Perhaps it wasn’t just a tooth I had removed from my head last week.
After the drugs wore off and the pain began to subside, I felt like a cork had been pulled from my mind. I won’t lie – the reason I haven’t updated this blog recently is because I’ve been in a creative rut. We all get them from time to time (except James Patterson, who floats steadily along on one slow river of mediocrity). I hated everything I had written and was seriously considering putting more effort into my day job (yeah, it got that bad).
But this weekend I finished two short stories, the initial draft of a third and planned a fourth and fifth (the fifth is killer). The best advice I received last week was from The Voice, who said: At some point I just look myself in the mirror and say “Publish it, you pussy!”
And while I tend not to use the word pussy unless I’m inebriated enough to do my (fucking hilarious) Kathleen Turner Serial Mom impression, I have taken the point on board.
And then Dr Meg recommended 4 or 5 drafts. Seemed like a sensible thing to do. So I now have a 5-draft maximum. Either finish it or bin the fucker. If I don’t impose some rules, I will never finish a thing.
The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.
And that resonated with me deeply. In the past, I have had no problem getting up and singing a song I wrote in front of 5,000 people, but I am absolutely petrified of publishing anything I’ve written. I guess my reasons for this are twofold:
Firstly, writing is a more intimate experience. At least it is for me. It feels like I’m squeezing out droplets of my soul onto paper (or, in my case, an iPad or a Mac). Here’s what I really think – yep, that’s the sort of fucked-up shit that rattles around in my brain every single day.
Secondly, people are very mean about writers.
I’ve touched on this here, and while my usual stance is fuck you, I can’t help but think I’ll be a little hurt at some nasty feedback. For example, I was looking for editors a while back and had no idea where to start. So I sent a rough short story about a dead dog to half a dozen different editors and thought I’d get a vague idea of what I was dealing with out there. Some didn’t respond, some were half-assed, several were excellent, but one was just pure bitter. He was American, and I normally get on with Americans pretty well.
The guy, who probably had a bookcase jammed with James Patterson and thought Dean Koontz was a little edgy, was looking for the suspense factor in the story. I was like, Mate, it’s a two-thousand word black comedy about a dead dog; it’s not a fucking Alex Cross novel. There will be no Hollywood adaptation. And the main thing he was preoccupied with was that I used single rather than double quotation marks for speech. He marked all of them on the document. All of them. Jesus.
If you know me like I think you do, you’ll understand that I didn’t take that too well. So, I drafted this long email about his lazy editing, reliance on boring tropes and inability to grasp that in the UK, a single speech mark is perfectly acceptable (a quick Google would’ve done it). But then I realised that if you’re editing manuscripts from virgin authors at $30 a pop, your life probably isn’t where you want it to be and that maybe there was an underlying cause to his bitterness. So instead of sending him the email, I simply named the dead dog after him. That amused me more than any egotistical argument ever could.
Criticism is fine, just be constructive. And don’t be so fucking dumb about it.
It’s easy to talk about the assholes. Let’s get a little positive here for a minute…
Here I am, roughly six months after starting this blog. I have a few short stories ready to go. I have a bunch waiting in the wings, like fame-hungry actors lining up for their starring Broadway role. The novel is, quite frankly, a mess. But it’s kind of glorious, and I’ll leave it like that until I feel compelled to revisit it.
My fear of publishing something is diminishing. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen? There’s one more piece or crap art out there that nobody gives a shit about. It’s not like I’m waterboarding children or anything like that.
So, everyone that’s read and liked and commented – thank you. Your small nuggets of advice and inspiration, along with the odd skim through your blogs have been invaluable. The murky world writing seems far brighter to me knowing you’re in it.