textualdeviance: (Eowyn pen)
[personal profile] textualdeviance
As mentioned elsewhere: I finished my Camp NaNo project last Friday. I'd already hit the 50k a week before that, but I finished the story, too--the rough draft, of course. It'll need a lot of expansion and editing before it's truly done. Still. Yay?

But I also still have my mental Mean Girl nattering away in the back of my head, telling me that it was a big waste of time and that considering myself a writer is the height of ego, so I should just stop this silliness and go get another soul-crushing desk job again because that's all I'm really suited for. (Yes, my mental Mean Girl is a nasty creature and if she were a real human being I'd probably punch her. Damn fake people in my brain making me upset. Bleh.)

What's pushing me that direction is how much deja vu this is with my attempts at putting together singing and journalism careers. I'm entering this industry right when it's changing drastically, and when it's being flooded with amateurs and mass-market crap, all of which is far more marketable than I am. I may be more talented, and my work may be better, but because neither I nor my work is in the flavor-of-the-week sweet spot, my chances of getting paid to do this are pretty small.

But, unlike those other two careers, the work itself--if not the getting-paid part--doesn't necessarily depend on other people; here the only enemy is the aforementioned hateful brain squatter. She's tough, but I'm tougher. Or at least I hope I am. I'm coming to realize that I need a lot of work to get my stuff into sellable form, and I'm trying really hard not to be daunted by that.

Up until now, I've avoided any formal instruction in this field--no how-to books, no workshops or classes, none of that. I've had quite a lot of training in non-fiction writing, of course, but the fiction stuff has mostly been by instinct so far.

Part of the reason I've stayed away is because I knew that if I started trying to "learn" this, I'd get overwhelmed, and not actually do it. Indeed, the reason it took me most of my life to even finish my first novel is that I'd get halfway through something, decide that it was crap, and never go back to it again. The idea of a formal instructor telling me, "this is definitely crap" was just too much. So I stayed away until I could at least get past my own mental roadblocks long enough to finish something.

See, I have this problem: I was a bit of a child prodigy, and a lot of things came very easily to me. I began to think that most things would, and thus the things that didn't come easily weren't something I should bother with. There have been only a few things in my life that I've really buckled down and worked to get good at. All my schooling, really, was just polishing, and getting the official confirmation that I already know what I'm doing. I didn't take music classes to train to be a singer. I took them to file off the rough edges and get confirmation from people who matter that yes, I am good at that.

Most of the reason I do this is that I figured the only people who could ever be successful at a given thing are those with massive natural talent. I can't, for instance, imagine ever learning how to draw well enough to get very far past stick figures, much less sell any art, so I leave that stuff to the people for whom it's as easy as breathing. Life is too short to waste time trying to learn how to do something that I don't even have the first clue about. I don't fancy that I'm so good at something that I don't ever need coaching or finessing, but I still simply don't bother with anything I'm not at least comfortable with.

So, I've ignored the creative writing instruction until I had actually barfed out three novels, so I could confirm to myself that yes, I do have enough of a jones for this to justify working on the spit and polish.

I've now finally broken down and bought a book on creative writing, to help me through revising.

The good part is that I'm about halfway through it, and probably 85% of it is stuff I already know. As with the singing, it's sort of a nice confirmation that the bones of the skill are there, which gives me at least a little sense that it's worth continuing to work on.

However, it's also apparent that there's a lot I still don't know, and that there's going to be a lot of work necessary to get my work into publishable condition. And I have to admit: that's kind of scary.

Because of that child-prodigy thing, I never really learned how to work at something in order to get good at it. The amount of effort that's gone into writing these three novels in the first place is pretty big, but the amount that will be necessary to get them into a condition that an agent or publisher will like is going to be even more intense. And frankly, that really does scare me.

It's not that I'm lazy. It's just that I hate the idea of wasting time. If I come to believe that the work necessary to polish these things is going to eat up the rest of my life, I'm going to be hard-pressed to bother. The fact that this isn't exactly a lucrative career choice (except in rare cases) makes it even more complicated. My working-class conscience already feels guilty for not having a paycheck-earning job right now. Dedicating several hours a day to writing silly stories seems like the height of self-indulgence.

And yet ...

More than feeling guilty about not having a paycheck job, I feel guilty for not fulfilling the promise I had when I was a kid. I really was smart and talented and had the world in front of me then, and a lot of shit got in the way of me doing anything with it. Now that most of that shit is cleared away, I feel like I'd be doing my child self a great disservice by not picking up where she left off and fulfilling my potential. And, best as I can tell at the moment, my greatest chance of doing that is by publishing a novel. At least one, maybe a lot more.

Which means that the stupid mental mean girl needs to shut the hell up so I can learn how to do this right and make that happen. I refuse to die without having my obituary say something more than "survived by" so dammit, this has to happen, and soon. And the only way it's going to is if I stop thinking that only those people who are born to do this in their sleep can get paid for it. It's NOT true that unless something is easy for you, you're not good at it. Most everyone had to start somewhere, and I'm already well on my way. No sense in steering the car off a cliff now.
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