There’s nothing better than to read an article, blog post, or hear in an interview where a best selling author explains they continue to go through the very same things as writers who have never been published before. Things like how each and every new book they work on, they feel they have to learn to write all over again, or that they experience the same jittery nervousness about a new project they are starting, or how they worry over whether the story is any good, and last, what people will really think of it. We read these things over and over, to help ourselves manage how we’re doing. That lather, rinse, repeat sort of drill.
It also helps to write about it ad nauseum, hence today’s post.
About a month ago, I won first place (wheee!) in a contest out on Betsy Lerner’s blog. The prize was a copy of Rosemary Mahoney’s sixth book, FOR THE BENEFIT OF THOSE WHO SEE. Among Ms. Mahoney’s other experiences in the writing process, she indicated she shared the same view I have regarding what I see when I sit down to a blank computer/laptop screen. And, Betsy’s blog is full of writers who have seen it all. Success. Failure. Recrimination. Glory. Despair. Personality disorders. Medications to fix that. Or alcohol. There is a quirky little blurb off to the right of her page that puts it into perspective with her typical wry sense of humor. It says, “Depressed? Anxious? You’ve come to the right place. We accept all forms of insurance at The Lerner Rehabilitation Center for bitter writers.” Well, I’m not bitter, but there may be some who are.
Whatever I read, whatever I subscribe to, eventually, at some point, a writer’s “feelings” come out during the process, and the list from above goes on. Flattered. Anguished. Joyful. Doubtful. Encouraged. Worried. Elated. Flattened. The struggle to make the writing work. The thought the writing is great, followed by the thought of hitting DELETE. That could all happen in ten seconds. If you want to know how it feels on any one given day, I can tell you. Up, down, up, down. Whichever way, welcome to the perpetual elevator called writing for a living. (which sounds like an oxymoron at the moment)
I’ve learned to try and ignore the emotional distress. (who am I kidding?) I don’t know why we are like this. I had no idea I’d be like this. It’s not that we’re special, far from it. Most everyone wants to succeed, to be good at something. But writers? We want to be loved – our writing, that is, but ourselves, too. We want to be swooned over. We want flocks, no, make that droves of fans dying for an autograph, not the sound of crickets at a book signing. We want someone telling us every five seconds how wonderful we are, and that no one, but no one can write like “us.” Well. That’s a bit much. Almost like that number one fan in MISERY. No. Thank. You. I may only need my fingers to type, but I’d still like to keep both my feet.
We study sentences like we’re studying for the SAT’s. We dwell over award winning authors, bestsellers, and scrutinize the reviews, searching out why a particular story is loved. We compare our work, try to spot the weaknesses and the strengths. We dream about writing a bestseller, we have nightmares about writing a bestseller. We try to ignore all of the bad and only think of the good.
Our work stays hidden for a long time. Months, sometimes years goes by before anyone else sees it, or if anyone gets a peek, it’s very few. And when it comes to putting it out there, we go through that lather, rinse, repeat cycle again, and again. We remember the one’s who made it, and try to remember they’ve been here too, and felt just like this. They said so. Despite the very apparent frailty of a writer’s psyche, we’re ready or we wouldn’t have let it go – no sugar coating, please. Well, maybe just a little sprinkle.
How are you feeling about your writing? Is your elevator on the way up, or going down?