Saturday, December 14, 2013


Hey, it's been awhile since I did a woe-is-me post! How about we break that trend?

I've been feeling pretty down lately, cheery Facebook and Twitter posts notwithstanding. You could call it post-NaNoWriMo slump, and I suppose that's part of it, but not merely because of the change of pace. The truth is, my story was much smaller and less meaningful than I hoped it would be. Less mystery. Less complexity. Not much more than ordinary people in a slightly less than ordinary setting. Simple, fairly predictable. All right, I guess, in its own way, but nothing like my original vision and certainly no Great American Novel.

Which is pretty much always how these things turn out. And I end up feeling rather like someone who sets out to create a symphony, only to find themselves unable to compose anything more than a predictable little single line melody. Depressing, especially when you know enough to appreciate and admire the complexity and texture and richness of something deeper, but can't summon any of that into your own head.

Sometimes I feel like a poseur in the writing and blogging world in general. For one thing, it seems like writing, at least in today's world, primarily belongs to people who come from appalling-but-colorful circumstances, or to people you might call the elite: well educated, well traveled, highly experienced. People who have had the time and money to volunteer in remote locations, or to travel to historic sites all over the world, to brush elbows with the best and brightest in a variety of fields--or who are, in fact, among the best in brightest in their fields.

On the other hand, people from lower middle class but stable backgrounds, shabby but never quite destitute; people without college degrees or exotic experiences; people who settled into dull jobs at a rather young age and who have never had time or money for anything more exciting than splurging on a CD or a new pair of shoes or a trip to the beach now and again: these are not writer material, at least not unless they are geniuses or "edgy" or are extroverts with incredible drive and originality. Or so it seems sometimes.

So I haven't felt much like blogging or working on finishing my story, because it feels rather pointless. And yet, writing may be what I'm best at (which is not at all the same as saying I'm good at it), and I feel a bit lost when it isn't part of my days.

I suppose the secret is to accept one's limitations and work within them. Paint with the palette you have at your disposal instead of packing it all away for want of better materials. If you can only write simple little slightly-formulaic stories about more or less ordinary folk, make them the very best simple little slightly-formulaic stories about more or less ordinary folk you are capable of writing.

But it's hard sometimes not to get so bound up in frustration and envy that you tie your own hands until you are incapable of creating anything at all.

8 comments: said...

I empathise so much with your words, I feel as if I could have written this post myself. :)

Rob Bowker said...

If you make the process count, try not to beat yourself up about the outcome. It is only a byproduct of the process. Courage!

Anonymous said...

For me a pencil is a promise. I have far more unrealized promises than I have things to say, yet my delight stays keen. I take Palimpsest's words (quoting Dickens) to heart: ' " There is something very comfortable in having plenty of stationery" '. Everyone labors under the Anxiety Of Influenza. The trick is not to catch a chill.

Ted said...

Oh good gravy - welcome to the self-flagellation club. Just remember that you are the very worst judge of your own writing. (:

In fact, I suggest you be happy that you're getting words on paper - some of us didn't even manage that in November. :D

Bill M said...

If it is any consolation -- I generally find my work is always worse than that of others.

Don't give up. Imagination cannot be constrained due to lack of travel, money or anything.

Fiction, novels and short stories grow from one's imagination. Sometimes experience and / or age helps.

I found when I lived in Virginia some of the best story tellers were those with little education, little travel, but lots of fun living how ever many of the years they were here on Earth.

Best thing is you gave NaNoWriMo a good try. I never even give it much thought let alone writing. You are already waaayyyy ahead of many others.

We all have down moments. When that happens just remember -- when down the only way to go is UP.

notagain said...

All the top prizes go to writers who depict the ordinary. think about it.

Scott Kernaghan said...

You know, I to often feel the same way. I often feel that I have achieved nothing in life, and that I have just a dull homely existence that hasn't amounted to much.

But this is how I feel, not how I am. In reality while we may not be the wild and outgoing people that our imaginations wish that we were, there's little about our lives that are truly mundane. While you may think you live in a dull world, the reality is that you are usually mere inches away from extraordinary circumstances.

One doesn't need to fly away to an exotic location to experience life, but rather simply put yourself out there.

I'll just quote Tolkien (Bilbo)
“It’s a dangerous business going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

If you are writing, you are living. Let your mind take you places.

Little Flower Petals said...

Thanks for the empathy, gang! I think part of this is some life stuff in general and part of it is just a need to finish this story and step away from it for a time. I think we can suffer from fly-on-a-tapestry syndrome when working on a story: we're too close, and we see every repetition and every less than perfect stitch instead of seeing the big picture.

And I guess, too, our own lives always seem less exciting than those that are different from our own. I've never lived in a big city, for example, so that seems exotic to me.

And while I may not be able to write hard sci-fi or meticulously researched historical novels, I suppose all God's writers got a place in the choir, no?