Good morning, wait is it morning? Why the hell is it so grey outside? Is it raining again? Isn’t it summer? Why the hell am I not wearing shorts and a t-shirt? What’s going on here?
Since I’ve said these things out loud, it must be Monday, and that means it’s time for a blog post. Today’s post comes out of my own experience, and maybe you can relate.
Have you ever thought that what you’ve written on a particular day sucks? I don’t just mean like you wrote one weak word among a dozen strong paragraphs, I mean like the day’s whole word count is an absolute joke, and you’d be better off chucking the keyboard in the closet and taking up competitive licking as a livelihood?
Yeah, we’re talking about those moments, when you think there’s little difference between your writing and driving a garbage truck on fire off a cliff into a sea of gasoline and tourists.
I think those moments come out of a comparison. We take our work, in whatever stage it’s in: idea, roughest first draft imaginable, super over-thought-out seventh set of revisions, two hours before submission, whatever, and compare it either a finished product, or the expectation we have for our book. That our MS needs to be at least “this good” to ride the ride that is being published, and then it needs to be at least “that good” (I assure you those are two totally different measurements on an invisible ruler) in order to have a person who isn’t related to you purchase it.
We look at the raw stone barely out of the ground and look at the finished statue. We don’t always see the path, we don’t always see the statue hidden in the block. But it’s there, and we have the talent (or we’ll work on developing it) to educe our vision from the raw materials.
So where’s the comparison come in? If we’re focused on making the awesome happen, how insidious does the doubt have to be in order to make us look twice at what we’re doing?
We compare because we just don’t know. We don’t know how good the thing we’re making will be. We don’t know if we’ll get a review, let alone a review with stars associated.We don’t know if our sales will measure in the ones or 2+. We don’t know… we don’t know … we don’t know.
And not knowing, politely, is a motherfucker.
The unknown is always a greater volume than what we know. That’s not because we’re stupid. That’s not because we’re bad creatives. It’s just that we’re finite. We’re bounded by the time we spend, the choices we make, the priorities we choose, and the decisions that cement us as creatives and people.
Now add to this, the idea that some people are really not interested in a truly egalitarian successful industry or society. They’ll form a group and call another group names. They’ll make unfounded claims. They’ll draw all kinds of lines between an “us” and a “them.” And then say if you don’t read this article, or share that post, or agree in the comments, or retweet this or that, that you’re part of “them” not “us.” Divisions dominate doubt.
Because we’re tribal. We’re seekers and developers of community. And we think, that if we build our community out of these paltry words, these feeble syllables and lines on a page, that our community will be blown down by the big bad wolves that so many people claim lurk just at the edges of our campfires.
I don’t know if there are wolves. The internet says there should be. Loads of blogs and writers and hacks and professional victims and complainers and sages and experts say I need to be careful of this thing, that scam, this writing technique, that book. Plenty of people want to talk about the wrongs and red flags. That all leads to a lot of doubt. A lot of potential, a lot of unknown.
And we can’t let that define our words. It’s what we know, what we can do that will trump the unknown. We tame the blank page a word at a time, we make the statue happen.
No, we don’t know if we’ll be successful.
No, we don’t know if we’ll be rejected.
No, we don’t know if we’ll be paid well.
But if we put our guts on the page, if we write heart-first, if we take all the risks, if we do our best to make the best art, the art’s going to be great.
One word at a time. One brush stroke at a time. One day at a time.
See you later this week, happy writing.