Monday, June 17, 2013

on writing and mediocrity

I used to write novels, you know.  In fact, a lot of people would say I was really good at it, especially for a 13-year-old.  I placed in a few contests, I got the nicest rejection letter ever from a Zondervan editor....and I fell out of the habit.

I'm trying to remember what made me quit, somewhat abruptly, at exactly the three-quarter mark of a book I was pretty fired up about.  I'd had a few duds after my initial successes, and I thought I'd found something that would break me out of the rut.  Elated, I told my friends, "I just knew all I had to do was go back to the sea and a gorgeous ship!" The Forewarned, she was a beauty....

But I stopped, and my best guess is that school and work and other pursuits took my time.  Mostly school.  I  said I didn't have time, I said it wasn't as important to me anymore, and I took up photography.  Pictures are to novels as microwave popcorn is to a seven-hour leg of lamb.  Focus, shutter, download, edit, save, upload, ding! Your instant gratification is ready.

These days, I wish I could write again.  I would love to devote my free time this summer to a productive, tangible, living and breathing creation.  I would love to take the worlds out of my head and put them down on paper--but I've forgotten how.

"Just write something!"

I joke, "Unfortunately, now I have good taste.  Nothing I come up with is good enough to warrant the effort."

"Then focus on the execution and not the actual plot."

Mm, I don't think so.  You may start with a diamond in the rough, but it better still be a diamond, and not a lump of lava rock.  What motivated me and inspired me to try when I was younger?  The characters.  The beautiful little people who needed their story told--it was all for them.  Where are they now?  No insistent little voices follow me around anymore.

"You hear them talking in your head, don't you?" my writing teacher asked me, one of the first days of our class.

I did--but no longer.  Exorcised by a fear of social ineptitude, of escapism, of not being "present," of being called crazy....  Can I get them back?  Some days I feel some sort of a swelling and I think, if I could just launch myself somewhere into the middle of it all, I could find my feet, ride the bicycle again.... But on days like today, my laptop turns out to be dead, and by the time I've charged it, the itch has passed and nothing I think of seems good enough.
If I could go back and speak with my high school self, I would say, "Keep practicing."  Keep your foot in it, somehow.  Because now, years later, you will find yourself without your element, feeling an opaque haze in your own mind, without your bearings, and your fear of mediocrity will drag you down into the fog of not-trying.

I'm going to try now.