One thing I notice, around the close of my Month of Gratitude, is that I always go to my ritual of “thanksfulness” when I am feeling something. This is why it’s good ritual and practice; it becomes like the journaling I gave up long ago, except with less obsessing about bad manicures. So, today I have a feeling, and I came to write through it, to gratitude.
Unfortunately, today I’m feeling… really crappy.
I respect my agent and my editor, and when I get a critique letter from either of them, I always try to look at it in the spirit it is sent — to improve my craft.
This does not always work. As a matter of fact, initially I am hit with a wave of depression when I receive a critique letter, and like my friend Sara, I have to sit with it — preferably in another room.
It’s not at all that I expect my work to be infallible; I need to know when I’m not hitting the mark within a narrative, and as I strive to write more and more honestly, scraping from the gut, I need to know if my truths are capital letter Truths. But what’s hard for me is less about the critique and more about myself. It’s finding that I’m not creating an imaginary world at all… but that I’ve recreated this world, and perpetuated the mistakes of this current world. To find that my character shares my foibles — idiosyncrasies I’ve found nearly impossible to be rid of in myself — is a thing of horror. I can’t even create an imaginary friend who isn’t my idiot double.
You see why I don’t have children.
Today, my agent pointed out that I’ve managed to create a character who flinches before the axe falls. Who organizes her life so that she can deflect criticism from her parents and relatives before they actually say anything about her actions. Before she actually ever does anything. Cringing, self-deprecating, apologetic… Yes, well, hello, real life! You found me. Again.
I talked with a young friend the other week who is very good at taking care of herself. After a childhood of waiting while her mother fulfilled her needs, now that she’s an adult, my friend’s big on Me First kind of behavior. And, yeah, it can be cringe-inducing to experience, but in some ways, I am wistful when I look at her path of rabid self-determination. I can’t think of one decision I’ve made in my life where I wasn’t presupposing the opinions of six other people, and preparing a defense against their reactions. When you lie down with judgement, you get up with self-censure. And possibly fleas. And it. is. exhausting.
Fiction isn’t meant to be real life with all the “uh-ums” written in; it’s meant to be an exaggeration of the real, a heightened, polished version of same. I am, frankly, in need of polish. And an axe.
So, today I’m grateful for …the concept of self care, in a non-Pop Psychology fashion, and the dynamically self-engaged person I’m going to create, first in fiction, then perhaps in real life. I’m grateful for self-centeredness as a concept, even though I’m not able to recognize it as a path that I can normally take. I’m grateful that every day is the possibility of a step forward.