Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Thing with Feathers

A bit more than a month ago, I was searching the net for inspiration for a title for a short story I had just written (I’m really bad at titles) and I found this poem by Emily Dickinson. I thought I’d share with you…

Hope is the Thing with Feathers
by Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Are the (Occasional) Highs Worth the (Many More) Lows? or Giving Up is Tempting

Writing stories has been a most important part of my life ever since, at twelve I believe, I read "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" by Jules Verne. Imagining fantastic adventures was my way of living them. I wanted to be a speleologist, a palaeontologist, a marine biologist, and archaeologist, an astronaut. I wrote, wrote, and wrote about that.

Over the years, I have started many novels, which I never finished. However, that never actually seemed important. I have always written for my pleasure. For the thrill of living many lives at once. I never worried about publishing my work. That made me light and carefree. I was also very young and the future stretched endlessly in front of me.

Yet, sometime during the past few years, something has shifted. I got older, of course. The thought of seeking publication has acquired a more tangible shape. The future, also, suddenly appeared finite –as it truly is, unfortunately- hence adding urgency to all my actions. Instead of being hopeful, I have become impatient, anxious. Except for the moments of complete trance, the writing has become (a bit) painful with apprehension. Just a little bit.

I buy a lot of books. However, I rarely go to bookstores anymore. I love books, I adore books, but seeing them all together like that makes me sad. It discourages me big-time. That’s because I can’t help thinking: What are the chances of all these beautiful, colourful, wonderful, shiny, published books to be bought and read by (many) people? I would say, rather slim. Except for the best-sellers, of course, which sell best because, well… they are best-sellers.

Then, there’s Amazon, with so many more books, all kind of books, including a lot of self-published books. While I’m not eloquent enough to express my admiration for these people who wrote their novels and published them, one way or another, I also cringe when I see Amazon best-selling ranks into hundreds of thousands or millions.

Don’t get me wrong. I still find an exhilarating motivation in seeing other people’s accomplishments, especially those of my blogging friends. Maximum kudos to all of them! I do not feel one drop of envy, please believe me, only admiration.

In this sea of books, I feel so lost. I’m not even capable of finishing my novel. I’m too stupid or too lazy, or both, to even finish one novel. I’m too overwhelmed by OCD – what else could it be this obsessive polishing of each sentence, this endless pondering of the logic of each plot element – to go from one paragraph to the next. I couldn’t agree more with whoever said first that perfectionism breeds paralysis. I’m really fighting hard to snap out of it.

I’m not giving up. No way. No matter the outcome, I will still be fooling myself and pushing myself because the “highs” are definitely worth more than the “lows.” And I will never be able to be just a reader.

Oh, Jules Verne, what have you done to me?