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It’s the epiphany that kills you. Not the slow pain that comes from the withdrawal. It may feel like that sinking feeling is going to be the end of you. I can’t say that I fault your logic. That instant in which you perceive reality to come crashing down on you because the pain and emptiness are unbearable. That instant when you can start to feel your stomach eat you from the inside because it is so desperate to get its juice on the sweet nectar that made it forget how hungry it was in the first place. The tremors? The muscle spasms? The soul-screeching self-degradation? No, that’s just the withdrawal. The withdrawal won’t kill you. You will just wish that it did.

Approximately three years ago, I had this idea that I could write a novel. Why not? I had been calling myself a writer behind closed doors for years. I had been journaling for years and had several secret novellas to my name, so how hard could it be to write a full-length novel? My first clue should have been the source material to my novel. I had gone back to one of my old manuscripts and shouted the seven words that must come from every writer who re-visits their old work: Oh my god; this is such crap. Something different happened this time on my trip down Nostalgia Avenue. The “Oh my god; this is such crap” thought was followed up with something most would consider unprecedented.

“I can work with this.”

So I began to work with it. I stretched it; I strained it; I tore it apart. I even changed the world in which the story takes place three times. I tried all of this because Inspiration told me that I could. Inspiration told me that writing a novel would be easy. Inspiration gave me that spark of dopamine that gives equivocates soaring through the skies with soaring past one’s word count goal. Inspiration made me giggle as I typed because the words would flow so effortlessly from my fingertips. Inspiration handed me complex character development on a silver platter as I supplied her with copious amounts of overpriced caffeine and witty “I promise that I’m not crazy; I’m just a writer!” banter back.

Then one day, Inspiration packed her bags and disappeared. No words, no developments, no “I promise that I’m not crazy” banter. Nothing would flow from these fingertips regardless of how hard I stared at my Microsoft Word 2010 screen.

I run a writing group, I thought to myself. A pretty damn successful writing group as it is. How is it going to look to my members when they see that their Organizer isn’t writing? Or worse, can’t write?

That’s when the first wave hit. You can always tell it’s the first wave because you foolishly believe that it will hit you the hardest. Usually, Inspiration would drain me of the copious amount of overpriced caffeine, and I would sleep like Rip Van Winkle every Tuesday night. I knew that something had been awry when I lay in my bed at 4:00 a.m., unable to process what I was thinking let alone why I was still awake. I dismissed it as a fluke and waited for the sun to rise, positive that Inspiration would return to her rightful home.

Then it happened the following week…and the following week. For seven months, I lived without Inspiration whispering in my ear all of the wonderful and atrocious acts that my characters had been committing.

At first, I played it off by claiming that other projects needed my attention. I’m not going to say that the time at which I started this blog and I hit my wall correlate, but it is certainly a coincidence. I also had not been journaling at all since starting my novel, I told myself. Surely I must continue with that since journaling was how I got started, right?

We all know this path: the Road of Excuses.

I’m too busy.

I can’t sit down long enough to write what I want.

I have other commitments.

It did/not help that life would perpetually get in the way. Breakups, move outs, checking in, always checking out. Life made the withdrawal worse, as it tends to, and then life became the perfect crutch. For the nights I would stare at my blank computer screen or an empty journal page trying my damnedest not to break down, I would whisk myself out with friends and alcohol to forget the blinding truth that constantly was bludgeoning me in the face. It was until that one day in which I stood in front of my mirror after yet another insomniac night and confronted the four words that I had been tormenting me for the duration of the withdrawal.

I AM A FRAUD.

I cried myself to sleep with that revelation ringing in my ears. Every single foundation on which I had built my identity as a writer had been shattered by a simple sentence. I spurned my work as intangible garbage. I dove head first into other distractions. I buried my fear of exposure and incompetence in my writers and their works because if I could not produce anything of value, they most certainly could. They do say that those who can’t teach, don’t they?

Then, as if she had never left, Inspiration came back and whispered one word into my ear.

Why?

I remember freezing if only for an instant. I had been out with friends, and with them being accustomed to me phasing in and out of conversations, they had not thought twice about me daydreaming. That question occupied me for the remainder of the night that I was sober enough to contemplate it.

I awoke to the same question ringing in my ear. Weary with hangover, I snapped.

BECAUSE IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE EASIER THAN THIS!

I stopped myself from spewing forth the stream of excuses this time. Really, I asked myself. What gave me the right to have it be easier than this? What made me so special that I could just have the words ooze from my fingertips onto the screen with little to no effort? What made me exempt from doing the work that writing requires?

Nothing. That’s what. Nothing made me more special than any of the SF/F/Spec Fic authors over whom I obsessed that my words should stream so easily when they assuredly toiled to produce theirs. Like [almost] everything else I had failed in at life, I was failing at writing because I was failing at doing the work. In the true fashion that defines my generation, I wanted my story written, edited, published and acclaimed now now NOW! I wanted it without the work because I had made the fallacious assumption that anything good worth coming to me would come with little or no struggle. Hey, if it’s easy, it has to be good, right? Oh Errors, let me count your fuck-ups.

So, what happened?

Through kicking, screaming, cursing and constant self-commenting, I finished my second draft of my novel last week. It is still quite bare bones as I have not remotely begun to touch this incredibly complex and imperfect world in which my protagonist is just trying to survive despite her formidable disability.  That fear is still there, mind you. That fear of fraudulence, shame and ridicule. However, its antagonist Perseverance has also taken up residence in my conscience, and it was Perseverance that brought me back from the brink.

I am not special. I am not gifted, talented, or exceptional in any way other than the arranging of snarky comments, and that will only get you so far in this world. I am, however, willing to do the work. And, in the end, that is what being a writer is about.

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One Comment

  1. So, so awesome. Congratulations on doing the work and getting through that draft. Fear can go f*ck itself.


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