This is what it feels like to be me, right now:
Inside my chest I have this massive ball of yarn. I don't know how it got there, but it feels like it's expanding and displacing some really important stuff. For a moment, I wonder if that's why my eyes keep dribbling... but then I remember that the real reason I feel this terrible is because I just checked my email, and someone told me my writing isn't any good.
There's this scene in Sister Act Two where Whoopi Goldberg's character tells Lauryn Hill's character that the way to know if she's meant to be a singer is if she wakes up and she can't think about anything other than singing. She got the idea from Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet," which I read in college but didn't retain, because it was college. I like the idea, though. Awesome idea.
Except that I don't get up in the morning and think about writing.
Instead, I usually think about not-writing. I think about checking facebook and making breakfast and eating it while looking at my RSS feed, checking my email and facebook, and then checking my facebook again. Anything but writing. Oh Lordy, please don't make me write.
When I finally do sit down to write, the first five hundred words are a decidedly uphill battle. Eventually I get my flow on, though, and I get through it. I've done this day after day, all day, for the past roughly six hundred and thirty-five days, and in my every spare moment for the four years before that, and then on a pretty regular basis for the four years before that.
Ten. Freakin. Years.
I've worked hard at my writing, and although my family and friends have been wonderfully encouraging, right now I feel exactly zero percent closer to making a living at it. Because some dude I don't know has told me that he liked the premise of a short story I sent him but that the diction was "cumbersome," and that I should take this opportunity to study the piece and figure out how to make it more impactful. Then he was kind enough to remind me that in a short story, every word counts. Thanks, buddy.
As if I hadn't been over that story thirty-four bajillion times before submitting it.
As if I hadn't been writing my entire life to get to the point where I could write that story as well as I did.
So I've got this ball of yarn inside my chest, and I can't help thinking about how everybody keeps saying you should only be an artist if you can't imagine not being an artist, when there are about a million things I can imagine doing that would be a *@%^! of a lot more financially rewarding and a *@%^! of a lot less repeatedly, endlessly demoralizing.
This is what it feels like to be me right now, and it doesn't matter how many people leave me a comment and say that they like what I write, I'm going to keep feeling this way until sometime tomorrow morning, when I'm about five hundred new words into my novel.
I know this is true, but *@%^! if I like it.
Because even if my mom and a few choice friends are right and I don't suck, a dude out there with a red pen feels that my work does, and as a result I'm one sweet paycheck further from being able to afford to continue to do this in three months, when my self-granted time runs out. Sandra Bullock makes over fifty grand an hour for acting in GRAVITY, and I work full-time for almost two years and end up with a cool two-fitty, and a bulging knapsack full of rejection. That is what the world at large thinks my work is worth.
If you need me, I'll be over here in the corner.
- - -
A FINAL NOTE: Good writing isn't magic. It's hard work, and the greatest reward for that work is to share it with others. So if you enjoyed this little (ad-free) piece of my brain... please share the love on your social internets. And pick up a copy of my Short Story Collection, whilst you're at it. You can get it as an ebook for less than a fancy cuppa coffee, and it'll last waaay longer.
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