The weirdest thing happened to me this week, you guys. I wrote a short story.
I wrote a first draft of a thing. It wants to be a short story.
What’s weird about it is that I haven’t written any new fiction in almost two years. It’s a little daunting. I fiddled about quite a bit with my novel until the whole Doctor Who thing happened and took the wind out of my sails. But new stuff? There’s been nothing for quite some time. And that’s terrifying.
Oddly, what’s even more terrifying is looking at this new thing and thinking that it might be awful. What a fun quirk of the writer’s brain that is. And I wasn’t weirded out by the story at all, at first. What hit the panic button was asking someone to read it. The second I did that, I lost all momentum. The observation of the thing changed the creation of the thing. Heisenberg’s uncertainty short story. Or something like that.
And that’s really why I’m bringing it up now. Every week I spout some verbose nonsense and put it up here in blogland, where it is habitually read by fives and tens of people. That doesn’t make me nervous at all. Because these things I say are opinions, things that I can defend, things that are (usually) based on some objectify-able outside influence which you can absorb into your own satellite system of nerdiness, or not, at your will. My opinion doesn’t change your experience of a thing.
But when it’s something that I’ve created? Out of thin air? Out of my own tortured little brain? The thought of someone telling me it’s horrible? That actually hurts. I suppose it’s that juxtaposition of feely things that bothers me. I want to write but I don’t want to be harshly judged. But I write every week and throw it out into the interwebs for summary judgment. What hypocritical bullshit is that?
“Well, suck it up, furball. Criticism is an intrinsic part of art.”
Yes, yes, I know. If I want to be a writer (a fiction writer, an author, not just a small-time blogger) I need a thicker skin. And the only way to get a thicker skin is with scar tissue, I guess. Take the hit. The hit is necessary.
But taking the hit fucking suuuucks, man.
Why are they so different? Writing fiction and blogging? I’d like to ask a professional brain-poker about that. Am I using some other part of me to write fiction? That moment when I get a little seed of an idea, an image or a line, and I feel like I’ve got to feed it so it will go the hell away, that’s an amazing moment. Those are the moments that artists live for. Inspiration. And then, after you feed the idea and it grows into a thing and you work on it and polish it and make it pretty and it’s done? That’s amazing, too. I feel like it’s worth the fear. Isn’t it? I just think it’s interesting how nonchalant I am about the blogging and then the fiction writing gives me the creeping horrors.
Here’s the bottom line: I don’t know what else to do. If I’m not a writer, I don’t know why I’m here. Maybe I’m doing the wrong kind of writing. I’ll grant you that. But I had kind of a weird childhood and was trained from a very young age to value the written word, to take shelter in escapism, and that storytelling is one of the most important things that people can ever do. Fuck thumbs, stories are what make us human. And this fear, when it pops up, makes me question that. Makes me question my purpose on this planet.
I had a conversation with a very dear friend the other night. She’s nervous about applying to grad school, questioning herself a little. And I told her that she’s not allowed to quit until she tries. Being a failure is more noble than being a quitter. Being a failure means that you have gained the knowledge that you can’t do something. Being a quitter means that you’re ok with never having learned whether you can do something or not. And that’s cowardly. So she and I had this chat (and she’s still applying, hooray!) and then two or four beers later I was telling her about the new short story and the reader fear I have about it. All this existential questioning. And I realized that we were having the same conversation again, only backwards. And more slurring was involved. So what’s the difference? There is no difference. I just have to suck it up and be a big girl and do the thing I’m scared of. And that’s that.
So what have we learned? Probably not much. But I’m going to go ahead and give you fair warning: once I’ve gone through another couple of drafts of this story I’m going to post it on the blog. This may not be the right forum for my goofy fiction, but I’m comfortable here and I trust you guys. (Thanks for that, by the way. I owe you all a big fat lot of hugs and high fives.) And if I say I’ll post it, I have to. Hopefully that will take the fear away and make it just a plain old blog deadline. We’ll see how it goes.
Oh, and sorry for getting all deep and heady on you. Watch this and it’ll lighten your mood.