Thursday, January 17, 2008

Fear of Falling

I’m going to take some time today to talk about writer’s writing problems, because I have them and I strongly suspect I’m not the only one. The community at large acknowledges writer’s block, etc., but the answer is universally, “well, you just sit down and write and all will be fine.” But I’m not convinced that’s all there is to it. Sometimes, I think we need a little more support than the keyboard and the ever-hungry cursor.So here are my issues, and hopefully you will share your own and we can ger through them all together.

Writing has always been difficult for me, though well worthwhile, but over the last year, it’s gotten more and more painful, to the point where I’m pretty sure it’s caused a few minor stress-related physical issues. I think there are a number of causes for this. Liketa here they go--

1) Minor success puts the pressure on: I’ve sold a few stories, I’ve gotten some decent, if spartan, reviews from them, and though they haven't got much recognition, I really think that I can make a name for myself if I press on. And that puts the stress on the writing, which has always been painful, but never impossible. It’s like trying to pee while everyone is watching you. Maybe a better man than I can throw back his head, laugh, and let loose a mighty stream, but for a me, a drop is all I seem to be able to muster.

Feel free to use that analogy in casual conversation.

2) Major success puts the pressure on: This one’s probably relatively unique to me, though it might well apply to a number of you with writing partners who do well. I never thought I was intimidated by Carrie’s astonishing and well-deserved success, and honestly I was surprised by how not-jealous I was. But I realized yesterday that I really am intimidated by it, on a subconscious level. Maybe "intimidated" is the wrong word... I don't know. The funny thing is that we have this Ten Year Plan, and with the exception of recent writing frustrations, I am on track with where I wanted to be right now. But seeing her shoot to the top, I feel like I need to be there too, or else I’m just a hanger-on. I know this is ridiculous, but it’s the truth. Not sure how to deal with it, though. Of course, Carrie has worked a lot harder than me to get where she is, and she’s amazingly talented, and I chose a different medium to work in which doesn’t give you that same level of reward (see this post on my thoughts about that). But still, it is what it is, and it makes each time I sit down to write seem like it needs to be magical.

3) Flat-out fear that I suck: Self-esteem. I’m worried that the stories that I think are so great, every one else will dislike. Flat-out fear that you’re not as good as you think you are. I suspect many (most?) of us have or have had this issue at one point. And given the nature of the business, I’m not sure how to deal with it, other than just being persistent, keep throwing things out there, and see what works. Maybe I just need to give myself permission to write crap, as they say, but I'm not sure I know how.

4) I don’t read enough: This one I can remedy, and I am. I read a fair amount of short fiction last year, but only about 2 novels. This year, I’m changing that. I’m a slow reader, and already I’m 1.5 books into the year (with the .5 being the first half of the 580-page American Gods), and I plan to keep that up. Already, I can feel some of the ideas percolating in my head, which is nice, but they’re a long way from ready yet.

5) Inability to commit: I suspect this is a symptom of some of the others, but I have difficult sticking with an idea, out of worry that the one I choose will suck. This was made worse by the fact that I really pushed myself to put words to page during NaSto, and I thought the result was, well, pretty crappy.

So there’s a short laundry list of my issues right now. I’m fortunate, in the fact that I do know the one most key ingredient to getting through them, and that’s to not give up. And so I won’t. I may shift focus, shift frame, but I won’t give up, and I give that same advice to anyone who’s with me on this journey. Beyond that, I think there is a little more to the answer than “Just sit down and write and all will be well,” but what, I don’t know. So what are your anxieties? How do you work through them? And if you’re like me, and you’re stuck in a rut trying to make it through, let me know-- let’s work through them together.