up over my own writing when I see what everyone else is writing in real time. :/

I've "unplugged" from the internet a few times, but I realized that the change in outlook won't come from cutting myself off, or trying to ignore what others' are doing--it has to come from me, from within.

Venus Vaughn said...

Evangeline, Welcome! I'm so glad you get me. :)

Isn't it strange how the ego is fine with obscurity, but unwilling to live with mediocrity?

I try to limit my Internet exposure to blogs, and even that gets overwhelming from time to time.