Saturday, January 8, 2011

Writer Infertility

I’m currently experiencing one of those writer-ly lows.  No, it’s not about a rejection or waiting or writer’s block.  I did something that can sometimes be dangerous to writers (even though we’re told to do it all the time.)
I read a book.
There I said it!
No, I haven’t mentioned this book and will not review this book, so don’t bother trying to figure out which one has launched me into a low.
I decided to get a few more YA titles read, since it’s the genre I’m tending toward in my writing more and more.  To be honest I did like the story.  It was cute and fun and I read through till the end.  But it was very clear right from the start that this was one of ‘those’ books.  You know the ones.  Cute story, but the writing…?
I want to be happy for all writers who get published.  I want to feel joy for them because I know exactly how much it means.  I want to support them, because no matter what genre they write, or what style they write, they worked hard to do what they’ve done. 
I don’t want to look like the bitter writer who has to put down others because of what I have yet to accomplish.  In fact you’re told time and time again that announcing these feelings is the one of the worst things a writer can do.  So we all hide it.  We pretend we’re not human and never ache just a little for what has yet to be.  But we do.
Like I say, this was a good story.  But there were areas of the writing that no matter how I tried to ignore it, my own writer/editing eyes could not overlook.  Shifts in perspective from one sentence to next.  Lack of depth.  Abrupt ending.  Inconsistencies in character capabilities.  Now, I know writing styles can and should be different.  Different structure appeals to different readers.  Different depth appeals to different readers.  I don’t doubt that this book deserves to be in print and that out there amongst all the rave reviews there are a lot of avid fans.  I’m not questioning that at all and I’m not claiming superiority in my own style and type of writing.
I’m just saying… there are times when this writing life can really bite.
I liken it to the difficulties some couples have in starting a family.
I want to be the couple who can’t get pregnant, but is honestly happy for all the friends and their endless announcements that they’re expecting, and then expecting again two years later.  But let’s be honest, after the smiles fade, you cry.  Because you want to be the next one with an announcement.  You don’t wish them less for it.  But you wonder why it’s not you.  You blame yourself, you blame circumstances and lifestyles, you change everything and then change it back again.  Then you say a lot of, why?
Well, in writing there’s probably more that you can control than in conception, but still.  There are days when the infertility of a writer can be almost as painful as regular infertility can.  But I’m not supposed to say so.  I’m stealing someone else’s joy and looking bitter if I say so.  So I hide it away and wait for it to pass.  Because it will pass.  In fact, by tomorrow I’ll kick myself for posting this.  Because we’re not supposed to let this side show.
Besides, to be honest, I do have a choice.  I could read and read and read.  Then I could try to change my own writing style.  I could try to morph into something I am not.  I could try to change the flow of my prose and the pace of my dialogue.  I could try to become more like the writing that doesn’t appeal to me.  Because maybe that will sell.  Maybe that will somehow be more noticeable and make everything happen for me faster.
The problem is, that would also be a lie.  The problem is, I would no longer love my own stories.
What would the point be then?  How would I face even a single fan and have anything in common with them?  How would I be inspired to write a single line?
Heck, I’m all for editing.  My ears are ready and willing to be open to an agent or editor as to what changes would help make my writing better.  But to change my whole style… that I can’t do.
So, I’ll wait for this feeling to pass.  It will.  I’ll keep writing my way, my voice, my style, my subjects.  I’ll keep on, keepin’ on, until that one manuscript catches the right eye, we click, a deal happens and I have my chance to be the book that makes some other writer say, “What the…?  Why?”  And I’ll understand.  I’ll wish them all the luck and encouragement in the world.  And it will be sincere.
But today…
Today I sigh just a little bit more.  Yet even through my sighs I can’t stop thinking about the new story that crept into my mind last night and has been playing behind my bad mood all day.  It’s nagging me.  It’s saying ‘finish that story you’re working on, so you can write me next, because you know you want to.”  And it’s right.  I want to begin so badly that it’s going to pester me until I finish my current one.  You see, I’m falling in love with it already.  So this mood will pass.  It will grow tiny and then ‘poof’ be gone, with the weight of the love for that next story pressing hard on it.
Because I’m a writer.  Because happy mood or sad mood, tired or ecstatic, the writing mood is always the strongest one of all.


Donna Cummings said...

Everyone who has ever wanted to accomplish anything knows these feelings, and they sympathize with you. It's hard to figure out the "why" of it sometimes, why that book worked when ours was rejected. It causes pain and frustration as well as second-guessing, just as you described.

I agree that the best remedy is to keep writing what you write, the way you write. There's room for all of us. It just may be at different times. :) Hang in there!

Jennifer Hillier said...

Always write the stories you want to write, the way you want to write them. I too have read books and scratched my head and wondered who this story is supposed to appeal to, but that's the beauty of literature -- it's subjective, and we don't have to like it. And when we read something, we've earned the right to have an opinion, whatever that opinion may be.

Like Donna said, there's room for all of us.

Julie Geistfeld said...

Thanks for stopping by to comment Jennifer and Donna.
It's true that writing comes in all shapes and sizes. That's what makes it so great, there's a book for every taste out there.