Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fear and Rejection

I have what you might call an obsessive personality.  I get very intensely into things for a brief amount of time.  How long?  It's hard to say, but it can go anywhere from a few days to a month or so before I finally calm down.  In that time, it's basically all I can think about, all I can talk about.  Sometimes it's general activities, sometimes I get fixated on specific subjects, but I get swallowed in a the tide and I can't come up for air.  It's virtually impossible to tear myself away when I'm like this.

Many people can talk about how they get easily distracted, how they might have spent an hour looking at Etsy projects instead of working.  "Oops!  Where's the time gone?"  If I could only burn an hour, that would be something.  But an hour turns into two, three, four, and before I realize it, I've wasted the whole day.  Recently, I noticed that this gets exponentially worse when it's something that means something to me.  My brain's default setting seems to be "the only way to win is not to play."

I wrote every single day for a week starting on the 10th.  On the 17th, some stuff came up that I had to do--I don't remember what.  Despite wanting to keep my streak going, as soon as I started feeling pressured, my brain rebelled.  I spent several hours looking up and adding books about the history of Islam to my Amazon wishlist.  After I'd wasted most of the day, I felt ashamed, and the more ashamed I felt, the more I wanted to put off working because I'd already failed, already screwed up.  The next day fueled that even more because now I hadn't just started late, I'd actually missed a day!  And so it snowballed.  The pride I felt for writing everyday for a week fizzled and died as I wound up not working on my fiction for a week.

I think a little of what tripped me up came from the changing nature of my project.  The week of the 10th, I wrote everyday because it was new words for a new project.  But I finished that story, put it in the "marinate" folder, and started editing another story.  Editing is a different beast.  It doesn't have the manic "head down, get it done" feeling that writing has.  It's more introspective to me.  It's reading your story, taking notes, examining the character motivation, the plot, the description, assessing the quality of all of the above, and then devising any possible adjustments that can be made to improve your story.  You might not write a single new word of actual text--it may be all reading and note taking.

I had no idea how to quantify that, and I didn't want to start going by "pages edited."  Some pages would need significant work, some wouldn't need any, and I was worried that going by "pages edited" would encourage me to rush through without being thorough.  However, without a word count to point to and say "I did this today," I felt like I wasn't accomplishing anything.  And that meant I felt like a slacker, even if I knew that I was doing work.  Even if I knew that I'd read my story and taken notes for an hour and half, my brain told me it wasn't enough, that I hadn't really written anything, so it didn't count.  Then my motivation bottomed out.

The other thing that tripped me up, if I had to guess, would be that I got several rejects all right in a row.  Normally, rejections don't really bother me.  I mean, they suck, but I've gotten used to them.  I do my absolute best, but I try not to expect anything, y'know?  Like, if I get accepted, HEY THAT'S GREAT, but if I don't, I just try to shrug and keep going.  However, I got one rejection that was personalized--my first one.  It said that the writing was good, but the story was too generic.  That one hurt me.  See, that one felt like it was saying, sure, sure, you're competent.  It's not your writing.  It's you.  You're boring.  You're unoriginal.  You have nothing to say that someone else hasn't said better.

I was reading Chuck Wendig's The Blue Blazes at the time, and reading it was a sort of delicious masochism.  I mean, the book is amazing guys. I didn't like it quite as much as I liked his Miriam Black novels, but it was a damn fine book.  It was inventive, funny, poignant, grim...just super cool and fun.  That was sort of the problem.  Wendig is so damn creative, so damn colorful with his language--and I don't mean the swearing.  He has a very unique way of viewing things.  As I read, and definitely as I sat down to try to write, in the back of my mind, I'd think, How can I possibly compete with that?

Yesterday was Monday the 24th.  I actually worked on my fiction. It was editing--not the rejected story, a different story from the "marinate" folder.  I haven't worked on the rejected story since I got the rejection. When I sat down to try to rework it in some way, my brain reeled away.  Go outside. Mow the yard. Go check the mail.  Take the dog for a walk.  Do the dishes.  You have so many things you need to do that aren't this.  This can wait.

Ever since I got that rejection, I've had a hard time writing.  I'm scared.  I'm scared that my stories aren't good enough, that they're too generic.  If that's the case, it doesn't matter if my writing is worth a shit or not.  It's a non-starter.  If I'm too generic, too boring, too unoriginal, how do you improve that?  Every idea that comes to my mind gets pretty much auto rejected.  Seen it, heard it, that's been done before.

As an experiment to try to shut my internal editor down for a bit, I went out on a limb, picked some ridiculous topic to have a little bit of fun.  Instead, I started worrying about my writing, worrying about making the words perfect.

Don't get me wrong.  I know that if I'm going to be a writer, I'm going to face rejection from publishers, from agents, from readers.  I get it.  And I thought I was okay with it.  But I've got the yips bad, y'all.  And every time I sit down to write, I imagine that editor standing over my shoulder.  Too generic.  Not good enough.  Not original.  You have nothing to say.  Why bother?

Oh well.  The only way out is through, as they say.

1 comment:

  1. I can really relate to a lot of what you're saying.


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