Before we hit it with the step one madness, just a shout out to everyone who was listening to me yesterday on Bookmark Radio. I’ll post the link once those cool cats at Bookmark Radio post it. Had a blast though it was harder than I would have thought.
Step 1 – Admitted we were powerless over our art and our creative lives had become unmanageable.
Our main job in the first step is to truly understand how broken we are as people and as writers. Now, some writers aren’t broken. Some writers do all of this naturally and easily and they don’t have the angst I have. I wish I were one of those people but I am SOOOO not. I am damaged goods, people. Run far away.
Here are some of my wounds:
My Revision Wounds
I was a writer who couldn’t revise. For a writer, not being able to revise is death. But I was always being seduced by the next project. I’m a fickle, slutty writer. A book whore. What I’m working on sucks, but this next book, oh, she’s so pretty, and she’s so exciting and new, that I know she’s going to be THE ONE! The book I’m working on now, that I’ve been working on for three years? Been there, done that. Snoozeville, with no snooze button, just the same old, same old drone.
My Superman Wound
I can do it all! I can do anything! Time, energy, sleep mean nothing to me! I can write three books, attend two critique groups, and speak at that writers conference. No problem. I can sleep when I’m dead. Let me give you a hint. I said in my last blog you might lose some sleep, but losing sleep and not sleeping are very different, the difference between a little crazy and being locked up and getting electro-shock therapy.
I lacked focus, and yes, in art, focus is a critical thing. Sometimes when I’m stuck, I think, if I were to die in three months, which book would I want to have written? And that helps.
My Envy Wound
Oh, how I hated Christopher Paolini, author of the Eragon books. I loathed him. I made fun of him. I burned his image in effigy. That little bastard. I had written fantasy stories when I was seventeen and no one was making my books into movies. I thought he had just gotten lucky, but no, Mr. Paolini worked it. When I let go of my resentment, and finally read Eragon (oh, that was rough, my heart would pound, I wouldn’t sleep, I’d sweat tears), and I read about his story, I learned that Paolini self-published his book, went to bookstores on his own, and pushed his own work. I had to give him all the credit. He got published because he put himself out there. Yes, he got lucky, but in a huge way, he made his own luck. Bottom line, if I wanted what he had, I had to do the things he had done.
My envy even reached to Stephen King. I thought he came out of the womb writing prose that hooked you like a catfish hungry for metal, but then I read his story. He got hundreds of rejections while he learned how to write. Yeah, he started early, and he had a nail on the wall in his room. Every time he got a rejection letter, he put it on the nail. Eventually, he had to replace the nail with a spike. I had a ton of stuff to learn from other writers, but because I was resentful, I didn’t even start to look.
My Natural Genius Wound
Over the years, I had collected books on writing, including The Artist’s Way, but my pride kept me from reading anything, or attending classes, or going to writer’s conferences. I had the idea that if I wasn’t a natural genius, I shouldn’t write. If I can’t be the best of the best right away, I don’t want to play. This is insane. And yet, I spent years here, writing in furtive spurts, but never consistently, and never very well. Which is why very few people could read the first novels I wrote. I loved them, and they were wonderful for me, but when I gave them to other people, well, they never quite found the time to read them. But they were reading other things. Why not mine? Because I had a lot to learn.
My Clint Eastwood Wound
But the biggest way my writing life was unmanageable was that I was determined to do it alone. I’d met writers before, and I didn’t like ‘em. Weird bunch. Smelled like ink and they had dreamy, goofy looks about ‘em.
Here is where I was completely deluded. I could not have gotten published without the community of artists that I’m lucky enough to have in my life. And yes, writers are an odd bunch, but they are also one of the most interesting, driven, baffling groups of people you’d be lucky enough to run into. Because generally, artists have a vision of how life should be, and they follow that vision, and it leads them to a variety of odd places rarely visited. And I get to be lucky enough to talk with them.
So yes, I am damaged goods, but the genius of the 12 steps is that from our wounds and from our foibles come new life and new hope. We build the foundation for our future lives not on our perfections, but on our imperfections, but heaven knows, I can count on myself to screw things up, not to do things perfectly.
Okay, next week, we wrap up Step One. I promise.