INTERN has a frightful confession to make, and here it is:
When one of INTERN’s writer-friends publishes a beautifully-crafted short story, INTERN berates herself for not being more literary.
When one of her writer-friends gets a big deal for a paranormal romance, she harangues herself for not being more commercial.
When one of her writer-friends writes a novel in a weekend, she scolds herself for writing so slow.
When one of her writer-friends toils away at his masterpiece for six years, she rebukes herself for writing too fast.
When a sixteen-year old writer-friend lands a three-book deal, she disparages herself for not being young enough.
When a sixty-year old writer-friend publishes her first book, she harasses herself for not being patient enough.
When a writer-friend publishes a book of poems through a small press, she chastises herself for not being obscure enough.
When a writer-friend sells a million copies of a sci-fi monkey thriller, she reproaches herself for not being famous enough.
“Why are you so dumb? Everybody ELSE can write a bestselling sci-fi monkey thriller in a week.”
“Why are you so slow? In the time it took you to finish one good manuscript, everybody ELSE published like ten books.”
“Why aren’t you writing obscure chapbooks/bestselling paranormal romances/famous sci-fi monkey thrillers? Why are you wasting so much time writing those silly things you write?”
These are the voices in INTERN’s head. They are not there all the time, but they come out now and then with their absurd list of demands: “Why aren’t you doing this? Why aren’t you doing that? Why can’t you just get your act together and be a literary-commerical-speed-writing-slow-toiling-impressively-young-inspiringly-old-obscure-famous-poetic-romantic-paranormal-thrillery-sci-fi-monkey-writer?”
Despair! Gnashing of teeth! Rending of garments!
If INTERN is lucky, these voices are answered by another, smarter voice. This voice says, “Hang on. You don’t even read monkey thrillers. You don’t even LIKE monkey thrillers. Why are you giving yourself hell for not writing them?”
Does Laurie Halse Anderson lie awake at night scolding herself for not writing Harry Potter?
Does John Ashbery beat his head against the desk for not being Isaac Asimov?
Does Barbara Kingsolver feel a twinge of guilt and panic when one of her contemporaries publishes an academic treatise on Rastafarianism?
No! Or at least, INTERN hopes the answer is “no.” Because that would be insane.
You write what you write. You are what you are. And, no matter how anxious you may be to have everybody like you, you’re not going to get there by scrambling to become what you think the world wants. You will never be young enough/old enough/smart enough/dumb enough to please everybody, so you should really just do what you love and let the world take care of itself.
There. INTERN has made her frightful confession. She will never write a bestselling monkey-thriller or publish a mind-blowing trilogy at age twelve, and that’s just that.
Oddly enough, it doesn’t feel so frightful anymore.
Have I told you I love you? ... in a non-creepy way, of course.ReplyDelete
I need the above blog-post on a poster, preferably one that covers a large portion of the wall-space toward which I gaze whenever the crazy voice-in-my-head starts ranting.
I agree with Phoenix...not the love you part, at least not yet. But the rest of it -- plastered on the interior of my brain! Thanks for the confession.ReplyDelete
Haha, this so so good and SO true. I do exactly the same thing, especially the literary/commercial second-guessing. My brain is like a pendulum ...ReplyDelete
I've so been there. This really hit home. THANK YOU.ReplyDelete
A novel in a weekend? Wow, now I feel like a failure!ReplyDelete
In all seriousness, it really is difficult to keep a sense of perspective in this business. Thanks for your honesty!
You have voices in your head, too? Whew, I was beginning to worry. (Thanks for your response to my q in the previous post.)ReplyDelete
Your voices speak to me, too. And I am so glad I'm not the only one who has this particular psychosis.ReplyDelete
Thank you, thank you, thank you! Clearly, when the voices in your head go away, they come chanting in mine. Next time, I'll be able to silence them more effectively, knowing I'm not the only one they harass.ReplyDelete
Here is the calling, create a poster Intern and you will find your words of wisdom forever immortalized on our walls. This will remind all of us that other people too have degrading head rants that focus are ripping apart our well-intentioned goals and aspirations.ReplyDelete
Then we shall sigh and get back to writing.
I read somewhere that comparison is an act of vengeance against oneself.ReplyDelete
And yeah, the answer is to be who you are and give what you alone have to offer. That's why we're here, and that's why we're reading your blog.
My issue with this isn't in the writing. I get that done and keep going, even if "keep going" means going back to it and revising it 10,000 times.ReplyDelete
My struggle and doubts come in when it comes time to sell and market something. Then the last thing I want to do is talk about what I've already written (I have something new on the board, one can assume,) and I feel like a cheap used cars salesman talking up my own book - though I'll gladly talk about the process, or the themes in it or something like that. But then I see people who seem like they strung together their eBook together from a collection of spam emails and old vampire novels claiming they sold thousands of copies in the past few months... that's usually the point at which I have to push down the urge to jump out of a window, and instead channel that into the process of writing the next thing. Which invariably will be called The Self Defenestrator.
INTERN was having a Melancholy Morning and reading all the feedback to this post really helps! thanks everyone.
James Curcio: INTERN saw a used Self Defenestrator on craiglist the other day...ReplyDelete
HUZZAH! That's what this post made me want to jump up and shout. You are not alone and neither are the rest of us. Curse those wretched voices. They don't know what they're talking about anyway, but sometimes they sound so very convincing.ReplyDelete
Me too intern! Me too! And you're right-- of course Barbara Kingsolver doesn't berate herself for not writing someone else's novel.ReplyDelete
You are wise beyond your years.
P.S. Barbara Kingsolver has some fun with baby chicks / poults / chicken raising in Animal Vegetable Miracle. Just thought you should know.
thank you for this. comparisons seems far too common, especially for struggling writers. i have to keep reminding myself that i write for me first, and that i'm telling the story i want to hear. others must tell their stories if they want to be authentic to themselves.ReplyDelete
we must remember that we do what we can, as fast as we can, and as well as we can. and that is good enough. better, even.
I just loved this post. I came here after reading about it on another blog, and I found myself laughing all the way through it. All those thoughts are exactly what goes through my head all too often while working on my own novels. Thanks so much for your honesty, and I'm so glad I'm not the only one who goes through this craziness.ReplyDelete
I've berated myself for all the same things, and even though I hear all the "be true to yourself" messages out there, they're hard to remember. You say it so well, though--I think I'll remember better now. (But my confession: I've been known to berate myself for not being as clever and entertaining as Intern!)ReplyDelete
AMEN and Amen again.ReplyDelete
Love this. Been there so many times. Just today, in fact. Thanks for this fantastic post. You nailed the fear.ReplyDelete
THIS. This is how it feels, and your ending is what it should be. So encouraging, you.ReplyDelete
This is the best g#ddamn thing I've read in a long time. Thank you.ReplyDelete
I think many, many of us can relate to those thoughts!ReplyDelete
it should be remembered (and emphasized) that INTERN's non-fiction book of wonderment was fan-freakin'-tastic. Well-written, engaging and both straight-forward and encouraging.ReplyDelete
So, I shouldn't berate myself every morning when my late night dreaming has NOT generated a multi-million dollar concept?ReplyDelete
I think it's safe to say that everyone (writer or not) wants what we don't have, and once we have it, we will invariably want something else.
But we writers are especially good at second guessing ourselves :)
Amazing post! Thanks for the reminders! Insecurity, thy name is writer.ReplyDelete
I absolutely love this post. Just what I needed to hear :-)ReplyDelete
Thank you I so needed to hear this today.ReplyDelete
This post is totally accurate, and I think it could apply to other fields outside of writing as well. I often feel a soul-crushing sense of inadequacy not just as a writer but as a grad student, because there's always someone who is so much more successful than I am and makes it seem like I could have that success too if only I was as smart as or worked as hard as that person. And yet I do work hard, all the time, and yet it still doesn't seem to be enough when I'm trying to compete with the other academics and writers. But your post made me feel better, especially because you're right about how it's impossible to please everybody.ReplyDelete
I love you, too. In a creepy way, of course.ReplyDelete
Wow, those darned voices sure get around! Thanks so much for the reminder on how to head them off before they wreak too much havoc ;-). I am greatly encouraged!ReplyDelete
I have these voices, too. The best way to deal with them is to drown them in a river. And then get back to writing.ReplyDelete
Even Stephen King sometimes envies the success of others, but he comes to the same conclusion as you.ReplyDelete
From The Paris Review:
Did you ever feel you had to make as big a score as someone like Clancy or Danielle Steel?
The bottom line is always sales, and these guys outsell me. Grisham outsells me four to one. It’s not a big deal to me anymore. Sometimes you look at the best-seller list in The New York Times and you say, Do I really want to bust my ass to be on this list along with Danielle Steel and David Baldacci and the born-again books?
Julius Caesar: "Do you think I have not just cause to weep, when I consider that Alexander [the Great] at my age had conquered so many nations, and I have all this time done nothing that is memorable?"ReplyDelete
From somewhere in Plutarch
Fantastic post. We've all been there, right?ReplyDelete
Say 15 'Hail Hemingways' and be absolved, my daughter.ReplyDelete