Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fear and Loathing

I just read a writer-friend's post on The Abyss of Suckitude and she has nailed some things right on the head.  Maybe it's the artistic temperament, but I think we all go through some version of what she describes.  It got me thinking about this last year of writing...and not writing...and why I've been in such a funk.  I'm working on my third YA novel, now, and each one has been a different experience.

My first story was in many ways a catharsis for me.  It was a taking back of things in my childhood that had been so rudely stolen by the dysfunction of my family.  I know.  There is dysfunction in all families. But trust me when I say mine is pretty royally screwed up.  So, I took things from my MC and forced her to grow up and confront her own guilt and longing.  Catharsis.  (not necessarily "writing") I don't know if I'll ever publish it, but I will treasure it.

My second novel was a journey.  I learned where my writing could go and gained more confidence in it. I crafted and molded and dug deep.  I met characters who refuse to leave me even now, refuse to be quiet while I try to move on.  They are still waiting for their day in the sun.  I have to believe they will find it when they are truly ready.  Or at least, when the world is ready for them.

Novel #3 is a whole new experience.  In some ways, I'm afraid of it.  I have big plans for it...maybe too big.  That is part of the problem.  What if I choke?  What if in the end, I truly deeply suck?  There is only so long I can blame the upheaval that has been the last three years of my life for hindering my writing.  Now I need to take charge and make it happen.  What if I can't do it?  There are people I don't want to disappoint, including me.  What if I only think I can write? Am I kidding myself?  If that kind of doubt isn't enough, the next step is to pick apart my draft and search for every fault just so I can beat myself in the head with it.  How many good writers do that? I have almost managed to convince myself that all good writers to that.

But somewhere deep down, there is this odd little person who thinks she can really write.  Who believes she has some fascinating stories to tell.  And behind that funny little person is a host of characters all waiting to be heard.  Waiting to be discovered.  Waiting to change someone's life, even if it just means they live in someone else's head (or heart) for a short time.

I've taken my share of rejection and handled it.  I don't blame my crappy childhood for my adult failures (mostly). If anything, I might have to give thanks for it.  The store of emotions and experiences I have to play with is vast and oh so interesting.  I've learned to kick myself harder than anyone else can just to stay ahead of things and that's not always bad.  What doesn't kill us makes us better writers, right?

And then I find those bits of gold that remind me why I write.  Those same gilded clubs I beat myself with are what make me a writer.  They are voices that won't be silenced.  The moments of crystalline brilliance that I cannot be afraid to own.  The little morsels of humanity that force us into a kind of intimacy with ourselves that only books can bring—both in the writing and in the reading.

So I'm going to kick my fear and self-loathing in the butt and write a stunning YA novel.  You know that saying:  Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.  ~Ambrose Redmoon

I think I have found just enough in my writing to make that judgement.


  1. Good for you! Fear and self-loathing need some good butt-kicking. I'm fighting right beside you.

  2. Yes, you WILL write a stunning YA novel, and I can't wait to read it! Happy butt-kicking. :)

    Thanks for linking to my post.... Glad some of it resonated for you.

  3. You can do it Mary Ann!

    I'm reading Terry Pratchett's I Shall Wear Midnight, and he calls the negative thoughts of fear and loathing: the thoughts that aren't really our own, the thoughts that think themselves and it's our job to identify them for what they really are.

    I will be on the lookout for the self-loathing thoughts that think themselves and try to tell me they're all mine.

  4. Thanks, gals! We'll all kick some butt! Kate, I love that piece from Terry Pratchett. I'll be playing that in my mind every day...

  5. You can do it! You will write a stunning YA novel. You have a great attitude to do so.

  6. I cannot wait to read your book(s) after everything I know you're throwing into your writing. It will pay off!
    In the meantime, a small payoff: the "Irresistibly Sweet" blog award for you:

  7. Thanks for all the support. You guys are AWESOME!

    And thanks for the extra boost, kiperoo!


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