There are many times when writing seems sort of pointless. It is a solitary habit, and like some other solitary habits that we do not need to name, it can make you feel good but it can also isolate you and make you feel more neurotic and lonely than you were before you began. When I started out I was filled with doubts and insecurities, I liked writing but I worried that I was wasting my time and producing something that would only make anyone who deigned to look at it laugh, or at best, feel sorry for me. Sort of the way you snicker at the middle-aged guy with a paunch and a comb-over trying to pick up young girls at the bar. That only lasted for the entire three years I spent writing my first novel, and I only survived by listening to an audio version of Brenda Ueland’s ‘If You Want To Write’ in my truck going back and forth to work every day. And once I got to a certain point I thought I might as well hang in there and finish because then, after a bunch of agents returned my script to me because their parakeets refused to shit on it, I could give up the whole thing for a bad deal and move on to pottery, or cutting myself.
You would think that finding an agent and getting published would change all that, and it did, for a little while. But then I realized that I had signed a 2 book deal which meant that I had to do it all over again and I wasn’t real clear on what I had done right the first time, and to make it worse, the publisher asked for an outline. I remembered dimly from high school that there was such a thing but I also remembered blowing off the assignment to write one and taking my D like a man so I really had no clue, and what if they wanted their money back? By that time I had listened to Ueland’s book so often that I could probably recite it verbatim.
I got through it, but insecurities are like those ducks at the carnival, you manage to shoot one down but another one pops right up. And you would think that all your friends would be happy for you, right? Well, some of them are, and some of them, not so much. I remember one guy who told me he knew another writer, but not like me, a real one… You ever hear of Irish alzheimer’s? That’s where you forget everything except your resentments.
At the moment I am in that particular purgatory when your agent Darth has your manuscript and he’s looking for a publisher, and you check your email about 20 times a day. Or, an hour. I picture his parakeet squinching his asshole shut until he either dies of sepsis or contracts such an explosive case of diarrhea that he shits himself inside out and dies with the feathers on the inside…
Some things never change.
I just finished ‘Bird by Bird’ (hmmm…) by Anne Lamott and I heartily recommend it to anyone who’s writing, trying to write, or who gave up writing in favor of pottery or self-laceration. I might be an insecure and neurotic SOB but at least now I know I ain’t the only one. Lamott’s book goes up on the shelf of books that I know I need to read again, and you can’t get much better than that.