Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Self-Doubt and Smoky Slumber.

If blogging is an exercise in vanity, then maybe it's no surprise that this post is so belated, as the last few months have been marked with scary-soul-squashing SELF-DOUBT.  Caps lock necessary.

Sylvia Plath once stated, 'the worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt', and while I know that all writers have to deal with that dictatorial bellowing in their ears ('this is shit! Who'll want to read this pile of dung?!'), and while I've managed to ignore the niggles before (for the most part), over the last few months it's manifested itself in a distinct 'MEH' feeling about all of my writing.

2013 so far has been pretty unsettled for various non-writing related reasons, but whereas before having an artistic outlet was an anchor when all else was topsy-turvy, now I'm tempted to toss it all overboard and paddle off to a nice, safe office where I can happily file things without all the horrible revising-rejection-self-recrimination business.

Related to this is the fact that it's my birthday in a month, and while I'm not THAT old, yet (30-ish, if anyone asks), I did envisage myself more settled at this age, and with some major publications under my belt, so every passing year (silly as it sounds) prompts a new bout of nail-biting and teeth-gnashing.  Why? Maybe because young writers are instantly marketable. Maybe genius is only aligned with precocity. Maybe I'm just a mediocre writer, who won't see see (major) publication until I'm middle-aged? Worrying about what will (or won't be) is ridiculous, and racing, racing, racing against time is as foolish as Dick Dastardly chasing the pigeon, with lots of 'drat-drat and double-drat'-ing, when one should really be focusing on making their flying machine more effective, to flog the metaphor. AND I KNOW THIS. But still... (And apologies for referring to myself as 'one'. Unforgiveable.)


Related to all this gloom, this semester at university is the second (and final) writing workshop module of my MA, which has made several melodramatic things whir about my mind:

-I've seen how far my peers have progressed from last year to now: am I keeping up?

-I've seen many of my peers find agents/garner agent interest/do well with regards to publications and prizes: where am I now? 

-This is the last chance to get 'proper' feedback on my writing: am I ready to whip off my stabilizers and sway off, or will I smash into a tree and cut my head open?

My peers are all wonderfully supportive, and their feedback has been essential in helping me hone my work, so to use them as points of comparison is self-defeating and misery-inducing, but while I know this, there's that voice, still whispering, 'Pull up your socks, woman! Stop being so lazy! if they can write a book then why haven't you done it, sloth girl? It's just a hobby for you, isn't it...? and on, and on...

And it doesn't stop there! Twitter. Facebook. All my writerly 'friends' tweeting and posting about their deals and film contracts and their wonderful stories being published in all the best magazines, the same ones who've rejected me over and over, which makes me want to throw my computer out of the window, and join a commune, away from all those social-network-succubus-things that suck my confidence away.

Of course, even reading back through this rambling it's clear that a sense of proportion is needed, as (the unfailingly helpful) Chuck Wending states in his column about how to kill self-doubt:

'....you’re not exactly saving lives. You’re not pulling children out of burning buildings or shooting Osama bin Laden or curing a global pandemic. You’re a writer. Self-doubt for those other guys is life-threatening. They fuck up, people die. You fuck up, the the ink on your manuscript bleeds from your blubbering tears and you put on a couple pounds from wolfing down three boxes of strawberry Pop-Tarts.'

Quite.  So enough whining, for now :)

Publication News:

My short story 'Smoke Surfaces in Slumber' was published by Menacing Hedge at the beginning of the year,  a love-story, of sorts, set in Medieval times and inspired by reading about anchorites and martyrs, and Jersey Devil Press will publish a short-fantasy piece entitled 'Dippin' and Dustin'' in April, I think.(Check out this page too for a Kickstarter project with a difference, where your contribution will buy not a book, but a new pair of lungs for JDP's founder, which certainly puts all my self-centred grumbling into perspective).

Other than that, my focus has been getting my first draft of my Victorian Fantasy novel finished, and reading all the Victorian/Neo-Victorian stuff I can, but more about that next time, once I pull myself back out of the 19th Century.

So, thanks for letting me ramble on, and on, and until then, then!