We all have it. ‘We’ as in writers. If we’re any good at our art/craft. And if we’re good, we know it. We may (and often do) have personal lives that are a complete emotional train wreck, but we have literary egos as vast and solid as the Bering Sea.
You may think we fear we won’t be able to handle the constant rejection that inevitably comes with the territory, but we can handle that. We can take that on the chin. We know how many rejection letters any given famous author got for any given famous piece of work. We can recite it to you like jocks can recite baseball stats from 50 years ago.
We sniff at rejection. It’s a badge of honor.
What we really fear, more than anything in the world… is success…
Because if we’re successful… then we aren’t doing it strictly for the love of the art anymore. We’re doing it for… *shudder*… money…
It’s become our… job.
(Which is, of course, precisely what we dream of.)
Will we still want to do it? Will we still crave it? Will it still be our truest love when we have agents, publishers, readers, editors… breathing down our necks to get it done?
Will we still leap out of bed at 3 AM to peck away at a glow in the dark keyboard at night because we awoke with a literary orgasm so strong we broke a nail on the headboard, or be up before our spouse on a camping trip so we can fall face down in the decaying leaves in the wee hours so we know what that feels, smells, and tastes like when we write about our heroine falling into them as she’s being chased through the forest by a madman? (And hopefully we either have understanding spouses, or, ideally, writer spouses…)
We’re not sure.
So… we procrastinate. Make excuses. Waste time with other mindless, non-productive entertainments.
Fellow writers get published, and we’re happy for them. We secretly envy them. Not in a mean way, but in a ‘”Cripes I know I could be there too, if only I’d get out of my own way” way.
Cause we know we’re just as good, if not better, than they are…
And yet… we hesitate.
We work feverishly on a WIP… then walk away from it.
It might be ‘finished’, but it’s never ‘polished’.
Never ready for submission.
Why do we do it? Or, more appropriately… not do it?
Because, as the quote from T.C. Boyle states in my headline…
It’s an addiction… and it’s a sweet one. It’s one we don’t want to break. One we don’t want to fall out of love with.
And we’re afraid that if we find success… we’ll lose the love of our lives. That muse draws us stronger than any flesh and blood lover ever could… and we never want to lose it.
And that, my friends, is the plight of the ‘starving artist’. It isn’t because they aren’t good enough.
Like any other addict… they’re not brave enough.
See how I’ve suddenly switched from ‘we’ to ‘they’, so as to distance myself from such weak creatures?… because surely I don’t fall into such a category…
I was hunting for the nail clippers this morning, and was reminded of something I wrote a while back.
Women in my age group – you can relate.
The rest of you – read and laugh, but remember.. your time’s a’comin’!
1. If you’ve just done your nails, invariably you will brush one of
them up against something and screw up the whole works. Then, when you
take the polish off that nail to redo it, the polish remover will take
off polish from the nails you’re holding the cotton ball with, thus
making it necessary to redo your whole manicure. Rinse and repeat, as
you will brush up against something with a wet nail again.
2. If you need the nail file – it’s in your desk at work. If you need the nail clippers – they’re lost.
3. When you get old, you begin to grow hair in places no self respecting
woman should ever have hair. Because you’re old, your eyesight is also
failing, making it doubly hard to find such hairs and tweeze them out.
Putting on reading glasses doesn’t help, as 99.9% of these new hairs
will be white, and therefore practically invisible to you. If you do
find them, see rule #2 and apply it to the tweezers.
4. “When will you ever learn?” is a mainstay phrase in my House of Style.
This applies quite often after a noble effort to tweeze my own brows.
5. The older you get, the harder it becomes to haul your leg up far enough
to sand the dry rough skin off your heels. It also becomes harder to
shave delicate areas, especially when you have this huge protrusion in
your midsection that has the “Goodyear” logo tattooed upon it that you
can’t see past.
6. Attempts at a decent pedicure, using toe
separators to keep from screwing up the polish like you just did on
your nails, will result in toe cramps that will make you cry. Hence,
you will falter and scrape your toes against the floor, screwing up both
the pedicure and the carpeting.
7. Applying makeup is a joke.
Reading glasses get in the way of seeing what you’re doing on your
eyelids, and if you remove them, you end up looking like Cleopatra on
acid. For the first time, I’ve paused and pondered ordering some of
those silly looking glasses with the flip-up lenses. You know the ones.
They’re in every junk catalog you get, along with the gag gifts like
the toilet seat that farts when you sit on it. The ones you get because
one of the ‘respectable’ places you ordered from sold your address to
8. Sweater dresses will never look good unless you
wear them in the dead of winter with thick tights to mask your leg
imperfections and a full body shaper to flatten your stomach, make your
butt smaller, fool yourself into thinking you still have a waistline,
and render yourself unable to breathe till 5:15 PM, at which time the
tortuous contraption is peeled off as soon as you walk in your front
door. And I’d highly suggest ‘basic black’.
9. Lipstick will be applied crookedly. Guaranteed. Don’t bother. Your lips will be more attractive bare.
10. Dead sea salt scrub infused with aromatic, essential, emollient oils will make your hands look better. For about an hour.
For the uninitiated – tell a story in just six words. You’ve got to have conflict, action and resolution in just six words. The reader has to know the whole tale from beginning to end in a flash of reading.
Here’s one from Hemingway: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
Pretty powerful for just six words, huh?
I’ve been trying them this morning as a writing exercise. Not as easy as it sounds! Here’s a few I came up with as I sipped my chai tea and ate my oatmeal:
Numb fingertips. Wet socks. Homemade cocoa.
Child. Wife. Mother. Divorcee. Lover. Grandmother.
Unloved roses. Tears for tulips past.
Everyone wants diamonds. Nobody wants garnets.
Beloved cat fights rattlesnake. Children cry.
I have more, but I’m not going to post them here🙂
As the search continues for my own writing niche… I keep trying new things to kickstart my heart.
Keeping in mind my old and dearest loved professor’s advice on walking around the house backwards… that’s what I’ve been trying to do. I go places I haven’t been before, at least in circumstances I haven’t been in before. I do things I never would have done before, either because the thought of them scared the bejeezus out of me, or they just never occurred to me.
I’m walking around my house backwards.
First – I went into downtown Chicago alone – at night. I attended a function I wanted to go to – alone.
No way would I have done either of the above not too long ago.
Walking around the loop alone after dark? Me? Are you nuts?
I did it, though, and I got to attend the event I wanted to attend – and I found myself enjoying the city alone at night.
I saw, on my way out of the train station, and on my way back in, homeless people, trying to sleep – on benches, even on the stairs. I had to pick my way around a couple of them to get out the door and onward to my destination. I tried to be as quiet as possible so as not to disturb their rest.
Afterwards, I had some time before boarding my outbound Metra back towards home, so after I grabbed a quick bite at McDonalds inside Union Station (and giving some money to a man standing outside the doorway holding a cup) I ventured back outdoors, through the Canal St. doors, and leaned on the railing watching the Chicago River drift by dimly lit in places by the glow of the skyscraper lights.
I lost a few more bucks to another panhandler while I was out there. LOL.
But… I got ideas. Ones I want to develop. The intended purpose of the evening was fulfilled. Well worth the cost of a train ticket, a meal out, and less than 10 bucks in handouts.
I’ll be stepping outside my comfort zone again a bit later in the month. Another successful author will be reading in Naperville on the 23rd – and I plan to go. He writes numerous things – and in genres/venues I’m not a big fan of. So why go?
I’m walking around the house backwards.
Yeah, I know. I’ve talked about it before. I don’t currently have it, but it’s been on my mind this past week, as has everything else that was discussed by T.C. Boyle Monday evening.
He was asked what he does if he hits a ‘dry spell’.
I’ve heard/read other authors give their tips of what they do. Most of them just simply say “Keep writing. Write through it.” A few have some special trick that always seems to work for them.
Boyle looked at his questioner like he had three heads. LOL.
“I don’t have them.” he said. “I’m always writing. When I’m inbetween novels, I write short stories. When I’m ready to write a novel, I write a novel. When I’m done, I may take a break, but then I’m writing short stories again.”
I can’t imagine working on something, and never have that feeling of being ‘stuck’. Not knowing what to write next, at least for a while.
It’s amazing to me that he never seems to experience this.
Do any of the rest of you, like Boyle, never have a problem with writer’s block?
No. not the kind Mom and Dad accused you of (rightfully) when they asked you who put the cat in the dryer..
I mean people who get up and read stories aloud.
I was telling a co-worker about my evening downtown listening to Boyle and he asked me if I’d be interested in going to a storytelling event at a coffee shop in Des Plaines on Sunday, and if so, he’d forward the e-mail to me with the details.
I said “Sure! I’d be interested!” and the wheels began to turn.
Not only can I use this as yet another tool to kickstart my heart, but I also began to think – maybe this is something I could get involved in myself, as a way to get myself out there.
From what I understand, these people read stories written by others. I could do that – and also read some of my own.
I think it’s worth looking into.
Any of you have any experience with it?