Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Writing is Crap

Just read a blog post from an author who wrung her hands and whined and ranted and gnashed her teeth about self-doubt. I was right there with her as she said she didn't trust the strong-willed, self-assured souls who kept writing through rejection. She worried about her writing, was constantly afraid she didn't measure up.

I had just received a notice from my agent that yet another publisher turned down my manuscript. I was vulnerable, already doubting my abilities, a little loop of repetitive negativism playing that I endure with each NO. Not a little no. It's like an editor read it and thought "Who is this woman? Is she kidding? She'll never publish this crap."

So I was hanging on this woman's words, relating to her woes. Then I found out she was published. Not once, mind you, but nine novels, numerous anthologies, and even children's books. She has this review blurb on her website - "There is no denying this author's talents." The New York Times Book Review

Well crap. Then I felt lower than dirt - worse - lower than the bottom of the well in my front yard, which is pretty deep since I remember how much I paid for them to drill it twice. This women had no inkling of an idea how I felt. I started to write and advise her that false modesty is far from becoming - it sucks. I almost stopped reading the blog post, poised over the delete button as I masochistically read on.

She taught advanced novel writing. Oh yeah, now I felt better. But then she stated something that hit home. If someone isn't anxious about her work, she isn't struggling with it, isn't necessarily trying to grow. I correlate this to a singer about to step onto the stage. The best performances begin with butterflies.
She went on to say she''ll never get rid of that anxious, nerve-wracking self-doubt, She'll always go through irritable stages where she bites people's heads off, cries, and overeats. She'll also go through stages where the words flow so fast and furious that she can't sleep. Gosh. I've been in both those scenarios - the tears and the chocolate, the love and the sleepless nights. Hmmm. So I kept reading. 

On bad days, to bring herself back around to some sense of sanity, she looked at her successes and contacted her writing friends. She made a reference to drowning and remembering how to swim, but I related it to exercising. I've been a month now working out to a program I purchased. Some days I hate it. Some days I forget to breathe. Some days I vow to quit and try something else. But then I finish the day's program, jump in the shower, and feel so grand and self-fulfilled. I might even flex in the mirror and envision how I'll look in another month. I remind myself how much time I've invested and how more investment produces better results.

One day at a time, enduring the undulating rise and fall of emotions, I can do this. And after reading this woman's blog, I realize I'll have doubts after nine or ten books. And I can quit or keep going. It's a ride that never ends.

So I get over myself and return to the keyboard.

There. I feel better.


lexcade said...

i think we all go through that. it's the curse of the creative to swim in doubt, regardless of the awesomeness we've created or how many times we've been published. that's why you have to be in love with writing, like musicians have to be in love with music, so that when you get those butterflies, you're willing to persevere. writing through self-doubt is so tough. but those tend to lead to the days when we feel invincible.

thanks for the post. i know i needed that today.

Unknown said...

Set yourself within eternal time,we are the containers of divinity,and it will ooze out if we allow it to. Let these insatiable spirits choke in their own greed,for we who are conscious will write on without bowing or kneeling to their gilded masters.
I will to compete with no one but myself,and will not recognize the star system as something to look up to. Count me out of the herd,and watch me come at my own pace.

Anthony J. Langford said...

Ah this is a good post... That little voice can be crippling! I don't think you can ever suppress it either.. I've read only bad writers think that they're writing is great.. I assume therefore that they don't have self doubt... It can be depressing, no doubt, especially, as you say, the rejections are coming in (or not getting answered at all which seems to be more common now) but it comes with the territory.. We have to learn to live with it, like having a bad limp. You can't get rid of it, but you can live to work around it. That nagging voice is actually our friend. It never lets us get too comfortable.. and it pushes us to improve. The day that voice goes away, is the day we should hang up our collective mouses... (James Patterson take note).

Anne R. Allen said...

Oh, I do hear you. I think we all do--those of us who put our souls into our work. New brain research shows depression and creativity activate the same part of the brain. Even without the hideous rejection process, we would feel the pain, the scientists say. I've blogged about it http://annerallen.blogspot.com.

Hope Clark said...

Anne - Liked your blog post on depression and writers. I'd read you regularly if you added an email feature on your blog. You might be amazed at the new readers you'd get!


Anonymous said...

I'm with you. I do this to myself all the time. When I get a rejection in the mail I have to suppress those doubts about myself. Then when I get an acceptance, I feel on top of the world! I feel bi-polar sometimes with the push and pull of emotions. And I wonder, do all writers feel like this? Then I remind myself that the only writers who never get rejections are those who never submit. I think we have all written about rejection. If we are writing, that is!

Karen Lange said...

Yes, that's probably one of the best pieces of advice - 'One day at a time." I agree, it is a ride that doesn't end, are we on the ride or not? I'm on, glad you are too. Appreciate your encouragement.

Stephanie Suesan Smith, Ph.D. said...

I think creativity and madness, in the sense of depression or mania or alcoholism, really are different sides of the same knife edge. When you stop fearing the fall, you slice yourself to ribbons. Use the adrenaline rush of balancing on the edge of the knife to fuel your writing. When there is no rush, wade through the depression until it returns. Above all, never give up.

Stephanie Suesan Smith

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I feel better now.

Except maybe for that info on the creativity/insanity link. So, I'm not nuts...I'm just creative. lol. Okay, then.

At least now I have a positive reason to explain why I do anxiety and melancholy so well. sigh.


Donna Volkenannt said...

Hi Hope,
Thanks for another great post. What you wrote makes perfect sense. It's good to know as writers we are not alone.
Donna V.

Annette Lyon said...

FANTASTIC post! Writers have a bizarre see-saw of "I'm great!" versus "Everything I do is crap!"

And no, it never does go away.

J.Q. Rose said...

Your post topic certainly resonated with me today. I just blogged about NOT knowing if rejected or not. It seems I send in the requested full ms and never hear another word. Or the pub tells me the story is still under consideration. My words may be floating around in cyber space. Am I too anxious for a reply?--6 months seems like enough time.
I just blogged about rejections on my blog yesterday. http://www.janetglaser.com/wordpress

quietspirit said...

I felt that way when I had a rejection sometime ago. What added salt to the wound was the salutation on the form letter was,:Dear READER. I was angry. I didn't renew my subscription to that mag. I also didn't consider writing anything for that mag's book section. I recently found out a writing friend is going to have something published in one of the books of their latest series.
I had the Lord point out to me just last night that I still have some foolish pride.

BECKY said...

Hope, I've been having some Blogger issues and haven't been able to get to as many blogs as usual...but I think a Cosmic Something-or-Other sent me here tonight! I SO needed to read all this! Thank you again for another wonderful post!

Hope Clark said...

I give someone two months to hear a reply unless they specify otherwise. Then I move on. Don't get hung up on non-replies.

Kim Murray said...

I really love reading these type of posts. If I didn't know that successful, published, well-respected writers suffer from rejection anxiety I might never write another word! Thank you for sharing.

sdsfasda said...

Here, in Italy, there is a known TV-actor. 3 or 4 years ago I watched an interview where he cryed he felt job and nobody wants him more. He eats last pieces of dry bread, he claimed with tears. After he finishes them, he will die from hunger. The cameraman went than far from him to show the garden where he was sitting near a very nice cascade immerged in flowers and plants. HIS garden some ha big, around HIS villa full of treasures of every kind and species.

I don't know why I felt very bad after this interview...