Wow. Crazy times. I just woke up this morning (some people are sleeping for their extra hour - you know I'm going to write) and thought to myself, "Self, you're back to normal life." As normal as it gets around here. But I have no immediate talks planned, no conferences, no overseas guests, nothing but getting SCAR finished, occasionally cleansing the pallet with a couple of short stories and the other novella I'm contracted to write. Nothing of mine comes out until next year, so no promotion efforts going into full spring until after the hols. Sigh. Good times.
I was at a party Friday and an old friend said, "You lead the most exciting life." She also complimented my writing. (Sweet. I love that.)
This is not the first time this has happened. FaceBook is a big culprit, but I'm pretty new there and B.F. (Before Facebook) I had old friends say it to me--relatives, acquaintances at school. My life is exciting.
Speechless, I sputtered and muttered something self-effacing, I'm sure (note to self: Thank you is always sufficient. Learn it. Do it. Live it.) and walked away sort of in a daze. Don't get me wrong. I love my life, and I love that other people think it's exciting.
Oh, I know how it sounds, how it must look, a bunch of us writers "networking" in the bar and giving talks and doing panels and stuff. I know outsiders don't realize most of our conversations revolve around beer and when the next one is coming, making fun of each others' music tastes, yummy meals we've had in the past six months, unmerciful teasing over hotel barflies hitting on us, and, if we're feeling particularly literary, how disappointed we are by the latest TV adaption of a favorite book, all the time skirting Real Issues because we all know; we all know how it is, even if others don't.
And it made me wonder.
Do other people really know what I do? Do they know what writing is? Do they realize it's me, sitting in my recliner in slippers and sweats, badly in need of a shower, staring at my laptop for hours, at the dust gathering under my desk and sometimes out the window, trying not to claw my eyes out or run to the kitchen for a snack or worry over how big my ass is getting rather than write another word, fighting with all my might--with Facebook as my greatest weapon--whatever ethereal chain binds me to the page?
Do they know that writing, for all of us but James Patterson, is more clinging to the edge of a cliff, fingernails cracking one by one, than talks at cons and signing books and readings?
Somebody said success is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration or something like.
Writing is 99% frustration.
Writing is an allergic reaction to life.
Writing is hives of the brain.
It's an itch on the inside of my skin, and the only thing that gives me temporary relief is another page full of my own, crappy, angsty, irritable, melodramatic words, more often than not highlighted and deleted. I hate them as I write each one, how they're strung, and stupid fucking Word thesaurus (No! That's not what I meant at all!) and the Dictionary and keeping tenses straight. I loathe when I try to cram three ideas into a sentence, a scene, or a character, and I fail. Do people realize how much structuring a scene resembles stuffing a marshmallow through the eye of a needle?
I hate when I have stories to submit and I resent the hell out of the little bit of satisfaction from having them all out making rounds and all the rejections and the fleeting high from very occasional sales, and the list of agents I need to submit to, and Publisher's Marketplace Deals Emails that come every fucking day. I hate that I'm secretly jealous of all the successful writers whom I openly adore as friends and colleagues.
I hate how I feel when people (actual readers, not writers) come up to me at conferences because I wonder if they realize I'm a fraud, not only in my smallish, undeserved success but that I'm also a fraud in the actual act of writing. I hate that I'm snobbish about kids' sports in lieu of the importance of the arts, my own art in particular. I'm annoyed at how schools teach writing, as if it's something everyone must do, because it makes the population at large think they can write when schools barely skim the iceberg of what writing is.
I hate how I hold back in relationships and conversations, and yeah, even here. Sure, I talk a good game, but know this. I'm a liar and a cheat, right to your face, sometimes to spare your feelings but mostly to spare it for the page, even though I know chances are good everyone will hate it there, too. Because That's What Writing Is.
And you know what I hate even worse? When I like a sentence, fall in love with it, because it's the fix that keeps my trick-selling, street-corner drug-dealing muse in business.