Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Think the Virus, Be the Virus

  Initially, I thought I would blog about my greatness  as a writer and stuff like the fact that Coffee Time Romance has me listed as their featured writer this month.  I've gotten some terrific reviews from a number of reviewers for my latest Regency romantic mystery, I BID ONE AMERICAN, including a lovely item coming out soon from Romance Reviews Today. But despite all of this, I've had sort of a rough week and I'm not up to such shamelessness.

One would think such things would make a writer glow with good feelings and positive energy about their skills.  Instead, it makes me sort of sick and worried about whether I'm any good at all or just a huge sham.  (Wow-Sham! Oh, no, sorry, wrong television ad.  That would be:  Writer-Sham!)

In fact, I'm sitting here wondering what possible reason could I have for considering myself successful as a writer?  I have severe doubts that I am even a decent writer.  Certainly, I'm no Saki. 

And have I ever written anything that a normal human being could understand, much less enjoy?  I don't know.  I mean, if I was a fabulous writer, wouldn't I be on the NYT BestSellers list instead of just my publisher's bestsellers list?  Wouldn't I be #1 on  Or at least #2?  Wouldn't I have editors begging me for my next book?

Wouldn't I have agents actually putting my name on their rejection letters, instead of "Dear Author"?

Wouldn't I be smart enough not to be writing this in my blog?

So then I started thinking about how it is we writers can go through years (I mean like 30 years) of kicks-in-the-teeth, multiple agents, people telling us our writing stinks, others telling us our writing is capable (ARGH!) but for some incomprehensible reason it's not what we're looking for at the moment...  And I got even more depressed.

What the heck is wrong with us that we keep beating our heads against that wall for little or no gain?  Earning $42 in a year is not going to keep that gas tank filled, kiddo.  Although I guess I'll soon see what "bestselling status" means when my first royalty check floats out of my publisher's hands this fall. 

The point is, though...obviously most of us are not doing it for the money.  In fact--what money?  And we're sure not doing it for an ego boost because I can tell you that I've been kicked so often and so frequently over the last ten years that if there's any ego left I'd sincerely like the wee thing to step forward so I could shake it's microscopic little hand.

This week, I came really, really close to the decision:  maybe I just need to give up.  Maybe I totally stink-on-ice and need to stop inflicting my stuff on others.  I'm just fooling myself with this "I'm a writer" shtick.

I've got a 3" binder full of rejection letters which I can't help saving because I'm completely anal.  Isn't that proof that I'm not a good writer?

So why do I do it?

Why don't I throw in the towel--right now, right this minute?

Who the heck knows?  I sure don't.  No wait--I have this uncomfortable feeling it's because I'm insane.  Completely.  I've got weird stories in my brain that won't leave me alone until I write them down.  And I have this overwhelming urge to communicate.  I don't know what it is--I just have to talk to people, even if it's in writing.

I have to try to explain this world around me and the people in it.  Why do people act the way they do?  Why are we so obstinate?  Why do we take the obviously wrong path?  What the heck is wrong with someone who thinks killing another human being is the answer to any situation--unless of course that person just really, really needs a-killin'.

Don't I get enough people-time and talking at work?  I'm on the phone 7-8 hours a day on conference calls, help calls, planning calls, calls about this-and-that, you name it.  I'm called upon to play amateur psychologist to weed out personal issues from technical computer issues or just listen to some over-worked local site administrator blow off some steam before he goes in and beats some unsuspecting user over the head with their computer monitor.  You'd be surprised what's involved in my job in the way of people skills.  (And I've frequently wondered how many innocent user lives I've actually saved from beatings or worse.)

But really, no one listens to me, anyway, on most of those calls so they're pointless as far as communications go.  And if I get hit by a bus on the way home, those calls are going to buzz on quite nicely without me.  Waves washing over footprints on the beach.  Here for five minutes, gone for eternity.

In a totally strange way, my books are my forum and safety-valve.  Or maybe more like this nice little virus I communicate to others.  They read it and get infected.  Oh, nothing quite fatal.  But something sticks--a scene, a character, a turn of phrase.  And the infection takes hold and spreads as that turn of phrase or idea takes root in the reader, and the reader passes it on to their friends, families, and even enemies.  Maybe especially to enemies.

And so communications takes place.  Insidiously.  Virally.  And despite all the bashings we writers take, we can take pleasure in the fact that yes, even the editor or agent who turned us down was exposed to the virus.  They may even have been infected.  It may stick in their brain until they die. 

And in my case, sooner or later, one of my ideas may pop out of an editor's mouth just as if it was their idea or phrase.  And I have triumphed.

I communicated.  I may have even explained something about the world and its strange inhabitants--at least to myself.

So despite everything, all I can do it keep on trying.  Keep on submitting my projects, and never stop.  Think the virus.  Be the virus.

And if you're a writer, maybe that's the attitude you need to go for, too.  Be the virus.  Write.  And keep on writing until your writing infects enough people to count as a success.  Or die trying under a poorly aimed spray of chlorine disinfectant.

NEVER give up hope.

Sweet dreams.

PS.  I actually feel better now.  Weird how that writing aimless, brainless drivel really does work.  Therapy for the terminally poor and bewildered.

1 comment:

Sonja Foust said...

I'm glad you feel better and I'm REALLY glad you decided to keep writing because I am one "infected" reader who would be very sorry if you stopped!