FEAR, THE MIND KILLER

Kill Your Mind! And the rest will follow!

Kill Your Mind! And the rest will follow!

So just today another writer (who shall rename nameless unless they want to be) went on a pretty writerly rant expressing their fears and concerns and doubts about their abilities and accomplishments. What struck me the most about what was said is how those are pretty much the exact same thoughts I have when I'm feeling low. I told the person that and now I tell you, because, I'm pretty sure that if you write or create or are a person who does stuff you also have these thoughts. And one of the things that helps me is realizing that I am not thinking these things because they are true, I am thinking them because I am a writer and this is one of the side effects of that condition (along with constipation, trouble sleeping, and worsening arthritis. Please see a doctor if you write for more than four hours.)

So...for those other writers out there who find themselves plagued by their giant sandworms, here are a few of my "favorite" doubts.

I AM GOING TO RUN OUT OF IDEAS/RUN OUT OF FUNNY!

I have a backlog of stories. A serious backlog. There's a file on my computer with at least thirteen possible book ideas in the order I plan to write them. I don't say that to brag. I say that, because I still sometimes panic if I haven't come up with a new idea in a while. I fear I'll lose my mojo, that there's nothing left, that I don't have enough originality (see below) or humor (see below) and that it's all over and I'm done. And then eventually, I'll think of something new and be sated for a month or two or three before I again start to panic about running out of ideas.

I also worry that I am losing my humor. I spent the last...let's go with ten or so years, pretty much dedicated to writing and performing comedy. I studied it a little and love to bring up Bergson or Freud's theory on jokes and humor to show off. However, lately many of my ideas haven't been strictly comic. And that scares me. I fear I may not "have it" anymore. That I'm rusty from not reading/watching enough comedy. I fear possibly that I'm doing that thing I hate where I'm unconsciously equating "serious" with "good" and in an attempt to write better am stripping my ideas of all their jokes. And I worry that someday, people won't find what I write funny any more as you see happen again and again with funny types.

MY IDEAS AREN'T ORIGINAL ENOUGH!

Comedy is essentially reactive. Most humor works on the basis of taking an audience's expectations and then subverting in a surprising way for laughs. (See what I mean about the showing off.) However, in most cases, this requires your audience to have a frame of reference, an expectation to subvert. Essentially, most comedy is derivative of something else. 

Now, I don't always write comedy. Mostly, but not always. However, it is how I've come to writing and usually my ideas get filtered through a process that has been shaped by comedy, so I end up with new takes on old tropes and juxtapositions of two seemingly incompatible ideas. But rarely is any of it purely, truly original and sometimes that feels like failure.

I SUCK! THIS SUCKS! WHY AM I DOING THIS?!?

ALL writers feel this one. Usually it comes after a set of particularly brutal or intricate notes that basically tell you, "Change everything." Suddenly, looking down at the precious baby manuscript  you hoped was perfect and realizing that you have weeks more work sorting out problems ahead of you, you fall into despair. This can be especially difficult at the early stages of a writing career when you have no prospects, no deadlines, and only yourself for motivation. I recommend heading for a bookstore and looking at all the crap books that DO get published for motivation. You can pick one up and say, "Well, I'm definitely better than that."

REJECTED!!!

Rejection is a special kind of "This sucks! I suck! Everything sucks!" In this case, your brain, which is still being a douche, has evidence to point to. Exhibit A: this agent doesn't like you. Exhibit B: this other agent doesn't like you. Exhibit C-Z + 20: These agents don't like you. (Not to mention reviews. Not to mention AMAZON reviews. Not to mention the comments section.)

Know that everyone gets rejected. EVERYONE. Read any author blog, listen to any author interview, no matter how good they are, they have faced rejection. A few years ago, I went to a signing for one of my favorite authors, Jasper Fforde. One of the things I took from that was his experience getting published. He wrote a book, one of my favorites of his, The Big Over Easy, a nursery rhyme mystery about the murder of Humpty Dumpty. It was not published. He wrote a sequel to that about Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It was not published. Then he wrote The Eyre Affair. It was published...but it took YEARS. Eventually, obviously, all the rest of the books were published, but it shows the kind of persistence and patience you need to have.

Before Inkshares and The Sword and Laser contest, I tried to get my book published traditionally. A book I read (I'm too lazy to go find it) said to make a list of 50 agents before you start and start sending out queries 5 or 10 at a time. I did 20-25. All were rejections. Then I did a complete rewrite and another 20-25. Again...all rejected. The last two years, I've submitted scripts to WildClaw Theatre's Deathscribe competition. After my first go, I spent an entire year on a single idea. I put everything I had into this script. I believed it was the best thing I had written, the culmination of all the work and lessons learned over the course of my writing career. My absolute A game. And I still didn't make it in. I was fairly devastated. I vowed I wouldn't submit again. After all, what was the point? If something I spent a year thinking about and working on didn't get in, what chance does anything else have? I stormed off in a huff.

Nearly a year and the faded memory of that pain later, I just submitted my second script to Deathscribe. The culmination of all the work and lessons learned over the course of my writing career. My absolute A game. 

Basically, it's gonna suck. And be upsetting. And you're going to complain and cry and rage... 

...and you know what? That's okay. Do what you need to do. Just when you're done, when that pain fades a little, you need to pick yourself up, sit yourself down, and start writing again. Just like Jasper Fforde. Just like me. Just like all of us. Because you're a writer. And writers gonna write.

There are a ton of other fears and doubts out there that I've had and that other writers have had. But these are the ones I can think of just now. Also, Critical Role is on and I MUST watch. So for now this is it. I hope it helps. Also, maybe tweet at me with your doubts and fears if you want. Perhaps I'll do another post with submitted issues we all face. But for now, good luck.