{behind the curve}

Probably the worst time to start blogging about how you’re sure you’re going to be a crap writer, forever, is not the *four week mark after your new book has come out. Probably not. Nonetheless, that’s where my head is today, and sometimes all the nice things people can say to you, about your skill with voice, your turn of phrase, your sympathetic characters, etc. does nothing for you but flare up your case of Imposter’s Syndrome to epic levels you can’t even. Oh, sure, you like me today, but my fear is, even as you like me for what I do, I will no longer be able to do it. I have freaked myself out of being able to write a coherent paragraph for pretty much weeks. And so it goes.

Social media – in my case, Twitter – sometimes makes it worse. Social media is like that first time you had dinner at someone’s house as a child, and realized that other people used place mats or were allowed to drink juice or water with their meal – or were required to drink an eight ounce glass of whole milk. You opened your eyes and thought, “Huh?” and “Ohhhh.” Social media is like listening to other people’s families converse and realizing that there was a different way to argue, one which doesn’t require raised voices and fingers pointing, but maybe slammed doors or intense and terrifying spaces between words, or silences deep as the Mariana Trench. Social media – for me – is like experiencing adolescence all over again, in terms of hearing articulate people, people you like and respect model social mores and voice opinions you hadn’t considered, and realizing anew that you are very, very, very, very, very, very different, SO different from Most People.

… Social media is Other Voices, and Other Voices can sometimes make you doubt yourself, and your voice, and your purpose and your mission, ’til it’s a Wednesday morning and you’re sitting in your sweatshirt-maybe-dress and leggings and wondering to yourself, “How can I possibly write Young Adult fiction when I’m pretty sure I was hatched by surrogate aliens on another planet? How can I even have a voice? How am I supposed to relate when I was born so behind the curve?

I am reading Chimamanda Adichie’s first novel, THE PURPLE HIBISCUS, which was pubilshed in 2003. Chosen specifically because the book has a fifteen year old protagonist (and because the author is a person whose words I greatly admire), I am reading it for characterization and voice and asking myself what distinguishes this writer’s voice and this character from young adult literature from the American point of view, what distinguishes it from my perspective, and from books I’ve written, from experiences I’ve had. I’m also asking myself where my experiences and the main character’s overlap, where my experiences and the author’s experiences intersect. There’s a lot to unpack in this reading, and I’m enjoying myself. But, I’m also still hearing the statement that one of my writing group peeps said the other day, which was essentially, The more I am connected to the web, the more things I read which convince me that I probably shouldn’t write. Please note that this isn’t a cry for help as much as an acknowledgement: Sometimes I think like this, too. Is my voice …necessary? Is every story truly important, really? Is writing merely self-indulgent?

I am still figuring it out. Tune in maybe next week when I’ll perhaps have some answers.

*PS – I made myself wait a week before posting this, on the off-chance that this was Just A Mood and the feeling would pass. I’m not so intensely despairing and have been able to write again, thanks for asking. Having someone refer to me as being in the “entertainment industry” was what kind of jarred me, and put me off, I think. “Entertainment” doesn’t feel to me like what I do. The word seems to connote a luxury, a fribble-job in a serious world that has serious and major needs (mainly to be rescued from politically-directed INSANITY at this point). Trying to figure out where one fits in light of this is the key.

3 Replies to “{behind the curve}”

  1. I rarely talk about these fears because they’re a little overwhelming to me… part of me feels like, “but if I never write anything else, what then?” In part, it becomes a question of identity: who am I without the writing? Someone who just constantly tells stories and talks and talks and talks? Someone who isn’t teaching, but who is always trying to teach? The connection communication provides is important, whether the writing is “good enough” or not. And then comes the question of deciding whether “not quite good enough” is going to be okay with me.

    At the end of the day, what you’re choosing is yourself and your sanity and to keep going. This is not always the clearest of choices…

    As for yourself, Kelly, you’re a poet with a vibrant connection to emotions and I have always only wanted to see you continue with that into fiction. You have a keen editorial eye, as well. I have no doubts that if you’re able to put the effort in, you will find your work appreciated and published.

    1. Thanks, lovey. On disconnected-feeling days, it’s hard to think that’s possible, or to keep the focus. As you know, of course.

      I was trying to figure out whose voice it is urging me not to take chances, not to bother, not to risk things, saying that I’m just a fraud and not good enough, and I was sad to find it’s actually ME. It would be simpler, I think, to set it aside if it were teacher or parent or someone else telling me “not good enough”, because I could disagree more easily with someone else.

  2. I could’ve written this, if I were a better writer. Seriously, yesterday Morris said ” . . . when you sell your next book” and I immediately replied, “That may never happen.” I remain unsure that I write well at all, and feel like a fraud and a has-been (or, perhaps more accurately, a never-was).

    Years ago, I used to feel like a writer and poet, and I was certain that I would have a place in this writing industry. And now? Now, I feel as if that ship sailed without me, and have no real clue how to get that feeling of some sort of belonging back. I really think part of it is the absence of LiveJournal, now that I think about it – I felt like a part of an actual community, instead of as a solitary operator out here on the fringes.

    All of which is meant to say that you are not alone. And that I hear and understand. And disagree, of course – you are extremely talented and a wonderful author. Smooch!

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