Friday, April 23, 2010

Cross-Section of Self-Esteem


This is a small sample of what goes on in my head, while writing, say, the average Hannah pages. In no particular order:

1. Oh, I hope I can get more writing done today than yesterday.
2. How do I spell that again?
3. Shoot. I've mentioned this person before. What was his name again? *roots around to find it*
4. Four hours writing? pfft. Easy. I'll do five hours tomorrow *A.N: this doesn't work. don't do it!*
5. Wow. That was actually really good. Celebratory tea break!

This is a small sample of what goes on in my head, while editing, say, the last screenplay I completed.

1. What? (sometimes I throw scenes in just to hit the page requirement. Sometimes I can't decipher my own shorthand. Sometimes I don't realize how much time I have spent on useless exposition, or how little exposition I've actually written.)
2. Y'know, for a writer, I am actually crap with words.
3. Oh my God. I am capable of so much better than this!
5. ...This is still not as bad as that thing in '07. We have hope.

This, dear readers, is a small sample of what goes on before I hit the "publish post" button on this blog.

1. I'm stupid.
2. Nobody cares what I think.
3. Other people are so much better at this than I am. (In my defense, this is actually true. True, but irrelevant.)
4. I can't even spell. (Very true. Seriously. Thank Goddess I have such lovely people in my life, who can actually do this for me.)
5. It's not that I don't deserve to have an opinion. It's that it's a stupid one, and people shouldn't be forced to listen to it.

You see the problem, yes? There is a slight disconnect between what is going on in my brain, and what I think is going on in my brain. Sadly, I do not know which is accurate. It terrifies me to think I could write something really good, and hate it, just because I wrote it. Because Due Date is coming up fast, and, without a traditional publisher, editor, or marketing team, my success depends on how good I think I am, because it's up to me to convince other people. And I get really nervous when I think about that, because I don't know if I'm going to be able to do it.

Logically, I know that I have readers. People read this blog and like it, and link it in places I never expected them to. I thank you for that, by the way. I also know that self-loathing is the cornerstone to any artistic pursuit, and that part of the reason this blog is so nerve-wracking is because it is true. It isn't things wrapped up in story form that are meant to entertain, it's who I am and what I think. Seriously, you should see the anxiety-ridden nightmares after each rage post. As I discussed in my earlier posts, oftentimes, even among friends and family, who, regardless of my many and varied issues with them, are not such terrible people, generally speaking, I am seen as far too Other to have a valid opinion on anything. I am too different for my thoughts and feelings on any particular thing to have any bearing on anyone else's life. I know that is not true, but subconsciously I seem to have accepted this as truth. It does make writing difficult, as we are supposed to 'write what we know' and I certainly can't make the worlds I invite you into any more 'normal' than the one I inhabit. Perhaps this is my failing as a writer.

It has taken me years to get to this point, but honestly? I love editing and rewriting. I do. I love it because that is the point where I look at what I've done and I go, "oh hell, this sucks." And then I fix it, until it stops sucking. My dear love asked me recently, as I was whining and complaining about first drafts, as I am wont to do, (as we have clearly seen) how did I know when it was worth saving? Why continue on if it's going to be this hard? It's not something I can explain. I get through the first draft, and then I know. In the end, the finished products are mine, but the stories come from in the ether, and they are gifts. When I'm finished the first draft, I can see whether I'm going to be able to use the gift I've been given the way it's intended to be used. That's the best way I know to explain it. Hannah has been through enough incarnations, and each incarnation improves, and I know the story is there. The story is not the problem, it's my ability to write it that waxes and wanes. So I don't know, until that first draft is done, and I can see what sort of thing I'm working with. There've been scripts and novels where I get through three or so drafts and go, "I have no idea what I'm saying." And I have to put it down. Sometimes twenty or thirty, sometimes a hundred to a hundred and fifty pages in, I have to go, "Whatever this is, I'm not up for it." That sucks. Anyone who's been through that, you know. Anyone who hasn't, go pat yourself on the back for your brilliance. I am in awe of you, fortunate one.

There's a quote in one of the most amazing books on writing in my possession, Elizabeth Ayers' Writing The Wave. I'm serious, pick it up, wherever you can, and do everything this woman tells you to do. It's that good. Anyway, at one point, she quotes Michaelangelo, who said, when someone asked him if carving the statue David was hard, that it wasn't. He just carved everywhere the statue wasn't. Ayers says, as writers, we have the harder job. First, we make the marble. Then we carve it. So I always need to see what manner of marble I am working with. And Hannah has already been made in so many versions and shaped so carefully over time, and I understand it, and I know that it's worth something, so I keep going. And I can't wait til I can look at this latest incarnation and go, "That goes out, that stays in." It's exciting. Like having a baby when you get those charts like they have at a hospital, and you go, "and now its eyelids are forming, and now you can see its fingers and toes..."

A couple summers ago, I was putting the finishing touches on a script that I had been tinkering with for omgtwoyears. For Hannah, that's young, but for a screenplay, it was astronomical. And my dear love was feeling anxious and uncertain, because he had the arduous task of telling me when it sucks. It could have destroyed our relationship (this job has, in fact, destroyed relationships in the past), but after much hand-wringing, he was suitably honest, and told me where I was messing up, where I was not being enough, where I was being less than I was capable of being. And thus, he commenced in fretting, and reminding me that he actually had no idea how I do what I do, and I was obviously not required to listen to him. And I thanked him profusely, and then I got better. It's very rare to find a draft-reader who can help me to get better, as most are intent on reassuring me I don't suck. Which, come to think of it, is kind of like how, when I present my asexual, non-relationship-seeking self, people hurry to inform me, and others around me, that I absolutely could get a boyfriend, if I wanted one. In case I didn't already know that. Whatever, it's rude and unhelpful, and I have made mistakes and people have not been right for the job, but I'm fortunate now, and worry about that less. Fortunate, and doomed to rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.

I keep going because I can't not do it, but not because I have any particular faith in myself that it will pan out. I'm a stubborn fool. This is just how it is, just what I do, and I don't know if I can make that worth somebody else's while or not. So I really want to take a second to, again, thank any readers I happen to have, for listening, for wanting to listen, for helping me to improve, and for knowing what I talk about, when I need to be introspective and talk about The Artist's Journey for a second. I know I don't suck as much as I think I do, sometimes, but the only reason I know when I'm actually good is when somebody else says so. So, thanks. And while I have you, um.

Is there a point at which the intense self-loathing goes away? Or is this just one of those, "square your shoulders, learn to deal with it" kinda things? Because this is really getting old.

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