Thursday, October 7, 2010

What I've learned

In 2007, when I decided to pursue fiction writing full time, I was crazy confident that I would succeed. It's been my life's dream forever. Publishing novels has always been something I knew I would do, and do well.

All of my life, I've been a confident person -- and yes, I can hear all of you out there laughing right now, given the content of most of my blog posts during the nearly one year of this blog's existence. But it's true. In real life, I come across as so confident that some (okay, many) have perceived me as arrogant.

I'm not arrogant. Really. But I usually feel pretty good about my abilities and, I believe, my track record backs me up on that. It's funny, but I've always managed to succeed at whatever I've tried in life, with only a few exceptions. Now success is a relative thing, of course, and my idea of success might be different than yours. But nonetheless, if I set my heart on something and really try at it, I usually assume I will succeed at some point.

Ah, but this writing thing has proven to be the mother of all exceptions. So far, I would hasten to add. So far.

My nearly three years in the fiction trenches -- first brainstorming, then writing, then editing, then revising umpteen times and then, finally, querying my first novel -- has been an eye-opening experience for me.

During all of this, I've learned two very important things about myself that I only tangentially knew before.

1. I am impatient as hell.

2. I have a very nasty little voice inside my head that hates everything about me.

Let's look at impatient first. To be really honest, I guess I've always been impatient, it's just that spending all those years in a newspaper newsroom -- where everything happens RIGHT NOW -- apparently allowed this particular character flaw to remain hidden for years.

But this ... this writing thing has brought it out for the world to see. I mean, big time crazy as hell impatient.

I'm working on it.

Example: I have one of those electric toothbrushes that vibrates after two minutes. I mean, that's a good thing, right? It keeps me brushing for the entire two-minute span. No problems. Dental hygiene is a good thing.

Ha. I swear to God, by the time the damned thing vibrates, at least a fricking month has elapsed! The more neurotic I get (and it's getting worse as the writing career goes on), the more I want to throw the toothbrush through the bathroom wall. I mean, the damned thing must be BROKEN. It has to be set to ten minutes. Sheesh.


Oh. Did you know that if you push the REFRESH button on Gmail enough times, the whole damned Internet freezes? No? Well, it does. Trust me.

Television commercials. I mean, when did they expand to ten minutes? And my coffee pot now takes approximately a week to make twelve cups.


And that hideous little voice? Where in the hell did THAT come from?

You know the one, don't you? No? Then consider yourself lucky.

For me, it whispers deadly, hateful little things in my ears all day and all night:

You can't write.

You're not good enough.

What were you thinking?

Everyone else is laughing at you for even trying this.

You have let your family down when they need you most.

You are a loser.

You will never get published.

You suck.

Write a whiny blog post about how much you suck so EVERYONE will know.


It gets old, listening to this hideous little voice drone on and on and on ...

So I get out of bed some nights -- when the voice gets too insistent -- and root around in my humidor for a cigar. Then I quietly go downstairs and put on my Ipod and listen to music. Sometimes, I feel like crying. Honestly, I do. Sometimes I feel sorry for myself. Usually, I just listen to the lyrics and search for the answer to whatever question is nagging me.

And you know what? I've learned a third thing about myself during this time.

I am a survivor. I do not quit. I do whatever I can to find that inner strength to overcome my lack of patience and my insecurities.

I keep on writing, because I've found that deep inside my heart, I still believe I can make it.

What have you learned about yourself from this writing thing?


  1. Wow, what a post! It's like you've been rooting around in my brain. I've learned that I am much more OCD than I ever imagined, I've learned that I too have that hateful voice, and I've learned that not writing is no longer an option.

  2. aww man, you're lucky. that voice has been part of my life for as long as i can remember. you can't listen to it.
    here's why...
    depression- stole so many years of my life
    dreams- it swallows them whole
    creativity- shackles it
    progress- backwards

    the honest truth.
    you might or might not be the best at what you do... BUT
    you only have one life. (even if you believe in reincarnation- you're never going to be the you you are now again)
    your allotted time is flying by.
    make the most of every moment.
    do what you love.
    love doing what you love.
    work through the tough spots in love.

    and everything will be gravy.

  3. Yep, that voice keeps telling me that my prose is too plain and few will like it, I'll never get an agent who will love it enough to take me on, etc. All I know is I want to get published so badly, and not by self-publishing, that I must keep going no matter what that awful voice is saying.

    Like you, I have been very good at almost everything I have tried, so it is frustrating to have this take so long.

  4. Great post, so funny, so true.

    That voice is called the Judge in psychobabble circles. It's a mutant offshoot from your parents... you know, "You never do what I tell you... you never listen... eat your vegetables... I told you so... you always do everything wrong... yadayadayadadada."

    What have I learned about writing? Rewrite, sit on it for a while, rewrite again, rinse, repeat... and ask other people to tell me what they think, especially about the character reactions.

  5. DUDE! Your toothbrush and my toothbrush HAVE THE SAME PROBLEM.

    I laughed so hard, Terry, because I have totally been there. Thanks for writing it!

  6. Congratulations on the partial request! That must feel great and it's a breakthrough, regardless of the outcome. Enjoy the moment!

    Hope it helps you to know that you're not alone when it comes to that nagging, doubtful, hateful voice inside. Glad to hear you are a survivor. Show that voice who's in charge!

  7. Oops, that was supposed to be what I've learned about myself, not about writing. Well, that it's fine if the house is a wreck and the dog sits on the couch with me.

    Congratulations on the partial!

  8. Writers don't listen to those little voices. We all have them but if you're meant to write, you turn a deaf ear.

    So you make up your mind to ignore them and forge on ahead. Because you're a writer.