Writer’s Life: Pride and Fear

It is Sunday, and according to my schedule, I should be writing about politics.  But today was also the last day of Con-Volution 2017, and I’ve had some experiences today which make me want to talk about writing.

I’ve written about fear before.  It may be the best article on writing I’ve ever written.  I’m convinced that fear is the main enemy of the writer.  It’s also the enemy of a free society, but I’m not talking about politics today.  We’re sticking to the writing life and leaving politics for another day.

I’ve also written about pride.  Pride is a two-edged sword.  A little bit can help the writer get through some tough situations, but too much keeps them from seeing their mistakes.  Too much pride in the writer prevents them from reaching their potential.

This weekend, I’ve gone through some experiences where I’ve experienced both fear and pride, sometimes one right on top of the other.

Every convention starts with fear.  I’m always a little bit afraid that I’m going to make a fool of myself.  That I won’t fit in, or that I’ll say something stupid, or that the community will realize that I don’t belong and show me the door.  This isn’t a major fear anymore, but it is still present, like some persistent static when trying to listen to a song on the radio.

Once I start going to panels and I start talking with people and blending in, that fear mostly goes away.  It resurfaces when it’s time to go to the after parties.  The fear is manageable.  It’s the kind of fear that most introverts feel when presented with a large crowded room.

During Con-Volution 2017, I had moments where fear got to take a backseat to pride.  I participated in workshops, and there were moments when I reached for words and found them.  At one point, I wrote about a battle field and set up a powerful scene on the spot.  I only wrote a few sentences, but for a few moments, I felt like the greatest writer to ever put pen to paper.

My ego is not powerful enough to support such pride, so I quickly stepped back down to reality.  But I did still feel proud of myself, and from that experience and a few others during the convention, I felt justified in pursuing my writing hobby.  I thought for a few minutes that maybe my dream of becoming a full time writer could become a reality.  I just needed to keep going.

Today, I received some fuel to rekindle the fear and lower my expectations.  I’d sent The Repossessed Ghost to a friend, and we talked about it today.  He didn’t like it that much, and while that made me a little bit sad, it didn’t crush me.  What did crush me was the fact that part of the reason he didn’t like it was because a couple of important chapters were out of order in the print.  This error pulled him out of the story and prevented him from reading it as it was intended to be read.

I’m not that worried about my friend not liking my book.  It hurts, but it’s not the end of the world.  From the things we talked about, it wouldn’t take much for me to make him happy.  He wanted more descriptions of the main character, which is something I don’t want to do for a few reasons.  I’ll think about it, and if I work on it again, I’ll keep his advice in mind.

Obviously, my friend not liking my book stoked the fiery fears of failure.  But the real terror is discovering that the copy I’d sent to an important editor ALSO had the chapters mixed up.

You can’t just swap chapters 10 and 21 in the book.  It doesn’t work.  And it looks amateur.  It’s a stupid mistake.  One that I’ve never made before.  I’m not even sure HOW I made the mistake.  All I did was hit compile in Scrivener.  I checked the first dozen pages or so, and everything looked fine.  Just as it always had.

But the mistake is there, and I sent it to someone that has the potential of promoting my book in the direction I want it to go.  When I sent it to this editor, it was like buying a lottery ticket.  As long as he had it and I hadn’t heard from him, I’ve been able to feel like I’ve been moving towards the fulfillment of my dream.  But now it looks like that lottery ticket was misprinted, and can’t possibly be a winner.

Normal fear sucks.  Justified fear is even worse.

There’s been some ups and downs this weekend.  I’ve had moments where I felt confirmed as a writer.  I’ve had moments that have brought me down to reality, like concrete shoes on a man tossed out to sea.  Moments where I’ve found it very difficult to breathe.

It will be okay, though.  I just have to persevere.  Whether it’s pride swelling me up, or fear tearing me down, I just have to push on and keep going.

I will get through this, one way or another.