Great way to start a Friday! Look at me firing the engines like it’s the Fourth of July! Four posts in three days, something good must be brewing.
I want to talk about the writer’s block. Inspirational drought. Loss of prose, reading appetite and everything in between, the death of a writer. I blogged about having the block, capital B-asshole-block, years ago when I was but a young pup and really thought I knew what I was talking about.
Gosh, my block was like premature ejaculating for a teenage boy, annoying but never really impacted my work to the point where I really considered myself retired from the writing world. In other words, I hit dry spells but could still half decently screw the shit out of a manuscript and feel pretty good about it. Graphic enough for you? Because I just got started.
Anyway… fast forward to the past four years. What forced this terrible drought upon me (and you because you are fully part of my creative process)?
Well… like I said before here life was shitty and then got considerably better. I did not have pain as fuel to guide my process anymore, so I dried out like a sad sad dying flower.
It was an adjustment, no doubt. Life is just completely different for me. I still have bad times but they are nothing in comparison to the hell I went through. Writing happy is not the same as writing depressed. But something else interfered with my musings too. I think I was in it for something else than writing. I wanted validation, acceptance, instant success and a large following that would provide me with the love I couldn’t find within myself. Once I discovered that love, I said fuck this shit, I don’t need y’all! I basically went from one extreme to another.
The writer’s block is a personal struggle. I did not understand that. There’s no magic pill or potion you can take to beat it every time. While my life did a one-eighty, my writing halted. My ideas simmered quietly in the background. I watched more than I read and I learned to live outside of the realm of words. I discovered unspoken emotions and feelings that did not have a place on my page years ago because I did not know about them. Now I get it when people say writing is all about experience. You can be a young pup and write about fantastical worlds all day, but you need to have lived to sprinkle a dose of reality and credibility to your stories, so that the reader can fully immerse themselves in your universe (and hopefully never want to come out).
I attended a writers’ conference years ago (my only one) and everything that was talked about there was just a big old sales pitch. How to write your next best-selling novel? How to see it on the big screen (and have a hot and promising heartthrob portray your main character, preferably shirtless because we all love a nice pair of male nipples, am I right)? How to craft a catchy opening chapter? What makes people buy your book like it’s crack?
Granted, it was a romance writer conference, and I don’t do romance. But I’m pretty sure other genre conferences follow the same format mostly to attract the ones who want to hit that best seller list, and tell all their friends “I made it!”
Just like about anything there are clinics you can take to learn all the tricks, you can search Google all day or you can pay experts aka best-selling authors to rob you of your creative spirit. Yes, they are really good at convincing you you need to change your voice to fit in to the likes of a specific audience (usually females age 18-49).
So you end up talking with people about YOUR project, and they manage to drive you as far away as possible from it to sell you THEIR project. Some agent talked to me about writing stories that take place in the 1920s, because why not? Meanwhile I’m trying to sell a paranormal story that plays very much in 2014. Granted, it was not romance but still, there were agents out there who looked for other genres.
It’s like pitching a new TV show. You try to be original, but they steer you to recycle ideas. Give them a spin in a new costume and maybe a horse carriage. Like how many versions of Glee do we need? It’s sickening, you start vomiting on your own prose and you constantly doubt yourself because you don’t know anymore if what you like to write is what people like to read.
Mark my words. After being brainwashed by many many many people, and my slogan is To Thine Own Art Be True, I strayed so far away from my art, I barely recognized myself.
Because I listened (I’m a good listener) I had retained everything that was said about trends and styles, and openings, and catchy words and all this shit in my brain, I ended up changing a story, which was not good to begin with because of xyz reasons that would be too long to explain here, but I changed it, and my character, originally an adult in her late twenties, became a seventeen year old brat.
I wrote YA. I have nothing against YA authors or readers, good for you if you love teenagers. I personally fucking hate YA. Yes, the cursing is necessary. Because I’m at a point where this gives me a physical reaction of absolute and undivided rejection when I think of YA. Like even if it sells, I can’t fucking stand teenage angst. Give me a seventeen year old who knows nothing about life but her struggles are oh so compelling. You know what she needs? A job. Once you start trekking to work you start to appreciate free time. The process of digging into a genre I freaking despise felt like breaking a leg over and over again. It was just a painful and horrible process. I should have stopped it in the starting blocks. I should have trashed it, and went the route of my usual stuff. But I wrote YA because good people (friends) told me it was trendy and I’d get a bigger shot at attracting readers. I sold my soul and I didn’t stick to my guns. I listened to the advice, refused to listen to my own gut, and went down the YA path which was unappealing, full of stuff I did not care to discover and I really committed to the process too, which made the experience even worse.
Writing should not be painful. Not like this at least. Editing is. Fine, but writing should be free, and fun, and even if the stuff you write about is dark, and challenging, you should still enjoy it, otherwise why do it? After countless full rewrites, I managed to write a YA book about drug addiction, which isn’t so glamorous so no, my stuff ended up being not so relatable to the general public. Sorry, no Prince Charming here. The biggest blow though was when I was finally done, and I sent a copy of the book to a good friend, they did not read it (although they love YA), they critiqued the cover as not being YA enough, and then proceeded to comment that they love to read books that have a message, and talk about real life experiences (which I thought my book was about because drug addiction, you guys).
I should have let this one go. I should have not expected instant gratification or any kind of support although I thought I deserved at least a little bit of support, especially after reading YA books just to be a good pal. I learned people are people and they are not as perfect as I think they are, and they will fail my expectations. There’s no bad blood between this friend and myself, I never really told her how I felt anyway, and I don’t think it’d change anything if I did, so I’m letting this one go.
My YA story was really about me though. I had a lot of anger that had to get out. I was a thirty year old female living in New York City and fighting her demons one bottle of scotch at a time. Some people said my drinking was not so much a problem as it was a crutch. Nope folks, my drinking was a problem, a problem that could have cost me my life. It took me a lot of introspection to realize that, and to move away from that.
Oh this got real serious all of a sudden. Here let’s lift the mood up. I’m fine. I got through it. But walking away from my true original goals and writing YA was simply not a good idea. In the end I managed to write a novel, which is still profound, and good, and will teach you something, but please don’t fit into a box. This is art people, we are not supposed to have boundaries. You create the rules. You define which ones you want to break. There is a voice for everyone. Fitting into a category just because people say so is just the stupidest way to ruin mojo.
You gotta find your own muse. You can’t use someone else’s. I’m not a YA author. I write horror, I write paranormal, I write sci-fi, but deep under the layers, I write about me. My characters get shit faced, they fuck strangers and they regret it the next day. My characters are dark and funny, and they all live in New York City even when I send them in outer space. I think my biggest mistake is that I tried to pasteurize a product that wasn’t meant to be clean and pretty. It was meant to hit you in the ribs and make you choke on your own blood. I could not do that with YA. Right, you’re going to tell me The Hunger Games or Divergent are pretty gory, so it could have worked. Yeah, it could have, except I don’t want my main character to be a virgin, and teenager. I want my characters to have lived, and sinned, so they can find salvation. I want them to have experienced life just the same I am experiencing it. With the good and the bad, everything that makes us human is what I like to write about, even in a fantasy world.
I get it. I’m not mainstream. Although multifaceted dark characters and noir backdrops are pretty trendy on Netflix. I don’t care about mainstream.
So there you have it. My block was all my doing. I didn’t stay true to myself. I signed some imaginary contract with some imaginary publisher targeting an imaginary audience and putting all the elements in my book I thought you’d like. Don’t get me wrong, the book is good stuff. But it’s not true to me.
Therefore I’m starting fresh. I’m dusting off the works in progress and we’re going to get real and dirty. You’re going to feel my dread. You’re going to feel my anguish. You’re going to ride the roller coaster and you will ask for more on the way down. There is pain in my story but this pain gave birth to a beautiful muse. She’s much more beautiful and kind than my old bottle of scotch, that’s for sure.
I’m not dead yet. I never died. I just got turned off, and stuck to a mold that wasn’t for me. As much freedom as writing gives me, I turned my writing process into a jail cell. The block had been self-imposed, left a bad taste in my mouth, and really made me believe I was done.
The muse woke up though. I don’t know why now is the time for her to wake up, but I’m grateful she did because I have a lot to write about.
Let’s waste no time then!