Friday, July 30, 2010

In Which I Drone On

I've struggled recently.  Every word that came seemed obtuse, full of awkward angles that didn't really work with the next equally mishapen word.  I started worrying, of course.  That's what being a writer actually is about, right?    We worry about the words, the stories, whether people are going to think we're one step away from screaming about The End Times on some corner.

Of course, then at least you'd have a dystopian novel to sell.  But whatever.

I was worried.  But it wasn't the normal I'm a fraud and people (like my agent, my wife, my friends...) are finally going to figure this out! (And let me pause to point out who was first on that list... we all need serious drugs, people.  Really.)  No, this was worrying of the existential sort.  The type of thing dudes like Kierkegaard and Sartre wrote about.  The type of thing that inspires people to wear black turtlenecks and smoke pipes or clove cigarettes as they stand around the coffee house talking about how conflicted they are. 

You know, whatever.

The point is: the last few weeks, I've faced something I've never faced in all my time writing.  I lost my confidence. 

This is bad.

I tend to write pretty freely.  I come up with an idea and riff.  Kinda like this:

It's nothing for me to write 4,000 words in one sitting.  And some of them are good words, at least half of which I will keep and will see a late draft.  What I'm left with is a very raw form of my story.  From there, I shape it into brilliance.

Feel free to use a different word. 

The last month has been tough.  I've cried a lot and listened to bands like the National.  I watched Lifetime movies and asked my wife if she thought I was fat.  All because everything I put down felt flat.  And awful.  And I hated every single damn word.

This is bad, people.

But something clicked this week.  First, I read a blog post about writing every day.  You could tell this writer really wanted it, which made me think, "Hey, *I* really want this..."  And then I had an esoteric exchange with another friend on Facebook where we quoted movies and talked about heady things like Truth and Beauty and I realized, "Damn, that's what writing has been for me - a way to find Truth."  And yes, I realize how pretentious that sounds, but you're going to have to deal with, okay?  Fine.  And then I read a great book and it was the proverbial tipping point.

When I was in graduate school, I decided I wanted to write.  Two years ago, I actually started working on becoming a writer.  It has been one of the most confounding, greatest, wonderful, frustrating things I've ever undertaken, filled with highs and lows.  The highs make you feel like you're Hulk Hogan or something, larger than life.  Like all you need to do is follow the 3 Demandments (Training, Saying your Prayers, Eating your vitamins) and soon enough you'll be bodyslamming Andre the Giant like it's nothing, right?  The lows make you feel like Hulk Hogan, too.  Just the reality television show version, limping around and seeming so old. 

I love writing.  I love being a writer.  And maybe that's why the past month has been so hard.

This was originally going to be a post about inspiration.  How I find it in so many places.  Music, movies, books.  How it will strike when I'm certain that my life is ending and I will have to take up knitting or some shit.  And maybe this post is exactly about that, I don't know.

The point is, I sat down last night and I wrote 5,000 words.  Like they were going out of style.  I sat in the coffee house, trying not to laugh at what I was writing.  But not because it was awful.  No.  NO!  Because it was so damn great.

I cried.  Okay, I didn't cry.  But I did go home and fall asleep with the peace of a child.  Happy.  Content.  At least until I open the file today and start writing once again. 

Regardless, it feels good to be back.


  1. Wb. I haven't ever lost my confidence, I've never really had it. I used to have innocence, which is almost as good, but that's long gone, replaced with naivete. I am not sure what the next level is, but I cannot wait to get there.

  2. I guess congratulations are in order then, yes? Assuming I understood this existential post correctly.

    Today's guest blogger is Rose Cooper!

  3. The struggle to get to the good stuff is necessary for two reasons:
    1. It humbles
    2. It makes the "good" stuff we write so very satisfying

    Congrats on being back.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.


    Go forth and be sustainable...

  6. You've pretty much nailed the 'Writer's Roller Coaster'. I've ridden it a few times myself, and nothing feels better then topping those hills and cruising downt the far side.

  7. Yep, that is the roller coaster all right.

    Day 1: Genius!
    Day 2: Moron.

    This cycle pretty much repeats week after week for me. But man those highs are fantastic!

    By the way, 5k words in a sitting is freaking phenomenal. Jealousy inducing. Way to go.

  8. Jonathan - It will come. Don't worry...
    Matthew: You read correctly. Crisis averted. Kinda.
    K.M. - Yes and No. Even when I've had tough writing days before, I never felt that sense of dread. Still, grateful.
    Ray: I'm pretty sure this all stops when you're famous, right? RIGHT?
    Jeff: After re-reading those 5,000, maybe not as psyched... Still - you're correct. The cycle repeats. Damn the man.

  9. ha! Way to go! I'm a rapid cycler when it comes to writing, but you're right--I think I always do feel, at least on some level, that no matter how difficult it is right now, at least I'm a good writer. And only on a couple of occasions has that bottom dropped out on me where I became worried that I'd never write anything worthwhile again. And those times. Damn, they sucked. Of course, right now my issue is that I am trying to edit for someone who really believes in me to get this shit together into something she thinks she saw in it (and that she paid for, lol), and I'm...worried I am not actually as good as she hopes I might be, haha.

    So here's to continued confidence! (And holy shit 5k in a sitting is amazing, even if you only keep half! I aim for 500 to 1000 a day when I'm first drafting, and I don't always make that! :) )

  10. You got back on the band wagon, proper.
    Congratulations on the writing.

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