Thursday, April 23, 2009

personal crisis

Small things can make you feel like you suck as a writer. Lots of small things that add up. Especially all in one week. I really do wonder sometimes if it's all in my head. If I only surround myself with people who'll tell me I'm good because that's what I want to hear. I can make as many excuses as I want for why certain groups of people (even large groups) don't like a specific story - pairing, genre, pacing, plot - but at the end of the day, what if they just don't like my writing? How can I tell the difference? Or do I not really want to know? It's hard when it's something I want to spend my life doing and the "fun" side writing seems to turn to crap. It's one thing when it's the goofy short stories I come up with at the spur of the moment. They get their reviews, but I don't particularly care. But the stories I've written that I love get next to no attention from the masses. Or they get read and no response. What am I doing wrong? Not sure I want an answer to that.


I wrote this early this morning. Granted, I was getting to know a couple of Cuervo Gold margaritas in a new, depressing way, but it brings up two good points. I'm starting to feel like a failure as a writer and I have very little proof this isn't the case. The second, I'm starting to drink too much. Okay, for some people, 5 drinks over a three week period is not a lot. For me, that's half a year's worth of booze. I'm not that heavy a drinker. Unless I'm really depressed. Which I shouldn't be, right? I'm getting a raise (first check with the boost tomorrow), I'm alive, not homeless, (probably) disease free - I should be on top of the world.

Which brings me back to my first point. I don't know if I'm really good, or even decent, but I rely too much on praise to keep me going. I'm starting to think Arthur Miller had the right answer. (Work with me because this is coming from a few paragraphs in a Marilyn Monroe biography that I haven't picked up in years.) He liked to work in isolation. Simple concept, right? But I'm thinking that's what I should learn to force myself to do. Write something and refuse to show it to anyone, even in part, until it's finished. Then there's the finishing part. I attempted to do something like this with NaNo 2007, but I never quite made it to the finishing part. And I feel like When Dawn Breaks has the potential to be really good. (Though, after another book series, I might want to change the title - but I had mine first!)

I just don't know if my stories are only good in my own head, good but need work, or crap and I just like to fool myself otherwise because my other life ambition is out of my reach. I can't force myself to go to law school, I doubt I'd make it as a therapist, and I just don't have the fire for anything else. But what if I suck as a writer? I don't think I can make a living throwing together crap short stories and novels and trying to convince people they're good if I don't personally believe I've written them to the best of my ability. It's writing for its own sake. (Or art for its own sake if you want to quote Duma Key.) If I can't make my stories good to the general public, how do I know they're good? Because I think I may have lost the ability to tell if my stories are good simply because I wrote them.

I have an ego. I know that. I always say it's a Leo thing and it might be. But I know when something I've written is really bad or needs work. What I don't know is when it's undeniably good. I feel like I've written a few things that are so damn powerful I can't believe I wrote them. But when maybe 5 out of the 300 or more people who read it actually agree, I have to wonder if I just surround myself with agreeable minions because I can't take the truth.

I don't want to join a critique group. Or the wrong one. The last ones I was in, I either got very little help, or I came across people who took my criticism personally and reacted by giving me crappy reviews, nitpicking things that weren't technically wrong. Or were they? I also wonder if I've lost the ability to tell when critique is genuine and trying to help me improve or when it's personal because the critic has a personal issue. I've had my share of those aggressive "your story sucks because..." critic types, but I can't tell the other kind - the people who pretend to be helpful but really want to make you feel small.

And if I can't distinguish any of this stuff, if I can't become the writer I want to become, if the concept of "better" and "good" writing are forever buried beneath my desire to get an audience - what am I doing with my life?

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