It’s not time for my usual monthly blog post, but I have a lot of thoughts percolating in my head that would make my next start-of-the-month update way too long, so here we are. As jumbled as my thoughts are, I’ll try to put this into a coherent string of words, but no promises.
This is my first week back to work after summer break, and I intended to jump right into editing my next steampunk novel, thinking I would be recharged and ready to put the work in, when the reality is that Monday rolled around and my head was suddenly devoid of ideas of how to move forward. I thought that maybe I just wasn’t ready to edit that book yet, so I thought of my other projects in limbo, figuring I could make progress on something, but my brain decided vacation wasn’t over yet and refused to cooperate.
(On top of this, I have had some of the worst back pain since my car accident this week, which has left me lying on the couch crying a couple of times, so not the most conducive circumstances for creative work.)
But it gave me a lot of time to think. (And browse Twitter.)
And I realize that I am horribly, terribly afraid to write—I’m afraid to even try. I feel stuck, not knowing how to move past this—because I want to move past it, but I’m so stuck on how to succeed that I’m afraid that I’ll fail anyway. A lot of this has to do with my own insecurities and doubts moving forward in my writing career, which now seems as stagnant as hardened lava and will take the force of a literal volcanic eruption to set it going again. I feel like I start to get close to something, and then I lose whatever confidence I might have had in it and flounder in self-doubt and pity until I’m convinced that I should just give up and throw it away (even though I know—I know—that I’m only barring my own path by being this way). I look at the things I’ve written, and nothing looks the way it should, and I don’t know how to fix it because every time I try, it just ends up looking worse than before. Reading about others’ success or progress only makes me feel worse, and I can barely read books right now because I can’t help but feel like I don’t measure up.
I get frustrated with myself for being so focused on writing something publishable instead of just writing what I want to write and not caring if it’s good or not. First drafts suck, right? Out of desperation—or spite—I try anyway, and either I hate it because it’s not right, or I think for a moment, hey this might actually be something good, and immediately follow up with, no that’s silly, I can’t possible write something this good, any confidence I have in this is totally misguided because I am clearly an awful writer and anything actually good is a fluke.
I get hung up on what I think I should be working on, to the point that I shove everything else to the end of the queue to work on that thing, or I don’t work on it and feel guilty about it because I made this arbitrary schedule of writing projects to work on, and why am I not following my own plan? I’m coming to terms with the fact that this “plan” is bullshit, and I should write whatever I feel like writing, but that’s undoing years of how I do things, which only leaves me in that dark, floundering place with no flashlight to guide me on the Path to Success, as I’ve decided it should be, and wow I really put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed, don’t I? And then I feel horrible because I haven’t made any progress on the Path to Success because I’m not writing, or I’m writing the wrong thing, or some other reason to be mad at myself.
I started writing something new this week, just to try to break the cycle, to prove to myself that I can write and this is just a temporary state of fear. I wrote the first page, and I wanted to post about it on Twitter because I’m actually a little proud of it? But it’s still not quite what I had in my head, and it’s a completely different style than anything else I’ve ever written, so the fear and doubt set in (see above), and I didn’t want to tell anyone about it in the very likely chance that I will give up on it and move on to something else. And so I have revised the same 400 words at least five times now because I don’t know if I want to continue, if I should continue, or if I’m only afraid to continue because it might suck (bingo).
Writing is hard work.
I love my ideas. I really do. And I want to make them work. I want to finish REBEL ENGINEER and share Emmerich’s side of THE GUILD CONSPIRACY in a way that makes that world bigger and more alive. I want to figure out how to make THE MERMAID & THE BEAST into the beautiful fairy tale that exists in my head, with a headstrong heroine and a believable enemies-to-friendship-to-love between her and the beast, and a terrible plot to destroy them both. I want to rework my old Persian-inspired fantasy (hello thing I might have started working on this week) and finally find the right way to tell the story that has been in my head for almost nine years and gone through three major versions in that time. I want to write my bisexual assassin falling in love with the enemy at court story. I want to find the right story for the epic fantasy world that’s been slowly building in my head. I want to write. And yet I am afraid.
I am afraid to try, to write these stories that take up 99% of my brain space to the point that I can barely remember anything in my actual real life, because I’m afraid they’ll turn out wrong. I’m afraid of failing again. I feel like the idea of actual success has been soured for me because of losing my publishing contract (and I hate that, I really do; I don’t want to be defined by that!), and I can’t help but be afraid that even if I write something and it’s good and it succeeds, inevitably, failure will come calling and knock me on my ass again.
It’s something I need to work on. Obviously.
So that’s my brain space right now. I’m so caught up in worrying about this and that and whathaveyou that I’ve forgotten how to enjoy writing. I put so much pressure on myself to succeed that I’m afraid that I’ll fall short so I don’t even try. I’m not sure what the solution is.
I know I can’t just push through the doubt anymore, though. I’ve got to figure this stuff out, figure out how to have confidence in myself again, or I’ll be right back here when I reach the next hill to climb.
(And now, I’m going to go see my therapist.)