Saturday, February 21, 2009

In which I wallow in self-doubt...

I'm having one of those days (weeks, actually) where I am doubting myself...more specifically, my writing. I try not to blog about these things very often, if at all, so I hope that you, my loyal blog minions, will indulge me this once. I'm not fishing for reassurance or ego-stroking or anything of the sort, I just need to vent. So bear with me...

I'm still completely over the moon over what's going on with Playing With Fire. I've probably reread the contract a thousand times just to convince myself that it's really happening. Publishing a book has been a lifelong goal for me, and I've finally reached it.


Now what?

I have always put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself when it comes to my writing, and I'm doing that much more than ever now. Publication has given me some much-needed validation that yes, I am capable of writing a decent book...but that validation is proving to be a double-edged sword: I'm capable of doing it once, but can I do it again? Part of me worries that I won't be able to follow Playing With Fire. It's certainly not God's gift to literature, but it is, I think, the best thing I've written. I have never connected with a story and its characters so strongly, and the nagging pessimist in me wonders if I'll ever be able to do it again.

I'm fairly happy with Camera Shy and Luke Boydston's Baby, but what have I written since Playing With Fire? Fuck all. Absolutely fuck all. I'm completely stalled on The Enemy of My Enemy and Straight Up. I've piddled with Between Brothers and All The King's Horses. Okay, I wrote an entire draft of The Wedding Photographer, but it sucked, and the rewrite is causing me to develop Tourette's Syndrome something awful. Am I putting too much pressure on myself? Did I burn myself out? Did I use up all of my "decent story" mojo?

Who knows?

Have I jumped the shark already? Is this really the best I can do? What if this is just a fluke, a stroke of luck, and it's all downhill from here?

[insert lengthy string of colorful profanity here]

*deep breath*

Okay. Now that that's out of the way...

This will pass, as it always does, but holy hell, it sucks. I never expected to feel like this in the wake of getting a publishing contract, but there it is. It's an odd feeling to be simultaneously thrilled about success and terrified of failure.

In the back of my mind, I know it all boils down to fear. Fear of being a once-published wonder. Fear that this is just a flash in the pan. Fear that whatever I put on paper next won't be worthy of seeing the light of day. I know that it's nothing more than fear, but this fear is a strong one, and for lack of a less melodramatic way of wording it, it's crippling. Every time I sit down to write, the cynic in me scrutinizes every phrase and plot point and lets me know just now much it sucks...even though it's a first draft, and first drafts are supposed to suck...and I find myself staring at a blank screen with a flashing cursor. I'm so afraid of writing badly that I'm not writing at all.

So I'm taking another week off from writing. I've been doing a lot of reading, alternating between fiction and writing books. I read On Writing by Stephen King for the fourth or fifth time, and I feel quite a bit better. If Stephen King is allowed to be insecure about his writing, then damn it, so am I.

This will pass. It always does. I guess it's a form of literary PMS: I hate the world, I hate my writing, and I want to throw my computer off the balcony...but give me a week, and I'll be fine.

When I sit down at the computer in a week - February 27, Japan time, for anyone who's counting - I will crack my knuckles, put my fingers on my keyboard, and make that blank screen my bitch.

Rant. Over.


  1. Sounds to me like a classic case of second-book jitters.

    You might want to try something I'm going to do, once I find a suitable notebook. I'm going to go to Paperchase or any of the other posh stationer's to buy a pretty notebook and I'll use it for my writing journal. None of what I write there will go online, in a blog or's just a book for me to scribble about my characters and any plot tangles.

    Reason? *I* know and *you* know I'll eventually get through it, but when you're in the moment it feels like hell on earth, so if I write through the blahs, when I experience them again I can read back and think, "Ah. This happened before. I really DID feel that bad. But I got through it then; I can get through it now."

    I don't know if you read any Elizabeth George books (American crime writer, novels set in England; I was amazed to discover she was a Yank - her books are terribly, terribly British) but she does this too. Dates when she starts each section, what research she does, problems she anticipates, how she solved them.

    It helps her see, while writing her next book, that she's not experiencing anything new. She's been through it all before.

    And hell, SHE'S been published multiple times so if it can happen to her...

  2. GERRONWI' GERRIN' IT WRIT!!! *hitlerface*