Apples and crabapples

(I know this post is a bit ironic in a blog about writing which I have started largely because people keep telling me I need to blog about writing to have any sort of writing success. But here goes.)

I have a lot of mixed feelings about the kind of sentiments in this post (“How Joyce Carol Oates would launch a writing career today”). It’s pretty common advice–want to be a published author? Blog, tweet and be sure to have a Facebook page. I don’t disagree with the core concept, that these days success as a writer is as much marketing yourself as a brand as having any sort of talent. And I even have a feeling that it’s just an updated version of the whole network-to-get-noticed thing. But all the same, it grates at me.

I suppose somewhere in my mind I’m still enamored of the idea of everything being pure meritocracy even though that’s pretty much impossible. Some part of me just wants success=hard work + skill. And another part of me wonders if being a good blogger really means you’re a good fiction writer. You may have interesting ideas, a great blogging voice, be incredibly engaging… but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re really all that wonderful at creating imaginary worlds and made up people. It may give you a leg up: clearly you’re good at articulating your thoughts, sharing observations about your own life, and knowing what makes someone stop and read. But I can think of more than one blogger whose blog posts made me more interested in reading their fiction… and then when I read their fiction, I was disappointed to find I didn’t really like it. (That said, I’ve also discovered at least one great author through reading her blog, so…)

But I suppose there’s the hook: I liked their blog, so I went out and bought their stories, and otherwise I wouldn’t have.

Still, the curmudgeon in me thinks writing should be about writing, and you get better by writing, not by blogging, and yet here I am blogging again. Ho hum. I suppose I must sort of like this damn thing, after all.

That Magic Feather

Long time no write, because, well, I haven’t been writing much of anything up until perhaps a week ago.  Not for lack of trying, most of the time, but I suppose much of that “trying” was taken up with “despairing” and not as effective as it should have been. 

Two things that were not really revelations, but somehow still feel like revelations: 

1. I am an introvert, well and truly.  Spending time with people, whether I like them or not, uses up my energy, physical and mental, and it takes 100% solitude to recharge.  As my work demands that I spend more and more time with people,  in meetings, presenting, or just in the day-to-day interaction, I need to accept what I am and figure out how to balance my life.  How to recharge my batteries so I don’t end up like I recently did, mentally incapable of doing anything other than lie in front of the television playing video games. 

2. I can often write when I’m depressed, but not when that depression heavily involves an utter loss of faith in myself.  The day job was making me seriously doubt my self-worth, and it quickly bled into everything.  Again, it would seem obvious, but not in the moment.  Instead all I did was feel utterly confused that I couldn’t at least write in the midst of my depression, and that would make me lose faith even MORE, and the depression would get worse, and… you see how it goes. 

I’m actually a bit startled at how much that lack of faith undermined my writing.  Some of the things I wrote when I was trying to force it were just terrible.  Poor word choices, awkward sentences, absolutely no emotional connection.  Even I felt distanced from the text and I wrote it!

Seriously, I don’t think this is perception, I think it has something to do with how belief, passion, and confidence come across even across a written page.  I’m a shy mouse in person but when writing, I always feel stronger and bolder and more vibrant.  I can express myself in text; I feel less shy and I can consider my word choices carefully.  Or that’s how it usually is.  Also, as mentioned before, I hear my stories as I write, and when I started to lose faith, I couldn’t hear them.  I could only hear my own self-loathing and derision as I fought to put down even a handful of words.  And of course, that would only worsen the cycle. 

What changed?  Honestly, work let up a bit, I got some time to myself at work and time to myself at home, and I think my batteries just recharged.  Slowly, my attempts to write became more focused and the output improved.

And then, just this past week, I revised a short story I had kicking around, shared it with my awesome writing pal Die, and Die handed me that good old Magic Feather: a hearty helping of support and encouragement.  I can get suspicious of praise (thanks, self-doubt) but I trust Die to speak up if something isn’t working, and always has good suggestions for things to improve. 

It was perfect timing, and I feel energized about writing again.  I’m still not where I was two months ago.  But definitely getting better.  Crossing my fingers that this is a real recovery and not a double dip depression ;).