Tuesday, April 6, 2010

On: Why it took me so damn long for my writing to get here

There are so many self-help blogs and books out there, all purporting to give you the right ounce of motivation, the right keys or steps to Become The Person You Always Wanted To Be (tm).

This isn't one of them.

I am here cataloging my journey to publication, but it is not by any means to be interpreted as inspirational, or some collection of "How To" steps. If there's anything to be taken away from this, perhaps it should be "How Not To" because I sure as hell faffed around for so long. I expect I'm going to do a lot more failing and learning along the way.

I've been rigid with the fear of failure for over ten years. Fear of rejection, fear of criticism, fear of wasted time. There's a lot about my personality and expectations that I've never really figured out where this all came from. I've had the means, the motive, and the ability, but I've always second guessed myself...all the time I was advising myself and others against second-guessing! I've always considered myself a loud, brassy individual who doesn't take carp from anyone, and getting bolder as the years go by. Through all my disgruntled chuntering about fear of wasted time, I HAVE been wasting time, spinning in a little circle of indecision.

The best I can pin it down to is that I wasn't confident enough in my life experience. I thought that To Survive I should become a good little worker bee first - I chose a career, worked towards it, got educated, then spent a decade - A DECADE - mucking around in corporate purgatory.

This is not to say my day job, or any other parts of my life, is bad. It's not. I'm good at what I do, it's been a solid base, and I've picked up some great skills - I've learned more from accident and intuition, more from the school of seeing What Not To Do, than any taught plan.

But we're here talking writing, not my career. It would be awesome if I could make WRITING my career, but I have other youthful ambitions (I'm notorious for having split focus) and a mortgage to deal with. I just wanted to show how easy it was to fall into self-survival mode - security first, happiness later. I would have loved to be a free spirit (I'm trying to be one now), but I came from too practical a base. All my motivational problems are my own, I can not get anyone else to kick my ass into gear.

This is not a pity party. I remember reading an interview with Juliet Marillier where she said - and I paraphrase - she did not start writing until her 40s because she wasn't ready for it. Perhaps I haven't been ready until now.

Thinking back to my original stabs at writing for publication, that may well be. When I was 20 or so, I wrote some woeful short romantic fiction, some of which got published in nationally distributed ladies mags. Oh woe, the feminist in me shrivels at the thought now! Thank The Whatever that I wrote under a pseudonym back then, I wouldn't touch that tabloid muck with a 10 foot barge pole these days! Yes, a good example of further enlightenment informing my writing style.

Having always been a Science Fiction and Fantasy fan, the next logical step was to have a crack at it. Back in 1999 I entered a piece in L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of The Future competition. I wouldn't say it was bad, but it could have used some constructive criticism, if I knew where to turn back then. It got me into the Highly Commended category, a wee certificate, and fan-girl pleasure at the thought that Anne McCaffrey, a judge that year, had read my piece.

And that's where I faltered. I picked up a tic from that moment in time - I can not write with someone looking over my shoulder. I was flatting at the time in a fun, busy household, and one of my housemates took their science fiction incredibly seriously. I was writing this piece with intention of entering the competition, and my housemate physically loomed over my shoulder and made a disparaging comment about a particular piece of science. Perhaps they were right, it needed a critical eye, but I was over sensitive at my first foray and completely lost my momentum. I submitted it, got as far as I did, and no more.

What a chicken. If only I'd believed in myself. The path of life is littered with the road kill of ifs, buts and maybes.

In between here and there, my writing has been in the category of "Dabble". I spent about five years writing opinion pieces for NZPWI, an online wrestling magazine. I did it for the fun and love of wrestling, and my good mates. Here I also suffered from procrastination problems. Here I did have a good friend who tried to motivate me, tried to tell me I had "something". Indeed, there were a couple of pieces I'd say bordered on good, but suffered from lack of focus and strong editorial intervention. This is not an aspersion on my friends. It was a piece of serendipity that we all came together at the same time, trusted each other to write well and what was right, and within our resources. This editorial intervention is something which I believe is missing in modern journalism, especially blogs which are passed off as content on many mainstream news sites (where standards should be MUCH higher than your Average Joe Blog), blurring the lines between strongly delineated fact and opinion.

Other places I have dabbled have been online audio plays. See my posts about the audio plays I've had produced at Darker Projects and Brokensea. Here again I've suffered from motivation and lack of strong editorial arm.

I could say a blog, book or person influenced me in some small part. I had a great teacher in high school who introduced me to Science Fiction and writing poetry; I liked the simplicity of Stephen King's "On Writing"; I tried a writing correspondence course...and didn't finish it; I found a little bit of similarity in circumstance in Shaun Boyd's LifeReboot blog; and there have been myriad articles, blogs and advice that have peaked my interest over the years. It's just they're all such a small fraction, and what it really comes down to is Me.

Why now? Why did it feel right that on March 1st, 2010, I sat down and wrote my first short story in almost 10 years? I know I gave myself the time and space to do it - I had leave to use up. But why THAT day did I put down a word, then another and another until I had 3000 of the suckers, instead of playing Guild Wars, doing some crafts, reading, or spend hours spinning on the spot beating myself up about not writing?

The great mystery of the universe - I DON'T KNOW. Don't ask me to give you the great answer to life, the universe and everything. Some people find it easy to write, I don't.

I was just ready.

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