There are about two minutes where I feel like hot shit after I’ve written something. Sometimes those two minutes begin once I click on “Send” and get the piece to my editor. Sometimes those two minutes begin once I’ve skimmed a few brief sentences of positive feedback. Sometimes it’s when I see my piece published, sometimes it’s when it generates a comment, a like, or a read, and sometimes it’s just when I look over it again and find that not only were there no glaring mistakes, but also I made a funny joke. Even if it’s only funny to me. But I only get two minutes of feeling like hot shit, and sometimes not even that. Once those minutes are over, I’m back to feeling like an imposter who shouldn’t be trusted with an Internet connection. I can’t do this, I don’t know what the fuck I was thinking, I should just cancel everything. This is how I feel most of the time.
According to most other writers I know, this is a shared feeling. It’s why we choose to live inside our own heads (no one there to criticize but us, and thank god because we’re already some terribly mean-spirited critics) and, according to one other writer I know, why we all hate each other (everyone is jealous of everyone and their two minutes of feeling like hot shit). I think that most people who create things in order to convey emotion are probably going to be miserable more often than other people because it’s hard. Not necessarily the act of creating something is hard, but using that creation to communicate something that’s so clear in your own head to other people who usually just look at you like you’re a fucking weirdo is hard.
It’s hard to convince them to listen. It’s hard to explain where you’re coming from. It’s hard to field their questions, which, as you hear more and more of them, are less about your work and more about their feelings about it. No, I didn’t mean to offend you. No, we don’t need a “please don’t write about this clause.” No, this one isn’t about you, either.
“The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them- words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head, to no more than living size when they’re brought out. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you make relevations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for the want of a teller, but for the want of an understanding ear.”
– Stephen King
I know it’s dorky to like Stephen King very much because apparently, popular authors are always bad authors. And by “apparently,” I mean “this is totally untrue, at least in the case of at least a few people who, among other crimes against literature, didn’t write Twilight.” But I personally love Stephen King, not just for his stories but for his ability to make his characters communicate. He employs tricks that give these characters and their stories such improbable depth for a writer of popular fiction. Jokes, tics, patois, ephemeral totems, a true and confident sense of place in both his Maine stories and these sprawling fantasy epics. I know it sounds like I’m fangirling but I haven’t even read the bulk of his books. I’m not like my boss or my ex-boyfriend’s mom, both of whom are members of the fan club and get new releases weeks before they go on sale. That’s not me. I’ve read a few things, but my favorite by far is On Writing. It’s part instruction, part memoir, and for me, a perfect explanation of self from a person who must write. He is compelled to tell stories. It’s lucky that he makes a shitload of money doing it and has fans who sign up for advance copies, but I’d like to think that occasionally, still, Stephen King feels like hot shit for about two minutes and then goes back to feeling like the rest of us.
I Call Myself a Writer But Really I Can’t Stop Thinking About Naming My Future Wi-Fi Network “The Banana Stand”*
I’ll Sail This Ship Alone, The Beautiful South
Everybody’s Different, Everybody Dies, Sleeping in the Aviary
Baby You’re Bored, Throw Me the Statue
Do You Remember the Riots?, Jens Lekman
Love Is a Wave, Crystal Stilts
Doing All the Things That Wouldn’t Make Your Parents Proud, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart
What You Know, Two Door Cinema Club
Gettin Mad and Pumpin Iron, The Coathangers
He Gets Me High, Dum Dum Girls
Warm Leatherette, Grace Jones
She Cracked, Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers
…And Ever, Titus Andronicus
Tina Said, Those Darlins
Love You More Than Yesterday, The Shangri-Las
Waltzing Me All the Way Home, The 6ths with Odetta
Airplanes, Local Natives
From Above, Ben Folds/Nick Hornby
I’m Not Crying. You’re Not Crying, Are You?, Dear and the Headlights
Music When the Lights Go Out, The Libertines
Mexican Mavis, Boy & Bear
As I Call You Down, Fistful of Mercy
I Wish I Was the Moon, Neko Case
The One Who Left Me, The School
Lonely Road, The Shivers
*Because there’s always money in the banana stand.
The whole “I’m hot shit vs. I’m just shit” tortured writer/artist/etc. thing is normal but pointless when you start realizing that Life is pretty short and we’re just specks of dust who don’t really matter. Oh, we try SO-O-O hard to matter in whatever bubble we choose for ourselves, but we just don’t. So all the more reason to dance/write/create like nobody’s watching, because no one is. The only audience worth considering is the one inside your head.
People who don’t write don’t get that writing is hard. This is why everyone thinks they can write. And it is only the people who know that writing is hard and who have that moment of pride/lifetime of panic who I respect as writers. When people post on Facebook, “I finished my novel! It’s so awesome! I’m ready to find a publisher!” and their previous three posts have utilized the wrong your, I laugh and wonder when their bubbles will burst. I’m not a mean or malicious person: I’m a person who spent three years in pursuit of a degree in writing fiction that I have not used once. So I get it.
Also, I adore On Writing. I even blogged about it last summer: http://abbireads.wordpress.com/2010/09/08/on-writing-by-stephen-king/
Ohhhh my god, or the people who claim to have written a novel and had it published, but, um, dude? Publishing it on the Internet isn’t publishing it. That’s called blogging. Learn the difference.