December 14th, 2006

14 Dec 2006, by

Not good enough.

So I guess it’s about time I wrote a little something about writing. I don’t actually want to. I have no good news and I’m doing whatever I can to avoid thinking, working, anything on this topic. I’ve written almost nothing for – oh, about three months now – and if I hadn’t given myself a deadline of November 2008 to beat my head against this wall I would have quit by now because ugh, the headache. I want out. I apologize in advance for how negative and discouraging this post is going to be and my only excuse is eh, you (at least one of you) asked.

  • Exhibit A: I’ve done this for two years and published nothing. To be fair, I’ve sent out almost nothing, but that’s because I can’t stand any of it. I have a grand total of six rejections, all from the same story, the only one I ever sent anywhere. That’s nearly all my problems right there : I don’t write enough plus I don’t like what I write enough to send it anywhere plus when I miraculously get up the gumption to send something somewhere it gets rejected (which, naturally, is no surprise, since I knew it sucked before I sent it).
  • Exhibit B: There’s no faster way for me to feel bad about something I’ve written than to read it at my writer’s group. I’m not sure why this is. I don’t think it’s because I can’t take criticism, but that may be it. I don’t think it’s because I’m convinced what I’ve written is great, since I’m pretty sure nothing I’ve written so far is great. Though I long for something to be. Just like that, all archaic and yearning. I want to write something great. But obviously, I haven’t yet. Anyway, usually I’m just reading things I think are passable but need help, and when I get to the end and hear everyone’s comments I just feel like the thing is sullied and worthless. These are not even comments that are wholly negative, I should explain. My writer’s group has a pretty soft touch. Usually I feel like I totally failed to get anything across. Like I came in and read a poor version of Jabberwocky, all nonsense words in the right syntactical places, but failing to convey any meaning. Or like it’s the wrong trousers and they’re all wrong. It’s not them, I’m pretty sure. It’s me. Still, I’ve got to figure out how to handle criticism, right? Totally basic, necessary skill. Skill I thought I had, too, so I don’t know what’s wrong with me these days. I’ve also got to figure out how to read aloud something I’ve written and not hate every word as my mouth shapes it, but I don’t know how to learn that, because it seems to be something I unlearned.
  • Exhibit C: I’m not sure I love writing anymore. I don’t love doing it, and I certainly don’t love having anyone else read anything I’ve written. It’s totally agonizing to contemplate sending things out for people to read. It all sucks! It’s all broken! Sometimes I even know how it’s broken, but so rare that I can fix it. Blech. I hate every word! If I hate every word, and I wrote them, how can I expect anyone else to feel otherwise?
  • Exhibit D: Ok, so I lied in exhibit C. I don’t hate every word. A couple of weeks ago I was rummaging through some papers and happened upon my failed slush bomb story. And I got sucked completely into it. And I loved it. But you know what? That story doesn’t go anywhere. It’s stuck. So what’s all the pretty, engaging writing get me? Nothing. Not a thing. Because there’s no story there. Well, there’s a story there but I can’t get at it, I can’t make it come out. Just another three pages full of word detritus that doesn’t cohere. And I don’t know which is worse, all the finished stories which are not right or all the unfinished stories which are so promising but I don’t appear to have the ability to fashion to completion.

I can’t honestly say I suck at writing, but I’m pretty sure that however good I may be, it is not good enough. I fall short. Maybe I harbored too many dreams of greatness, I don’t know. I was pretty sure I had my head on straight, non-delusionally, when I started this. I didn’t think it would be easy, and I didn’t think I’d make any money, but I guess I thought I’d be pretty happy with what I wrote. And I’m not. At all. It’s not good enough. None of it is good enough. It’s all I can do not to start a big bonfire and reformat my drive. Meanwhile, as I exercise the great restraint of not purging the world of my poor words, I’m expected to polish and edit and send all those sad little specimens somewhere? When I can see every blindness, every deafness, every cleft palate, every club foot? How inhumane a task is that to set oneself? I swear I’m not a perfectionist, though I’m sure this rant will sound like I am. I’m a complete and total believer in good enough instead of perfect. Problem is, I can’t even get as far as good enough. I’m not sure how much better, or longer, I can fail.

Gah. I’m sorry I subjected you to this. You can see, maybe, why I didn’t really bring it up. Next time, maybe you’ll think twice before asking.

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