Monday, June 8, 2009
Who is this SOB and why does he always want me to fail?
He’s the guy inside me who gets a great big kick out of telling me what a loser I am, and he’s been yelling in my ear for the past week. Why? Because I finished the Dillinger short story and I’m trying to figure out where to submit it, and I’ve finally stopped tinkering with Countrie Matters and I'm getting ready to send that out, too. In other words, the closer I get to the possibility of getting published or produced, the louder my inner Mr. Negative tells me the same 7 things over and over again:
YOU’RE WASTING YOUR TIME. No, silly. Doing the day job is a waste of time. Doing nothing is a waste of time. I’d be wasting my time if all I did when I wasn’t working is watch TV or sleep for the other 15 hours of the day.
YOU’RE NOT DOING ENOUGH. Are you kidding? Figure the 10 hours a day it takes me to get ready for work, work, and get home, and the (let’s say) 5 hours of sleep I get a night. That’s 9 hours left. Take an hour for dinner and that leaves 8. That’s a working day of hours I have left, at least 2 of which I use every weekday to write. With the rest I see movies, plays, friends and music, not necessarily in that order.
YOU’LL NEVER AMOUNT TO ANYTHING. Amount as in what, weight or currency? If it’s weight, I’ve got at last count 10 storage boxes of manuscripts finished and unfinished. That’s a couple of hundred pounds easy, which makes it the weight of at least one life. If it’s currency, then okay, ya got me there. I can’t support myself by writing because I’m not a success, if that’s how I define success, which it’s not. To me, success is doing something creative every day of my life, and taking my chances with what I send out into the world.
YOU HAD YOUR CHANCE AND YOU BLEW IT. The defensive answer to this is “Nope, sorry –- you can’t blow chances. You have no control over them; that’s why they’re called chances.” The slightly more honest answer is, “Yeah, you’re right. I’m a lousy businessperson, and when a door does open up for me, I don’t do enough to make sure it stays open, or that I sign a lease on the room.” But the totally honest answer is very simple. Whenever I finish writing something, I expect the skies to open up, a light to shine down on me from Heaven, and a great booming voice to say “THIS IS MY BELOVED PLAYWRIGHT, IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED. GIVE HIM A TONY, FOR CHRISSAKES.” Something that might actually happen one day if I spent as much time submitting my stuff as I do writing it. And there’s a big reason I don’t do that:
YOU WILL ALWAYS BE REJECTED. That’s the fear. That’s the big one. It’s me as the fox in the Sour Grapes fable. It’s me looking at [insert name of current crush here] and saying to myself “She’s not going to say yes if I ask her out, so why bother?” The key button here is “always.” Nothing is always. There have been times when I wasn’t rejected. But I only found out by stepping up to the plate and swinging. Yes, I can foul out; yes, I can fly out. But I know that if I stand there with the bat on my shoulder and do nothing, I will never get to first base because I will strike out. Getting a hit is not guaranteed. The chance to swing at a pitch is the only guarantee. And the more you step up to the plate, the better your chances are of getting on base.
YOU’RE A LOUSY WRITER. Bullshit—I’m a brilliant writer. In all senses of the word brilliant (a little too smart, a little too bright). A little more dullness and I’d be produced everywhere, like Henry Chettle. A lot more dullness and I’d be published and famous, like Updike. So sorry, you’re not going to depress me by giving me an opinion like that. In fact, you’re doing the opposite. You’re making me want to say “Oh yeah?” and write something that people will read 500 years from now and go “Yeah.”
YOU’RE A FAILURE AND YOU ALWAYS WILL BE. There’s that “always” word again. Another easy button to push. Because there’s something comforting in failure. There are no expectations. There are no demands or requirements. I never have to live up to anything bigger than my lowest moments. I never ask myself “A failure by whose standards?” I never say to myself, “The reason I’m not getting anywhere is because I’m not taking that first step.” Oh no. What I say to myself is, “You’re right. I am and I will be.” And the more I say it, the more I believe it. Because when it comes to failure, and blondes in trouble, and small dark sharp-tongued ingénues, I am a total fool. And every fool’s got a reason to feel sorry for himself, and turn his heart to stone.
Which is why, when Mr. Negativity pushed my failure button, I listen to this until I believe every single word of it: