Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Here I Am, Raw And Uncensored

When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me....

Well, usually.  Today she's running late; I bet the snow held her up.

I'm scared.  Really scared.  And this is going to be one of those "I have to get stuff off my chest" posts.  So if this isn't your thing, I recommend visiting another blog today.

Over the past three days, I spent a good eighteen hours or so hanging out with my manuscript.   Saturday was rough.  I wanted to break into work, print it out on the fancy schmancy printer, and light the sucker on fire in the parking lot.  I hated it; I wanted the pages to bleed pain.

Sunday was better.  My streak of productivity continued for the duration of today.  I moved beyond the section I've dwelled on since before the holidays, and now, finally, I know what I need to do.  I'm motivated; I have direction.

From the moment I started this project, I knew how the story ended.  I deviated from that course a few times, but always ended up returning to my original plan. 

Until recently. 

In light of current headlines related to my plot, I feel compelled to travel down a path not highlighted of my original route.  It's a road that makes me uncomfortable; one that dramatically alters the vision I once saw so clearly.  And, despite my reservations, I plan to fully embrace this modification.  I'm actually excited to do so.

So, why the fear?

Good question.  I can't explain it.  All I know is I'm a mess.  My eating and sleeping patterns are completely out of whack.  I'm up all hours of the night listening to my protagonist's voice.  He's become a real pain in the ass, blatantly refusing to converse during normal daylight hours.  You know what, buddy?  You're a lot younger then I am - I happen to like my sleep.

Kidding aside, I think my fears are advancing as the end springs closer into view.  I see the finish line.  My friends and family are waiting with water and a soft pretzel.  Yet despite how badly I want to move into the next phase, I find myself slowing down - easing from a sprint to a jog and from a jog to a brisk walk.  Anything to delay crossing that line for good - and not because I loathe the thought of editing.  I'm ready to kill some darlings.  I'll be slaughtering sections that once caused me agony; rewriting dialogue and deleting my favorite parts that don't need to be there.  That part I welcome; it's the next part that scares me.

I don't believe in myself.  I never have in twenty-seven years, and I highly doubt anything is going to change that.  The best literary agents could look into my eyes and tell me they like my manuscript.  I'd ask them what they smoked before reading it.

Rejection is not a stranger.  We've spent many years together and have a fairly intimate relationship.  As I look into the not so distant future, I know she's booked a ticket to visit and there is nothing I can do to change that.  I think I'm prepared to see her again, but how can I really know until I'm in the moment? 

What I do know is this: when I sat started writing, I did it for me.  It was a hobby to pass the days of unemployment and boredom.  Something to get me up in the morning; a goal to keep me focused and away from booze.  Of course it didn't take long to become plagued with greater desires - the fantasy all aspiring authors dream about.  It's the same for everyone - we want to see our novel being sold in bookstores across the country.

Now, when I say I want this, I realize the vocabulary to convey the magnitude of that desire does not exist.

Failure is not in my vocabulary.  When I decided to pursue this project seriously, meaning I was no longer writing for "fun," I had to alter my entire mindset.  Instead of thinking how cool it would be if one day I was published, I approached each writing session as if the deal was already sealed.  In order to produce my best work, I had to convince myself I was capable.

But the truth is, I don't think I am.

Had I never breathed a word of this to anyone, it wouldn't matter as much.  But stupid me had to get excited and broadcast to the world what I was working on.  The good news is I have so many people rooting for me.  The bad news is, I'm terrified of letting them down.

I'm cursed with two character traits that continuously reduce my life span.  I'm a perfectionist and I am a planner, neither of which have a place in writing.  I can't plan for a particular outcome, nor can I write the perfect novel.  Man does that suck.

Some say I set myself up for disappointment; that I set goals I'm not capable of reaching.  I have some great friends, don't I? 

But, the truth is, I have set some high expectations.  I want to be living proof that when one door closes, another one really does open.  I want to visit my former students and show them everything worked out okay.  I want to testify that the quote in my tag line is true.  (Oh, and I want to mail a signed copy to my former administrators with a professionally worded In Your Face note attached...)

And I want to be worthy of the friends I've made in the writing community.  I want to be part of their world - enter an industry I'm passionate about and have opportunities to meet those I respect and admire.  I'm tired of standing outside in the cold, peering through windows while others live my dream.  I want to join them; I want to learn from them.     

The road ahead is far from smooth.  I just wish I knew if I'll reach my destination.


  1. My dear friend, you have again struck at the heart of the despair we writers share. Don't ever believe that not a single writer on the planet, professionally or otherwise, doesn't understand what you're feeling.

    We're in there with you and there for you!

    One thing I've learned is that with each novel you finish, not only do you grow as a writer but also as an individual. Significantly! Trust me, when you've completed this work, a light will go off in your mind so bright you'll fail to understand how it is you can still see. Epiphany after epiphany will strike you as though you and the Muse have suddenly gotten married and are popping out kid after kid after kid....

    In other words: Don't be afraid of rejection. Don't be afraid of making huge mistakes. Failure is a part of life, and is really the only (and best) path toward success. It makes no sense until you've gained the success, but glory in the small successes, so your big failures won't crush you.

    Best wishes to you, my friend! And I hope to see you on the other side: the published one. :D

  2. I have no doubt you're going to write a great book. Writing can be lonely, frustrating, and full of rejection - you wouldn't be a writer without all of those things.

    As far as finding an agent and publisher goes, you're an excellent people person, so if anyone can sell a book - you can.

    You just got to keep your chin up mate - and savor the moment. It'll be over before you know it.

  3. I think we all go thru these feelings. But honestly, what makes someone impressive, is not their immediate success, but their perseverance and dedication to something they love. We may fail again and again (i know I have) but the fact we get up and keep going and throw our fists up in threat to failure, builds our character and strengthens our souls.
    Sure, it success seems to land easily on the shoulders of some... but how much will they ever really appreciate it? For those of us who struggle and work hard and never give up, it will taste sweeter than we could ever dream.
    When in doubt, read JK Rowlings personal success story. Belief in yourself is paramount. Don't be afraid, cuz there's so many of is out here just like you. Be brave.

  4. Two things:

    Your friends are your friends because of who you are, not what you will accomplish (emphasis on the will part). Do this for yourself and nobody else.


    You got this. Tell the story. Do it for the story. The story is everything.

    See you on the other side, Brudda.

  5. Adam - Yes, I'm sure we all go through this at one point or another. And many of us go through it frequently. In a way, I'm honred to have these feelings. It makes me feel part of the group :)

    Austin - I'm chuckling to myself because this may be the first situation where I've been described as a "people person." But thanks! And I agree, all writers need these things to make us who we are.

    PK - Great points. Perseverance is definitely the key. And I certainly feel like I'm in good company; I'm happy we are all taking this journey together!

    Michael - Thanks for your faith, sir. I feel like you've gotten to know me pretty well, so your words mean much to me. Agreed; the story IS everything and I must do it for myself. In this case, I must also do it for the RL people who suffer from the events my book focuses on. Their circumstances fuel my passion.

  6. Dude, there's really only one thing I can say - if I did it, you can do it!
    Don't rush and don't panic. Self-imposed deadlines can motivate but they can drive you nuts as well. Don't place so much pressure on yourself.
    And you are definitely worthy to belong here!

  7. Man, we all know how that feels. The advice I have to offer is this:

    1. Take. Your. Time. As Alex says, don't rush! Just move along at the page that's right for you.
    2. Make sure you have the right goal. Now I definitely don't mean you should ditch your publication goal--far from it! I mean you should remember what else there is to gain from each step of the process. If you finish the book, revise the thing until your eyes cross, polish your query and send it in, what's the very worst thing that can happen? The very worst, is you'll learn more about your own writing from the process and keep improving. It'll still be a step forward. Worst case scenario, you keep improving. And best case scenario... who knows? Just keep getting one foot in front of the other, as best you can.

  8. You're on the journey, which means that you've arrived.

  9. Alex - Thank you. I know it's important to take your time; I've just always been one to place pressure on myself. I'm working on that.

    Amie - Very good advice. There is much to gain from each step in the process and so much to always be learning.

    Robert - I like your perspective. We're all in this together.

  10. Great post. After we get through the fear, this passage is why we write...

    In light of current headlines related to my plot, I feel compelled to travel down a path not highlighted of my original route. It's a road that makes me uncomfortable; one that dramatically alters the vision I once saw so clearly. And, despite my reservations, I plan to fully embrace this modification. I'm actually excited to do so.

  11. Hey Paul, gosh I'm sorry I didn't see this when you first posted it. Obviously agreeing with the above comments, I remember reading that a hugely famous writer....maybe Stephen King...still has those self-sabotage-doubting days, too! And another blogger just wrote about this, and one of the things I said in my comment was how I read in one of the many "how to write" books, that when you're feeling this self doubt and fear...go ahead and type a whole page of it, in a large font...things like: You Suck! You Stink! Your Writing is The Worst!...and you know what...I did that, and it made me laugh and stop and breathe and I got back up on that horse and kept on working at it! AND, I hate to sound like your mother, or an aunt, or OMG...your grandmother....but you are young, and you have plenty of time and YOU WILL DO IT!


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