Fear can never be overcome by anger. It must be overwhelmed by hope.
At 62,500 words in my first novel and finally getting into the 3rd act. Written several thousand new words a day for the past few days. . . and several thousand more ripped out and rewritten. . .so averaging over 3500 words a day. . .watched a humorous side-note kind of character become a major influence on the story. . .didn’t see that coming. . . accidentally discovered the critical flaw of the hero and how he overcomes it. . . . but I am finally rounding the bend to the climax of the book where the big fu fu action happens and the really cool thing is. . . .my biggest problem now is not being able to type as fast as I see it play out in my mind. The pieces all fit in place and make sense.
I have come to a terrifyingly profound epiphany. . . .
. . . were it not for spell checker I would be basically, functionally illiterate
How the heck did Twain or Poe write all of this by hand? Dear God . . .this is just the first draft!
So a long time ago I taught martial arts. I used to tell my students (mostly kids) to not worry about dorfing a kick or punch. Dorfing was my term for screwing up badly. . . everyone dorfs a kick in training but if you focus on the mistake, you never move on and learn from it. This was a lesson I drilled into their heads class after class but, as it turns out, I didn’t really listen to myself.
When I write I agonize on getting the wording just right. I take great pains in the setup and flow of each scene to the point when I can paralyze myself. I see a dorf and I become obsessed with trying to fix it. I become unable to move forward until I perceive it as being just right.
So last night I am writing one of the big action scenes in my novel and, once again, I become fixated on getting it perfect until I realized, I am Uber Dorfing. . . .that is the term for being fixated on one’s dorfing. I realized that I am going to have to rewrite this book another 2 or 3 times at least. If I dangle a participle or trip and insert a double negative, life as I know it will not end. The world will continue to spin and I can, most importantly, fix it later.
It sounds silly I imagine to many, but the ability to forgive my dorfs made the words flow. I didn’t worry if they were perfect words, they were close enough for hand grenades and that is all I can really expect from a first draft.
Just thought I’d share the epiphany.
The man who taught me martial arts once gave me a box. A locked box to be precise but he did not give me the key. He told me that inside the box was something I would love and that would change my life, but I had to wait for 1 year top get the key for my next birthday. In the meantime, I should try and guess what was in the box.
At first I guessed the mundane things one might initially think of . . . money . . . treasure . . . a wide variety of material things. Then, I started to let my mind wander and began to imagine all kinds of fanciful things that might be hidden within the box. Secret and unexplainable things filled my mind . . . it could be anything within the box. There was no way of knowing. It was like some mirror view Schrodinger’s cat . . . it was nothing and anything all at once. Physics and pragmatism gave way to impossible possibilities and I imagined things that I could not even describe.
A year later he kept his word and offered me the key. I declined it. . . I knew what he had given me, I didn’t need to look in the box to see. He had given me dreams. . .
That is the question that has been bothering me for the past few days. . . just who am I writing for?
This is a question that has gotten into my mind the past few days because at 25k into my novel I am reading it and realizing I may or may not continue reading on from that part. I might not even make it that far. While the story is good, the dialog witty. . .I am writing for someone else.
So I am left wondering if maybe I just have not found my voice yet. Pounding out more writing will help with that but I am also left with a nagging feeling that I have been writing for someone else. It reminds of something Neil Gaiman said in his speech (Which is really awesome and worth watching) “Make Good Art”: The only projects he regrets are the ones he did for a reason other than really wanting to do them. That he writes things he wants to write so even if they fail, he still has the fulfillment of having written what he wanted to write.
So I am looking over what I have written and am left wondering if I am writing for me or for some idea of what some unnamed reader might like and buy.
So, lesson of the day, write for me. Combining that with the lesson before I am not going to restart, but from this point forward it will be what I dig. I will go back and renovate the rest later, redo it all if I have to. But from this point forward in my book, it will be shit I dig and how I dig it and fix the rest when I get done.
It is a powerful motivator. . . or should that be de-motivator? Fear of the inevitable rejection that is part of being a writer. It happens and will happen and you can’t stop it. It is part of the writing process, not everything you write will be gold. Sometimes the things you think are best no one else ‘gets’ so they are rejected. Sometimes the things you are really, really unsure of hit the spot and people like them.
In most things there are benchmarks that if you strive for them you’ll fall within acceptable parameters. Things can be measured and calculated so that your efforts have a good certainty of success if you follow those guides. Ys, writing does have some rules but even if you follow them, it might still suck. Even if it doesn’t suck it might fall outside current trends or needs. Even if you hit the right time with the right idea inside the guidelines. . . sometimes the current trend is to color outside the lines. All of that uncertainty creates. . .you guessed it. . .
Then there is another kind of fear. It is a lack of faith. Sometimes you look at words you wrote the day before and though you were sure they were rock solid then, now you are not so sure. You second guess, worry, and that restricts further words. Lack of faith in your words is a huge fear.
The worst fear though. . .at least for me. . .is being irrelevant. What if my best words at the best time about the best ideas are just. . . .nothing? That is the biggest and worst boogey-man in my writing closet. Irrelevance.
So I sent off several short stories to editors yesterday. They were sitting here and I had done nothing with them for over a year. I tweaked them and read them and I am pretty dang confident they were really good. I was also pretty confident that I am tired of fear. So if they are accepted, hooray for me in getting published. If they are not I will submit them someplace else and keep writing.
I am done letting fear guide my hand.
Ya. . .some stuff will suck but even if it does I will learn from it and move on. I used to tell students that the first hundred round-house kicks will be bad, the next thousand will be better but in the end, by the time they hit black belt they will have thrown an average of 25,000 roundhouse kicks. . . they’ll finally be doing good kicks. By the time they hit 4th dan and are a master they will have thrown over 100k and finally, they will be doing really good. If they ever hit 9th dan grand master, then they will be perfect. But each failure teaches a lesson. A slight modification of technique and timing that teaches us but only if we allow ourselves to throw them knowing they might fail. It is that willingness to be imperfect in our efforts that will guide us to achieving success.
So I threw a few kicks yesterday. I’ll throw some more today.
Some might hit.
Some might miss.
In the end. . .its ok either way.
Because at least I am still kicking.
I was sitting outside today having a morning cup of coffee and I noticed something. It is the time of year when the spring eggs from the geckos and anoles and salamanders are hatching. Most of the eggs look like tiny whitish-greenish balls stuck under leaves and blend in well (thanks Darwin). I happened to see one this morning just as the baby anole was starting to emerge. It was struggling, it’s egg tooth pushing and cutting and it was fighting with all its might to escape and be born.
You can’t help them. Even if you did have some technical way of actually providing assistance they would never understand and they’d just see this huge, overly hairy thing trying to mess with them and freak. So you just have to watch. You can only sit there and cheer them on, hope they make it, and witness it. That is all you can do.
Sometimes, when I am writing, I swear I see that same look from my girlfriend. That same pained “I wish I could help you through it but can’t” look I give the lizards. I know that at times when I am struggling with a passage or area or just with the writing in general she watches and wishes and hopes for me, but she can’t do anything. All she can do is witness it. That has to be hard to do for her. To watch someone she loves struggling and know that she can’t do anything to ease the struggle. The process is mine and I have to own it.
So I sat back and watched the lizard extricate itself in a long and arduous struggle and sipped my coffee. All the while I kept thinking, I bet she doesn’t know that I see those looks. . . that I don’t know she is watching, hoping, wishing she could help. Maybe I should find some way of telling her that I know.
The coffee, by the way, was Blue Mountain Blend from Fresh Market and was amazingly tasty today.