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?


Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

I'd love to encourage you, my friend, but it would be just a group of words without meaning. The drive to complete a novel rests only within you. When the characters flit around in your head demanding an ending, you will complete one of your attempts. Until then, I hope your efforts remain a pleasure rather than a grueling torture.

the walking man said...

Vesper. You know what? Wherever you're at on your novel put a period at the end of the sentence and tap out those six magic letters

The End.

Waaalaaaa a completed novel.

yes I am making fun of you if you're really crafting each sentence, polishing and punctuating each glimmer of grammar as you go along.

Sounds like the easy route to Insaneville to me. Grass is going to grow no matter how often you mow it right? If you keep mowing the same corner of the yard the rest of it goes wild. You get one nice corner though.

Look throw all your writing ideas away, lose everything you think you've learned and cut the whole grass from one end to the other then go back and do the weeding and mulching.

You got to have a yard to mow before you take the weed whacker to it.

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

LOL! That is a great analogy, WM.

Vesper said...

You guys, this is why I love you!

Your comments are priceless!
You are amazing!
Thank you! Thank you! It was worth writing this post if only for your wonderful comments!
Mark, I might have to print your advice and read it every day.
Laughter is the best medicine in the end. :-D

Charles Gramlich said...

I was talking about this with Lana today. Although I've gotten quite a bit published and have a few folks who really like my work, there is just such a huge amount of work on the market these days that I just don't see any likelihood of developing a much bigger audience. I don't think I have the strength. I've got a few ideas in my head now and will try to get those done by the end of the year, and then, if nothing changes, I'm gonna at least take a year off. Maybe a lot longer.

Geraldine said...

I am so glad I stopped by today. This post really hit home, in a big way. I know how you feel Vesper, about the book stores, about being overwhelmed...but I also know what it feels like to see your own name on the cover of a book, to have people love your work...I've been there and I want to have that "high" again, this time with a novel. You've inspired me to get back to finishing, REALLY finishing my novel and getting on to the next step. Reading this, sounds like you are ready for that step too. We aren't going to live forever...what an amazing realization that is and I don't mean that in a sarcastic way. When we are younger, it's soooo easy to be lulled into thinking we have all the time in the world. NO one does, at whatever age. All we've got is right now, to get it done, get it right.

Hugs and thanks for a wonderful, inspiring post. G

SzélsőFa said...

striving to produce a perfect piece, AND being sensitive is a tough combination.
i hear what you are saying.
just recently i have been talking myself into putting off writing - for there are tons of books and authors, successful or other, out there...
but the 'why me' question might take you further away from your destination.

Vesper said...

Charles, what you’re saying makes me very sad. You are an extremely talented writer and your work is outstanding. The only problem here is advertisement. The publishing company is not doing any, I suppose, so it’s upon you to do it. How? That’s the big question. I see a lot of authors (it’s true they’re mostly YA authors) who are very active, doing give-aways, interviews, guest posts, etc., etc. The YA market is more dynamic, I think, and more suited for this type of advertisement. Even for this, you need to be in the right circles and have a lot of energy.
I really hope you will not stop writing fiction. It would be a great loss.

Geraldine, and I am so glad that you stopped by. Thank you for the encouraging words. I thought you were saying a while ago that you were revising your novel. So, yes, get back to it and finish it. Do what needs to be done. They are our “children” these novels, aren’t they? Maybe, after all, in the end we are a bit anxious of sending them away in the big world…

SzélsőFa, you shouldn’t give up writing. I’ve always loved your style and I think you’re very talented, for prose and poetry alike.
You’re absolutely right about the ‘why me’ question. I haven’t thought of it before, but, yes, you’re absolutely right.
I know I cannot produce a “perfect” piece, but it has to be the best I can. First impressions matter, don’t they? :-)

laughingwolf said...

take advice from the nanowrimo folk: DO NOT EDIT UNTIL YOUR STORY IS DONE!

tough, i know...

like you, i edit practically every paragraph... a zillion times... no wonder i never complete a nano!

the past 1 1/2 years have been a total disaster, only wrote a single short/short, and that, some 3-4 months ago :(

get mad at yourself, step out of your comfort zone... complete your book... THEN edit

you never know, it COULD work

what i've read of your stuff, you CAN tell a story, and do it very well!

Vesper said...

It is editing, LW, but at the same time, I guess, it means that I'm not happy with the story, that I keep tweaking it because it's not yet what I want.
But, I will take your advice and I'll get mad at myself and finish it. Thank you!!! :-)
Will you take it too? :-)

laughingwolf said...

seems i have to, to make progress, v...

Taffiny said...

Oh...I am always reminding myself that others accomplishments don't diminish me- and my ability to also accomplish. While happy for others' success, sometimes I see everyone else so much farther ahead, and I feel myself in a free fall. And I wish they would wait for me- give me time to figure it out.

I don't mean to be selfish but you can't have too stupid, it's mine (and I wont share) :). And I don't think perfectionism paralysis equals laziness.

Actually we have opposite problems. I have novels in rough draft form- I've gotten to THE END. But they still aren't finished, because I don't know how to edit, and polish them and make them at all good.
You need to learn to write first, all out breathless messy- like a kindergartner feverishly finger painting. And I need to learn how to take my gloppy paintings, and refine the strokes and images till they become something beautiful.

I no longer nourish any hope of being a successful writer (financially)- but the core of my dream is unchanged, I will be a writer. I sense your soul weaves the same words through you.
I will be a writer. I am a writer.

Vesper said...

Then we shall both do it, LW!!! :-)

Hey, Taffiny, it's so nice seeing you here! :-) Your writing is beautiful... even in this comment, its poetry is undeniable... Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

laughingwolf said...