I’m always nervous about what I’m writing – content is so frustrating for me. Do I want to be the next Jodi Picoult? J. K. Rowling? A female Mark Twain? Can I be this generation’s Charlotte Bronte? Is it too much to want to be likened to Tolkien? Can I write a silly little fantasy story and feel proud of it, or should I dismiss the piece as “practice”? Do I want instant success? Do I want to mass-produce popular novel after popular novel and get swamped with film offers? Does every word and sentence have to be laden with imagery and metaphor so I have a chance at winning prestigious awards? Is it too ambitious to want to be remembered in a century for my contributions to literature? But then does that mean I’ll die starving and poor and unappreciated by my contemporaries?
It’s damn stressful. And being a perfectionist who over-analyses and ruthlessly criticises her own work is not helpful.
But there’s more to this than just obsessing over content … There is also the issue I have with my own self, with my confidence (or lack thereof) and with my perception of my ability (or inability would be more accurate). Above all, there is that constant, ridiculous internal conflict.
When I tell people I’m writing, I feel like I’m telling them that I’m not doing anything. I feel like I may as well admit that I’m still in my PJs hunched over my laptop with a firm grip around my coffee mug, cat perched on my lap and eyes watering from over-exposure to a bright screen. Do they have to know I haven’t washed or brushed my hair for a week, too?
I am terrified that if I tell people I’m a writer they will dismiss it as inconsequential – it doesn’t help that the few times I’ve tested this out the response has been: “But what’s your real job? What do you do for money?”
“Well,” I smile and look them in the eye, “I work for an escort service to fund my dreams of literary success.”
I don’t say that though. (Incidentally, I also don’t work for an escort service – in case you were wondering.)
It’s very hard to write, write, write and not glance back over your work and think “Ergh, same old crap”. NaNoWriMo helps in terms of motivation, but then there’s the ever-confronting editing process which inevitably leaves me drooling with a stupefied expression on my face after the third page: “I wrote this ridiculous, far-fetched nonsense?”
Sometimes I read books that I fall madly in love with and wonder if I will ever write anything so intricate, so creative, so original … But then there’s a degree of frustration when I flick through a book and think “Seriously? They published this?!”
I know, arrogant much? Sometimes I read a book dubbed ‘bestseller’ and think “I could do that”. Is that arrogant? Hopeful? Confident? Delusional?
If “I could do that” then why don’t I?