I have many writer friends. I think it's inevitable. We who choose this rarely lucrative profession glom on to one another as we cross paths throughout the years. From high school to college, I must have gathered almost two dozen friends who wanted to be authors someday.
After college, that number slowly dropped, and continued dropping as my writer friends' attention got caught by other things, or when they came to their senses and realized that becoming a writer not only required the sacrifice of many other grand things, but also required constant selfishness and a good bit of self-loathing.
I started writing when I was seventeen. And by "started writing" I mean I had that first, seductive glimpse of being a famous author. I put fingers to keyboard with the firm notion that I was writing my first bestseller, all the while entertaining the thoughts: Wow! Wouldn't that be cool to be Piers Anthony and write Xanth novels? Or wow! I bet Margaret Weis has the best life ever! Can you imagine? Thousands of fans waiting for your next story, aching to find out what happens to Tanis, Raistlin and the rest. Wouldn't it be sheer bliss to have readers living and breathing the lives of the characters you love? Yes. That is what I want. That is my heart's desire.
It's been twenty years since then, and most of my original writer friends have gone on to other professions, other adventures. I don't think many of them actively decided to give up writing. It's just hard to keep The Writing as a top priority when there's little encouragement and less money. They just let that dream lie fallow, and the years rolled by.
However, there are a few who stuck to it, gutting it out through the rejection slips and the grinding task of creation, throwing their passion onto the page in fits and starts. And of those friends, most of them fall prey to the topic of this blog, and will recognize what I'm talking about. I bring it up because it hit me smack in the chest this week.
I let my mind get the better of me. I let those incessant, chattering monkeys curl back upon me and wreck my house. I fell into a writing depression.
Maybe this is inevitable. Maybe this is, like the rejection slips and self-grinding, a necessary aspect of the craft. I mean, what is more cliched than the tortured artist? When I first started writing, all I heard about was the half-insane writers. The misfits who were so socially awkward it was painful, but could put their finger on the pulse of humanity. The alcoholics and drug addicts. Hemmingway and Fitzgerald. Emily Dickenson. Writers who destroyed their lives for their craft, who cut out their hearts and threw them on the page, then died bleeding, miserable wretches.
I never wanted misery with my writing. I refuse to believe I have to become one of those wretches to be a great writer. I fight the notion all the time, but I can't deny the depressions on this rollercoaster of creation. This is an example of that seductive, destructive cycle:
Last week, during my writing nights (those of you who have been following the blog will know this is Monday, Tuesday and sometimes Sunday, based on the angelic benevolence of my wife), I delved into the character of Medophae. I'd reached my 100 pages looking through Mirolah's eyes, and it was time to start the next segment of the novel. Wildmane was ready to be born again.
I wrote it. And it sang. It trumpeted. A host of celestial beings converged on my house and struck up the orchestra. When the chapter was done, I floated out of that room and made myself a manic nuisance to my wife, who tolerated me, smiled affectionately, kissed me and sent me to bed. That was Sunday night.
The euphoria lasted through the Monday workday and into the next night, when I started the following chapter and flew along with the divine spirit flowing out of my fingers. And then I reached a crossroads, a place where a choice needed to be made. With happiness coursing through my veins, I hung up my keyboard and went to bed. I'd face that problem with ease the following night.
Tuesday night rolled around, and with joy in my heart and a full bag of Taco Bell gorditas on my desk, I jumped into the saddle set to work.
I failed. I tried again. I failed again. I shook my head, shook out my fingers, and tried to work out the problem. I tried to find that angelic orchestra which praised me so highly the night before. But it was gone. Those damned angels just up and vanished.
I like to blame it all on Taco Bell, but it wasn't that. It was that same tripwire that causes so many of my writer friends to stumble and, in this case, me too.
I was so enamoured of what I had written that I did not return to what really drives me. I wrapped myself up in the "glory of me" after creating something that lit me afire. And of course, so thoroughly wrapped, all I would write from that moment forward would be brilliant. Right?
But no. I looked back at the past few paragraphs and, sure enough, they sucked. I wanted to slash them to ribbons. My glorious pillar of self-appreciation cracked. Maybe I wasn't that good. Maybe I actually stank and my love of the previous chapter was simply the obliviousness of an over-tired mind.
Since then, I haven't written a lick. I'm afraid the moment I return to the keyboard, it'll all come out crap, and how could I possibly shame my previous chapter by following it with a dog?
And there is the trap.
I struggle through this even now as I type the blog. I'm going to have to return to Medophae, and I'm going to have to count on myself to guide him to the next scene with the same intuition that birthed him, even if it all comes to crap, because here's the thing: If I don't, there is no Medophae. It all began with my passion for his character, not an admiration of my prose. The words arose from that love.
And so, when I get to the keyboard this coming Sunday, that is what I will do. Simply start writing. The Revisionist can shred it later. Sometime in 2009. But right now, he has to shut up. Until the end of the book, the Creationist must have his way, or there will be no book at all.