Over and over, I keep having this same conversation with people, or variations thereof. I express my sheer, insomnia- and nightmare-inducing terror over my novel, how, except for brief spurts of energy and excitement, I am scared of it. It,
like it's a thing that's going to come attack me in the night. That's how it feels at times. So monumental and impossible. I will start to work on it, or even just plot things out in my head, and there is a voice chasing me, telling me why even bother, it's never gonna be any good. What made you think you could write a novel, anyway? Stick with the little leagues. Stay with what you know. This is a fluke.
And on and on and on. It's become absolutely ridiculous, especially because when I do work on it, the words, well, if not flow, come out. The characters start to take on life. And even if, say, a scene I wanted to set at Religious Sex on St. Marks can't happen because the store is no longer there, I can revise, rearrange, make it happen somewhere else.
I read a lot of novels this year, both for fun, and thinking I would magically, through osmosis, learn from them how to create my novel. And while I can admire what a lot of these authors do, that hasn't really helped, and in many ways has only served to make me more insecure. I'll never be as good as she is. It must come naturally to her.
These thoughts plague me day in and day out. Erotica, I feel like I've largely mastered. I love it, and am excited about all my new projects, but to a large degree it's lost the challenge. Sure, I still get my share of rejections, and I sometimes succumb to the fear and don't send work to awesome anthologies, but for the most part, the ideas for erotica are almost always there. I keep saying things like "if" instead of "when" I finish it. And yet there is a part of me, a tiny part, but a part, nonetheless, that is trying to rise above the fear. It's little things, like wanting my book cover to hang, signed, at The Pump,
where I get lunch most days. It's sometimes having to literally envision the cover, or make like my very LA uncle and envision it as a movie, anything to make it more real
rather than just words on a page.
Becuase I must say, despite the advance, despite the knowledge that Bantam, part of Random House, aka the big time, hired me for this job, found my writing worthy of not just one, but two novels, when it's just pages on a screen, even a hundred something of them, it doesn't quite feel real. As I proof galleys for Yes, Sir
and Yes, Ma'am
those books inch closer to being real. There's a different font, there's a layout, there are things that have happened to my word and my authors' words that I didn't do.
Copyblogger has a fabulous article called "The Nasty Four-Letter Word That Keeps You From Writing,"
(via the brilliant Agent Obvious,
who you should be reading if you're a writer) and the very first comment says, in part:It’s always been clear to me that the more important a writing project is, the more difficult it is for me to complete. Exactly.
It's so comforting to know other people go through this, and yet so easy to think you're the only one.
I've even been afraid of posting about this. I mean, what if I pots about how hard and scary writing a novel is, and then when it comes out, people come back to this post and say, "Well, no wonder her novel sucks, she had such a tough timing writing it." But you know what? Fuck that. I am sick of that way of thinking, that way of living. I am sick of waking up and staring at my laptop not with excitement or even mild interest, but with sheer terror. I'm writing something else for Huffington Post about stopping drinking, and I will also say that this novel terror has extended into other projects, because I tend to have such all or nothing thinking that I feel like if I can't do this, I can't do anything. Of course I know that's not true, and in some ways I have been overproductive in other arenas to make up for my stalling on this.
At the end of the day, I have to accept that my novel will only be as good as I can make it. Not as good as someone else might write their novel or perfect or the best book ever. But it will be something that I would want to read, and hopefully other people will too. It will be something that, while fictional, will help call bullshit on things like this:
So thanks for listening, and those who've heard me freak out about this, for putting up with me. Everyone, from my friends and family to my very patient agent and editor, who I fear have now put me in the "problem child" category, have been really supportive. My new deadline is January 14th, and I'm gonna meet it. And next time, I'm gonna take some time and go on a real retreat, away, where I'll be left alone with my thoughts and my computer. That sounds both petrifying and also kindof marvelous. I'm learning, slowly, very very slowly. I don't think fear is something you combat overnight. And I don't think it's all bad. It's only bad if we stay stuck in the same place with it, instead of using it to challenge and propel us forward.
From the Copyblogger article
(but there is so much more there that really hits the nail on the head - fear of success, fear of failure, fear of rejection, etc.):Fear of Mediocrity
Writer Dorothy Parker couldn’t meet a deadline to save her life, because she said for every five words she wrote, she erased seven. Our fear of mediocrity manifests itself as perfectionism, and
perfectionism prevents us from simply putting things out there and resolving to get better over time. With that approach, we fail to achieve anything at all.
Right now, if I think about it, I’ll realize that this article is never going to be good enough, no matter how long I spend on it. In fact, what the hell am I doing writing a blog anyway? Is this what I was put on this planet to do?
Then I take a deep breath, and move on to the tips for dealing with the fear of mediocrity.
* No one will ever be perfect, so let it go.
* Action beats inaction every time.
anything feels better than accomplishing
Labels: Everything But..., fear, novel, publishing, writing