Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tuesday worries and rants

I know these numbered worries below are ridiculous, and I also know, that on some level, they actually work to energize me because I have to rally against them.  Ultimately it all ends up in digging deeper, shutting out these voices and working harder, which is always a good thing for a writer.  Anyway, I wonder if other writers feel the insecurities that I do and how they manage. Or, perhaps being insecure is just part of being a writer--that extra sensitivity, the feeling that you are like the Fool on the tarot card, about to step off the mountain and out into the unknown. Okay, here are the rants and my talking myself down:

1. I am not working hard enough (every other writer is producing much more than I am.) This idea may crop up even after I have put in 6 hours and my head is about to explode.)
2. I may have written something good once--and I say that only because reviewers said it--but that doesn't mean I can do it ever again. But wait, I'm a book critic and I don't say things I don't mean about books, so why should any other reviewer? And there is that great John Irving quote about feeling that you are on the verge on humiliating yourself and losing control, which means you are pushing the boundaries.
3.  I have no plot.  Or, it is tired and stupid and embarrassing.  Or, it simply does not make sense. (See Irving quote above.)
4. I don't know how to schmooze and network enough and I spend way too much time anxious that either I will not get readings or no one will show up. Or worse, one person will show up who will be there to witness that no one else showed up.  This bookstore thing happens to a lot of writers. It makes a funny story.  Not then, but later.
5. No other writer suffers when they write, but somehow, effortlessly and with great grace, produces masterworks.  Uh huh.  

I also know that all this business in my brain is a kind of Jewish Evil Eye, a protection against disaster. I also think it is just what writers do.  We imagine the most dramatic scenario, where the stakes are the highest, and then we play it out in our heads.

Sigh and alas.  Back to work for me. And truly--though I am probably the 2009 winner for the Most Insecure Person on the Planet Award, I love what I do.  I feel so lucky that I get to do something that feels so important to me, and so rich. And if these worries are part of it, well it is still so much better than when I worked for Columbia House and had to write reams of copy about how many videos a customer could get for $24.95 with dividend dollars.


Gina Sorell said...

Caroline the only award I would give you would be the most prolific and generous writer award.

Really and truly.

I constantly feel like I am not working hard enough. Sometimes its true, sometimes it's not. And I seem incapable of believing in myself as much as I would like or others do. Sigh. But I have faith that this can change. And tell myself that I must be doing something right to be able to do what I love to.

gayle said...

I thought you might appreciate these words from Hari Kunzru (from the great article in the Guardian, "Writing for a Living: a joy or a chore?"

"I get great pleasure from writing, but not always, or even usually. Writing a novel is largely an exercise in psychological discipline – trying to balance your project on your chin while negotiating a minefield of depression and freak-out. Beginning is daunting; being in the middle makes you feel like Sisyphus; ending sometimes comes with the disappointment that this finite collection of words is all that remains of your infinitely rich idea. Along the way, there are the pitfalls of self-disgust, boredom, disorientation and a lingering sense of inadequacy, occasionally alternating with episodes of hysterical self-congratulation as you fleetingly believe you've nailed that particular sentence and are surely destined to join the ranks of the immortals, only to be confronted the next morning with an appalling farrago of clich├ęs that no sane human could read without vomiting. But when you're in the zone, spinning words like plates, there's a deep sense of satisfaction and, yes, enjoyment…"

There are great quotes from several other writers as well (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/mar/03/authors-on-writing) but I thought you'd especially resonate with this one. :)


Clea Simon said...

For what it's worth, I don't know a writer worth her (his) salt who DOESN"T have these worries. I blame the industry for making us worry about the shmoozing part, but the rest just goes along with being a creative person, I htink. Be of good cheer! You are writing! You are writing great books! You are doing all you can to promote them and they will find their readers.

Thanks for the Kunzru quote, Gayle. That really says it all.