Expunging Demons for Dummies
The only reason that’s still keeping me from living my life to the fullest is the same one it’s always been.
No, I’m not partying.
No, I don’t have a “complicated” love life.
No, I don’t stay up late.
No, I’m not distracted.
What I am is scared. Scared beyond words to pour my heart into my work and let it get smashed. Not that it necessarily would. It’s possible my work would get liked. Maybe loved, even. Or it could leave everyone indifferent. It’s hard to tell.
I write 2,000 words every day. I publish a fair bit of them, too. I mean, I’m trying my hardest. But but but.
There is always that little something holding me back. What if they (whoever they are) don’t like it. What if they think it’s silly. What if it’s banal. Or worse, boring. What if what if what if.
I write 2,000 words every day. I just said that. I know you know. I’m reminding myself. I am doing the work. It’s usually pretty decent, especially once I’ve had a chance to edit it. I’ve been a writer for decades. I know the drill.
But my work so far has been in non-fiction. Where I comment and criticize and lecture and bitch from a position of autoritative (fake or otherwise) know-it-all-ness. Some of my essays are intensely personal. Most are about what clowns politicians are. That’s easy. It doesn’t expose my fragile soft bits at all.
I write 2,000 words every day. Among those there is fiction. I have written one novel so far, which I don’t like yet. Needs work. I’m writing another one, which I’m more or less actively editing as I go. And I’ve written 20-odd short stories in the last two months. I am doing the work. You know that too. Just reminding myself again.
I know I can’t control what people will think. I know the only thing I can control is my work. I know thta’s what I need to devote my energies to. And I do: Did I mention I write 2,000 words a day?
So what’s wrong?
Fear. It makes me hesitate to write like I would dance if I knew no one was watching. Oh, and to send my stuff around. To shop it to publishers. To look for an agent. A magazine. A literary journal. Would I live my life to the fullest if I had more submissions out there, waiting to be rejected? No, not yet. Because, see, most of the time when you’re a writer - especially, like me, a writer who’s been out of the game for a while because she was busy homeschooling three kids - most of the time, I was saying, your stuff gets rejected. Not because it’s not good, but more often than not because it’s not an appropriate fit for the publication or agent or magazine or what have you that you were targeting. You have to get rejected a lot before your stuff finds its home. I do think I would live a life more full if I managed to find a home for my work. There, I said it.
And that’s the part I find difficult. Even though I know it’s coming. The rejections, I mean. I know and expect the polite emails thanking me for my interest. That fear or reading yet another one of those makes me hesitate in the writing, too. It holds my fingers back. It makes me second-guess myself. Should you really write that? Would that cause this story to be rejected? Is this still trendy, to talk about oneself? Should I try sci-fi even though I hate it because of the sheer number of calls for submissions in that genre? Should I write dirty sex scenes? Would that work? Or is it too vulgar?
That fear, of being rejected again and again and again, makes me insert my big fat head between my fingers and the story they want to tell. It’s my inner editor, ChickenShitLittle. Who takes away passages that might offend, removes vivid words and replaces them with long-ass metaphors, adds adjectives, describes the setting when I hate scene setting. I mean, who cares that the lilacs were blossoming if it doesn’t advance the story, huh?
The fear is the inner editor is my worst enemy is what, exactly, gets in the way of me living my life to the fullest. I may need an exorcism.