I’ve been trying for ages to finish whatever it was I thought I was starting in this post but screw it. I’m just going to do this Buzzfeed-style. Except Buzzfeed is all about brevity and GIFs and I’m all about rambling and also sometimes GIFs. Whatever, let’s do this.
3 Things I’ve Learned In A Year And A Half Of “Trying To Be A Writer”
1. I kind of hate writing
I mean, I love it. But I haaaaaate it.
I always sort of knew this might happen. I mean, it took me ages to start enjoying reading again after I did my Literature degree. I liked interior design a lot more before I moved into a flat that needed to be completely redecorated. Nothing is as much fun when you have to do it. But I don’t think I ever suspected how painful writing would be if I forced myself to do it.
I’ve been writing the same story on and off this entire time. I’ve written a handful of other things as well, including Bloody Zombies, but basically I’m working on Faustina. Last year, I wrote about two-thirds of it, one of the biggest chunks of writing I’ve ever done, then I rewrote it from third-person past to first-person present, then I threw it all out. That hurt. Now I’m at about the same point on my current draft. I don’t think I want to throw this one out but that last 20,000 words is coming an awful lot more slowly than the first 20,000. I’ve written most of the really fun bits. Also, I’m working in Scrivener (which I thoroughly recommend, by the way), which allows you to write scenes separately and juggle them around, so at the moment what I have is a collection of isolated scenes that aren’t joined together, so many of those missing words are just going to be transitions. Which are not that much fun.
When I’m in the mood to write, you can’t stop me. When I’m not, I will do pretty much anything to avoid it. “Hmm, I should really get some writing done to— What’s this? A mundane and unimportant task that could definitely wait until later? This looks like a job for WRITING AVOIDANCE GIRL!”
2. Nobody cares what I do (as long as I’m safe and happy)
When I decided to take a part-time job and spend the free time working on my writing, I felt excited for maybe a week. Then the squirrels of Anxiety started yelling in my head. (I don’t know where the line between being “a worrier” and medical Anxiety is exactly but I think I dance pretty close to it a lot of the time. And by “dance” I mean “curl up in a ball and cry”.) And the squirrels of Anxiety are mean.
For a long time I was afraid to tell more than a handful of people what I was doing, because I thought they’d agree with the squirrels and try to stop me. I’m a pretty stubborn person and usually, if anything, being told not to do something makes me want to do it more. But this was something I felt really insecure about already, so I was afraid that if anyone challenged me I wouldn’t be able to defend it.
Of course, when I finally did start telling people about it, reactions ranged from “Oh, okay” to “Wow, that’s awesome!” and not one person expressed overwhelming concern that I would starve to death in a ditch somewhere before my thirtieth birthday. It’s not that my friends and family don’t care about me. It’s that no one will ever be as consumed with worry about the minute details of my life as I am – because, frankly, none of it actually matters. And that’s something I really needed to know.
3. I’m insecure
After all that stuff about squirrels you’re probably going to be thinking “Well, duh” but I generally don’t think I’m insecure. I don’t (usually) worry about my weight or my appearance and I don’t (usually) care what other people think about me and basically I think I’m pretty cool, if you like that sort of thing.
But I am all kinds of insecure about my writing. I guess I do think I’m pretty good at writing, but I never feel particularly proud of any of it. If I read some back and it seems kind of “meh” it’s because it’s terrible and I’m terrible and everything’s terrible. And if I read some and it seems pretty good, actually, then I just think that because it’s mine and anyone else would just be embarrassed for me. And if someone else reads it and says it’s good, even if they’re someone I’ve never met and have no reason to worry about hurting my feelings, then they’re just being nice.
In fact, I honestly can’t think what would break me out of the conviction that I suck. Publishing a bestseller? I’d be terrified that that was my peak and I’d never write something that successful again. Reaching JK Rowling levels of success? I don’t know, I think I’d just feel like I’d been lucky. Although I’d like to think that all the mansions and jetskis and magical wish-granting unicorns I could buy would distract me from the misery of existence.
A change like that has to come from within, really. I haven’t figured it out yet. I think I will, one day, I just hope it doesn’t take me too long.