Warning: this is an ANGRY POST.
“You’re so lucky you had an awful, abuse-filled, poverty-stricken childhood! It’s not fair! I don’t have all that RICH MATERIAL.” said Aspiring Author To Be Unnamed.
I didn’t murder him. What a saint I am.
See, the thing is: I had the ability to write as well as I do now when I was 20. I had the knowledge, access to the tools of the craft, even a professional writing workshop! I also had this giant mountain of psychotically drastic emotional baggage to get over before I could use any of my resources.
I literally HATED MYSELF for, oh, 30 years. This was my process for idea-to-story:
“It’d be cool to write a story about loving a robot. No, I can’t write about that, that’s stupid. I’m stupid. I’m not Asimov and what can I say about love? No one loves me and I’ve never really loved. I need to come up with a better idea. Something no one has ever done before. Or, okay okay how about a robot grad assistant with a platonic friendship? No, that’s not better, either. I… something in response to “AI”? Maureen said you can write as a reaction to other fiction. It’s like… humans fall in love with robots. They would fall in love helplessly even if the things aren’t sentient and it’s about human failings and I’ll call it “The Jalopy” and parallel the plot with a person who is devoted to a crappy old car. This idea is okay I guess but they’ll think I’m stupid when they read it. Because I’m stupid. I don’t know enough about cars. This isn’t an interesting emotional arc. I’ve never been a grad student. Or a professor. How much does a 1975 Ford LTD cost new? How do I fit in the gas mileage and cylinder size into dialog? I’m an idiot. No one cares about these details but if I don’t put them in they’ll know I”m an idiot who doesn’t know anything. I need to write this like it wasn’t written by a stupid awful person. How? How do I escape my stupid awful self? Whatever I do, I must hide the point of the story since it’s awful. Maybe the reader, who is smarter than me, will invent a better point.”
It’s like trying to write with your hands tied.
These days, I’m finally past my self-loathing enough to deal with the emotional sting of rejection and the quagmire of self doubt so that I can almost sorta WRITE…
With my hands tied. Neck-deep in quicksand.
Sorta. I haven’t gotten rid of the mountain of baggage, I’ve just learned to work around it. And I’ve grown marginally tougher with the constant rejection. We all equate story-rejection with self-rejection. I’m just saying: now imagine you were EVEN MORE SELF-DOUBTING. Now double that. Now cry under your desk. Now you’re about where I am.
(And no, having all the “fun facts” about poverty doesn’t help, either. 100% of the time, when editors have said they didn’t believe something in one of my stories – it was autobiography. Or scientifically researched. There’s that, too. Hey, this is my rant, let me rant.)
I can’t ‘use’ my life material, I have to overcome it. I’m writing with one hand tied behind my back neck-deep in quicksand. All I want is a lifeline. Preferably in the form of a pre-approved outline and plot and character sketches. Tell me what to write. Please.
(Yeah, you probably wouldn’t like how I interpret it.)
I shouldn’t complain. (No one likes a whiner. *WHINE*) I’ve managed to sell a few stories, at least. Maybe I’m not a total failure. Or at least I don’t have to admit that I am a failure yet. Maybe… maybe I could even try to sell one of my novels? Maybe?
The wasted time, climbing the mountain of baggage, though – it sorrows and sickens me. I fear I’ve passed my prime, that I have so little time left.
I’m OLD. I’m 42. I’m officially hideous and no one loves me or wants me around. I mean… eeew. Who wants a HAG like me hanging around them? No one wants to read a story by Oldy McOldface!!
(Okay – still some emotional baggage to work through.)by