I know why people give up. I know why people fear success. I know why people with buckets of talent don't finish stories (or drawings or songs or whatever). I know why people with finished stories (or whatevers) don't submit them to gatekeepers, to critiquers, to audiences, to the scrutiny of the impartial, disinterested, and unsympathetic.
But fear is the mind killer, etc.
Husband came through my office. "What are you doing?" he asked. I was flipping through my editorial notes semi-despairingly.
"Crying," I said.
"On the inside."
"I don't know why you'd do things that make you cry on the inside," he said.
I didn't even think about it. I just said, "It's what makes me awesome."
See? Look at that. From self-doubt to cocky self-assurance in point two seconds.
He left to go feed the guinea pigs. My grin faded. I looked at my manuscript, at the multi-hued notes from my editor. She uses track changes, and we have three different colors going on this round of edits, which I think means she's read it three times, maybe? A minute ago, I was whining on the inside, thinking about all the details she's poked at, all the work of mine she's pointed out as unnecessary scaffolding, all the word choices she's doubted. Three minutes ago, I was thinking, "She's got no faith in this book anymore, I bet she read this and wondered why she bought it the whole time, why she invested so much in me..."
Then, the conversation with my husband.
It's what makes me awesome.
I'm like that, you know: Slough of Despair one minute, the Heights of Self-Congratulatory Asshattery the next. I swear, though, most of the time, I'm pretty even-tempered and I don't buy into the tortured artist schtick at all. And yet, here I am, even-tempered, practical, pragmatic me, and I do that valley-to-mountain run in record time when I'm in the throes.
I'm not sure this is living the dream. I'm happiest when I'm drafting, second-happiest when I'm my own editor, sifting through word choice and whatnot. I can't stand the scrutiny of others, not because I have some great faith in my talent/craft/skill/art and think I'm above editing or some crap, but because it makes me feel stupid when I don't see my work with perfect objectivity, and I hate feeling stupid.
But on the other hand, the chance to do this for a living, the opportunity to write something that resonates perfectly with another brain somewhere halfway around the planet, to keep some other soul sane for the few hours it takes to read and re-read my work? That's what I want as much as I want to just write first drafts for the rest of my life.
And so, the process: I do it. It's the only way to make the book good enough to get to the people who need to read it. The self-doubt: I fight it. It's not sexy. The crying: I keep internal, and mock myself for it. I don't need more mucus in my life, and honestly, I didn't cry when I face-planted in the Badlands two miles into a hike and sprained the hell out of my ankle and scraped myself up, so why would I cry now? The self-congratulatory rear-end milliner's art: I strive to reach it. Because the asshat is a necessary piece of my armor in the fight against myself, to keep me from giving up, which I would really like to do right now--maybe go write some unpublishable poetry or something for a good year or five.
And the fight against myself?
It's what makes me awesome.