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The Thrill of Having Written and the agony of Writing

My biggest problem with writing seems to be the fear that the act of writing itself will somehow not be as good as whatever supposed brilliance is floating around my noggin. That is, of course, stupid, because how would I know? And yet, half the problem with This Thing I’m Writing is just the simple issue of my not putting words on the cyber page.I’m so in love with the idea of my story, the sheer world that has been created, that I’m terrified I’m going to ruin it somehow with my clumsy attempts to share it.

This is the part where I whine: I use Scrivener, which makes things a little weird, because while it tracks your word count like an obsessed auditor, it’s all in weird little snapshots and I’m finding the idea of writing on boundless notecards to be strangely offputting. Writing is hard. And also? Writing is hard.

In effort to commit myself to write (by the way, that’s part of my excuse for the absence of blog updates: I am loathe to write words that aren’t going toward This Thing I’m Writing*), I made an agreement with Aych while I was in SF this June: I would write 500 words a day, or 3500 words a week. That, in theory, should give me something reasonably Thing I’m Writing* sized after six months. Our agreement is that we would check in with each other on Wednesdays and report in. Aych sometimes scares me, because I know for a fact that she knows how to beat people up, so I hoped that it would help me stay on track. Plus, I don’t want her to mock me, which she has indeed threatened to do.

In truth, it worked for about a week.

I’m such a lazy bastard. Now, in my defense, I haven’t given up, I’m just eking along, writing closer to half of my goal, which is dumb because I used to write 1500 words a day for Conde Nast, if not more, and I still wrote fiction for grad school. Mostly because I had to, though, which is the crux of the issue. I need to “have to”.

It’s a weird myth that only the good writers get published. There are some lousy-assed writers out there getting published, who have agents and book deals and call themselves an author even though all they did was repackage some shit their dad said or old badly-written blog posts (please note: this does not refer to people whose books I own, for instance if your initials are MS, WM, GZ or JA). If you have any doubt of that, just look at the petri dish of the blogosphere: there are some JACKED writers out there with hit counts that MAKE NO SENSE. But what sets them apart (and those great, unlauded writers) from, oh, ME is that they are typing a lot more text into their empty DOC files. I know this. Of course I do. Blah. I should probably eat more green leafy vegetables too, but look! Candy!

It comes down to the lesson I learned in the pottery studio, at a profound level. You’ve got to persist, insist and exist as an artist (or a writer), which means that you “just keep making”, even though you are pretty sure it’s going to suck. Sometimes it’s just easier to do that on a potter’s wheel than when faced with a blinking cursor.

In semi-related news, one of my short stories (mentioned a few times in this blog as “the sleep story”) will be appearing in the upcoming issue of Drunken Boat, which you can read here. I’m banking on the fact that the thrill of Having Written and the feedback therein will give me some momentum to move forward. Here’s hoping.

*I have nothing against the word “novel” ok? And I’m sure that I’ll start using the word “novel” when I have a “novel” but until then, it’s not a “novel”. It’s a collection of larger snippets that is trying to be something more, and also, I hate how pretentious it sounds to say “I’m working on a novel”. It sounds quite a bit like saying “I’m not really a waitress”. It might also have something to do with the fact that “novel” is a scary word and I’m a super big chicken.