“You cheating son of a bitch! Muriel screamed at him. .. This is the first line of my novel Death in Disguise…. It took me ten years to get that on paper to my satisfaction. Why? Not because I had writer’s block, no I actually wrote the first rough draft in several months – ten years ago. It was because no matter how many times I changed scenes, sentences, fleshed out characters, I was AFRAID it was not good enough. So it sat on a shelf.
Everyone talks about writer’s block, but not many talk about writer’s fear. Perhaps one is a sub-category of the other. It was fear of rejection that kept my story on the shelf. Not fear that some publishing house would reject me. That is part of the process and I didn’t mind that. It was fear of… this is my first attempt out the door and if it is not a proper representation of what I think I can produce, what I want to produce, I’m screwed.
Over the past ten years I’ve written profusely and have a lovely array of binders containing double spaced, red inked, drafts of novels no one has ever seen. There was a problem with this, envy. I was, still am, envious of musicians who perform, artists whose work hangs somewhere, anywhere. Basically, anyone who creates and the public, even just their friends and family, gets the opportunity to share their creations. A writer does not have such availability unless they are read somewhere. Usually, that means by being published.
Yes, there are probably thousands of people who write and have no desire to have anyone’s eyes see their final product. That’s great, but that’s not me. It took taking a series of classes called, Writing from the Heart, a class designed to decrease if not eliminate fears holding writers back, to propel me through a quagmire of my design. What was it that bound me? Perfection.
I was a performer growing up and if you have ever been a performer or athlete you know the importance of doing better than your best to stay alive. Somewhere along the line, doing better than my best became doing it perfectly. Either no one ever told me perfection was not possible or I did not listen. I believed that perfection was obtainable if I applied myself accordingly.
When I performed, if I didn’t win top award or get audience response like I thought I should, I could review what went wrong, rehearse and practice more, harder until I got the results I wanted. In writing this is not so easy. In the first couple (hundred) drafts, I was the only eyes looking at the work. There was no coach telling me the weak points, the boring points. Sure, I could have hired an editor, but I didn’t have the money. Not having extra money, in my mind, meant it better be the best it can be before a professional editor saw it.
I thought, I could get family and friends to read and just tell me what they think. Give me constructive criticism. Some said they would, but never did. Others went as far as to take a copy or download the file, but forgot they had it. It was devastating and I took it personally. Thoughts like: is that all I mean to them, they really must think I write horrible, they don’t support my passion, they don’t care. The depression that followed was sometimes unbearable. The depression was caused by ME!
It took me years to relax and say, so what. The people not wanting to read or saying they would and choosing to not read, that is something with them, not me. Most of the time I doubt there was anything malicious to their behavior. I made it malicious and I allowed it to affect my relationships and thoughts. There are many reasons a loved one or friend would choose not to be involved or read something a writer has written and I had to learn to respect that and not see it as rejection.
I got lucky when my parents asked to read one of my drafts and …. loved it. I think to their surprise. I gave them another one. By the end of the year they had read all the drafts on my shelf. I eagerly listened to their critiques and chose the stories they enjoyed the most. One of my daughters came forward and agreed to do some edits. She read the story and said, “Mom, I couldn’t put this down.”
I guess it is along the lines of what Jesus said. Something about a person needing to leave their home in order to be recognized and listened to. I’ve heard this in various ways, not just writing. Nurses telling me their families don’t listen to them because, they know them, grew up with them. How can you possibly know as much as this stranger who has the same or less experience. I digress.
What this has taught me is another lesson about myself and my desires with my writing. It was not enough for me to have others read my work. I wanted people in my intimate circle to be a part of the experience. If you don’t write you may not understand this, but writing is such a passion, such a part of the soul of the writer. Writing is like screaming in the forest at night and hoping someone hears you. “Listen to me! I want to share this with you!”
Once again, I had to reassess this. Family and friends can be supportive without reading. I came to realize they do this all the time. I could relax again and move on. I decided to publish the Indie route. Not because I didn’t think I was good enough for a large publishing house, but I wanted to have complete control over the process. It was a steep learning curve and I wanted to know it all.
I created this baby, why not be there to design the nursery and do the actual delivery? I guess by nature I am a DIY (Do it yourself) person. Expand the brain cells and learn new skills. Challenge myself and face making possible mistakes. This was a big jump from harboring in my room afraid of not being perfect.
I can still hear a certain writing mentor in my life’s journey poo pooing an x-student when their first novel was published. There was a scrunching of the nose, a wave of the hand and the comment, “Well, she could have done better.” Each step of my journey I heard those words. Ah yes, wanting to impress the mentor, the coach. Make them proud! Bull shit!
Those words spoke volumes about that mentor’s frame of mind. It was not about celebrating another writer’s victory over fear and pushing his/her self to release their creation to the world. Once I realized I didn’t have to impress anyone, I could release those words and be free to create and share.
That is where I am now. My E-book Death in Disguise by D.Hill just came out on Kindle and will be out on Amazon in paperback in 90 days. It’s a murder mystery that takes place in the 1950’s. I’m ecstatic! I think. Now I face a whole new set of demons I place in my own head. Is there ever an end? Sure, If I make it so.
If you write or want to write, my advise to you is evaluate the thoughts you tell yourself about you, your writing and your expectations about people in relation to your writing life. Then write! Just do it! Remember, there is no such thing as perfection.
Here is the back cover synopsis of Death in Disguise:
Kelly Anders is a beautiful woman with a secret that kills. When she disappears from the scene of a 1955 brutal murder everyone is stunned. Especially her boyfriend, Al Brodrick. Her disappearance spawns a gruesome spree of sexual assaults and mutilations leaving the small police force of Highgate Falls baffled and town’s people terrified. Accusations fly as Highgate Falls realizes things are not always what they seem. Al Brodrick joins forces with retired FBi agent, Ira Jonesson, and the local police to stop the predator from killing again and to find Kelly Anders – if she is alive.