I say this every year, usually two or three times a year, but it’s time for me to decide how badly I want to be a “writer”. And I don’t mean as a technical communicator, my “chosen at the time because I was offered a very nice internship” profession. No, I mean the type of writer who takes the accolades and abuse by friends, family, peers, and complete strangers, and moulds the accolades and abuse into something marketable. I say I’m going to do it every damn year, and every damn year sees me doing the same thing – sweet fuck all about it.
I’ve been writing since, well, to be honest with you, I can’t remember when. When did I know I wanted to do this for a living? It was after I first read Lord of the Rings for the first time at 11-years old. I read that trilogy and I knew there was nothing else I wanted to do but write books. Of course, at 11, you think it’s easy. Thirtyone years later I’m still waiting for that first novel; but that’s neither here nor there at the moment. Now, when did I realize that was pretty good at this writing thing? Well, I’ll let you know when I come to that realization. Seriously, I’m not being funny here. While I come across as quite confident and sure of myself, and I honestly believe I can write anything you want me to, no matter how much it is liked or how “moved” it makes people, I will still think it is shite. And that’s just the way it’s always been for me. I have a deep seeded fear of failure that probably prevents me from looking at the true reality of things.
I have a published book, a little non-fiction title published by a small press in my hometown of Edmonton, Alberta. The book had a one-time print run of 10,000 copies and I got paid a one-time fee when the book went to print. I had two months to research and write the book (which I did while keeping a full-time job as well). I should be pleased about this, should wear this like a badge of honor. I don’t. I’m more embarrassed by the book than anything. And for the life of me, I can’t explain why that is. I should be proud. I was just out of college; at the time I was asked to write the book I hadn’t even crossed the auditorium stage to pick up the fake version of my degree certificate. I should be proud that someone from my school thought of me as a writer when she took an internship at a local publisher’s and recommended me to her boss. I churned out 35,000 words in two months, for the most part at night away from my full-time job. I’ve had a book signing in a local Chapter’s store. I got to give a speech at a local school in front of 300 kids about the benefits of reading and writing. That wouldn’t have happened without this book I’m so embarrassed about.
At times I think I’m embarrassed by it because it reminds me so much of my normal tedious writing I do at work. It didn’t feel as creative as I thought it would be. I often joke to people that they should just stop reading after the introduction because it’s all downhill from there. Maybe I’ve got an over-inflated ego about my own sense of value – pretty shocking because I still struggle to accept any form of compliment about my writing. Maybe I’m just embarrassed to be in print because I believe I’m not good enough to be there? Having seen some of the red ink on essays and creative work submitted at school, I am kind of leaning towards that one.
Each year comes and goes and I set myself little targets and watch them aimlessly float by content that I can still write next year. Yes, I can write next year. My question is though, and I don’t know if I want to hear an answer, is what the Hell am I writing for these days? Do I still believe in the dream I had all those many years ago? Do I still want some kid to put down a book I have written and say to himself, “this is what I want to do when I’m older”? Buried within the crusty exterior of styling gel and cranium I know the dream still lives on. The dream still runs from the bad guy down a hallway that keeps stretching. It still wakes up just before I hit the pavement after falling from my biplane. The wheels still turn, the ideas still formulate, the excited murmurs of a child still seep from within and propel me forward, sometimes wobbling like that first ride on your bike without the training wheels on.
I need to re-find the habit to write every day. This is a passion, not a chore. I should want nothing more than to sit at my laptop or with a pen and paper in hand if I’m feeling old school and jot away. The craft needs to become my bitch; not the other way around as it is now. I need to hone and hone and hone my skills. I need to play with the ideas that percolate in and stain the darkest depths of me. I need to be able to sit and write for hours at a time. I’ve done it before. I should be able to do it again. I took part in Nano twice, the contest where you try and write a 50,000 book in the month of November. I wrote one – a very comical tongue-in-cheek dating advice book for men that will probably never see the light of day, and this past November worked on a supernatural thriller – but it proves I can write for hours at a time. I’m a procrastinator though. Always have been. I thought I had mono as an early adult but it turns out I was just really lazy. Who knew?
So, if the dream is still there and I can write for extended periods of time; why is my only writing outlet this blog? Why am I not seeking other avenues of publication? Why am I not trying to sell a book or two or myself for that matter? Quite simply, it’s that deep seeded fear of failure coming back to bite me in my damn near perfect ass.
I have only sent my finished children’s novel out to one publisher. One. They loved it. They wanted to publish it. They also wanted me to cover the initial cost of the first print of 1000 copies in case it didn’t sell. After much deliberation using my not-so-stellar math skills, I decided for me to make money off this book I’d have to see a fourth print run of 1000 copies. Doable? Absolutely. When he told me their highest selling book was in its sixth print run, I had doubts. I have yet to receive a rejection letter for anything I have written. I have received complaints about the published book, via Facebook, but I lived with those.
I have entered contests with short stories and not won them. I don’t even know how well I did or if the stories even made it to the intended audience. But I never received a scathing criticism about any of them. If I had, I’m not sure I’d still be writing.
A big part of me is afraid that once the rejection letters arrive, once I’m told that something I’ve written isn’t what they are looking for or is too similar to something else, or worse, just doesn’t meet their standards, the only words I will hear in my mind is “I’m just not good enough!” I don’t write for praise, although I absolutely smile for days when I get it (admit it, it is nice hearing someone compliment your work), but I don’t write to have my insides ripped apart either. I write, like we all do, from the very core. What is on page I believe in. When that gets mashed up and spit out by someone else, well, I have been known to put the proverbial pen down for weeks at a time. I’ve had professors tear me a new one reviewing my work. I almost transferred into the travel program at one time. Seriously. The thought of sitting behind a desk and sending people to places I’d never go appealed to me.
But I kept writing. I had to. And now, when I’m telling myself I need to write more, to submit more, to change my online presence and get myself out more, I’m scared shitless in every way imaginable. The rejections could come flooding in. I can’t swim. And I know the dream that still lives inside me can’t either. I don’t think I can face a day where that little spark that lets me believe I’m only one word away from achieving my dream goes the way of Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic. Without the fanfare of course.