Evaluating Self

There’s nothing like losing a week due to the flu. Honestly, my whole week hadn’t been lost; however, the flu did have its way with my family and I last week, pretty much killing the idea of posting on my site, and much less, writing much of anything.

Par for the course… except that I had a more tangible excuse versus the weeks of my not writing without being sick.

In a way, getting the flu was nice. Instead of being distracted by my fears or by shiny things on the internet, I was resigned to stew in thought, with my body too wrecked to do much else but sit there and think. I couldn’t look at screens, I couldn’t sit up for long, using what little energy I had to handle the demands of parenthood or social domestic cohabitation (a fancy way of saying being a husband). I did nothing else.

Thought was of little comfort. It was there, prodding me, showing me the failings that have been my writing life since the days decades ago that I decided that I enjoyed the craft. I was asking myself a lot of questions as to why. Why am I so afraid to forge ahead? Was my father’s suicide attempt really that much of a burden to stop me from pushing forward with my writing? (Yes, that is the terrible thing that had happened back in October last year. He survived and is back home, so that’s a silver lining.)

To put it simply: there is a myriad of crap inside my mind that is all contributing to this mess of non-creativity. A lot of it is a lack of confidence in what I produce. Feelings of being an imposter abound for us creative types. Even in situations of high lauds and praise, we feel vulnerable to being found out, that people will see it’s all a sham. Funny enough, it is amazing how many of us all feel the same way in just about every aspect in life. It feels more visceral with being creative, since being creative is so deeply (and openly) personal. Even though we adorn masks to hide ourselves, or what we believe is ourselves, both from the world and from us, writing a book, a piece of fiction, feels more like standing in front of a crowd, naked. Behold! My flaws!

Lately, one of the philosophies that I’ve been reading a lot about is Stoicism. I am not going to bore you with a description of that philosophy, google can do that for you if you are so inclined. In it though is a concept of continuous self-reflection, as is in many studies. Nothing new there. But it’s new to me, so it’s new to me.

In reflecting on me, I wanted to understand what has been going through my brain with my writing. Why have I been having so much trouble continuing to build on my platform? There’s a simple answer. Surprisingly. I hadn’t been being true to myself in what I was writing.

That last line is loaded. To be clear, I have several stories that I wrote that I am 100% OK with and am not planning to do anything with. The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle and The Good Teacher are two that I plan to leave alone. Then there is my poetry collection: Change of Seasons. That will remain.

My bigger problem is with Gravity. All 3 short books of it. And the 2 others I thought were nearing publication.

It’s a complicated mess of being happy and unhappy with what I wrote. It was an idea of rushing through it when I wasn’t through flushing out the tale. I thought having this long list of novellas all attached to this saga was what I wanted to do. When I reflect on why I thought that, the reasons all come out against the story, against the craft. I thought it was a good marketing ploy, y’know, putting out small entries into a larger universe to have more product on the table to sell.

Time changed my perspective on it, and rather than working on it as I had thought I was going to do, I ended up disliking where the story was going. I thought it a good idea to blaze through writing so that readers would get the stuff quicker. While I have nothing against doing that, and in fact still believe it, it has to come with a steady quality of storytelling. Gravity was not even working well there though. The quality between the 3 books is so stark from my view, that I felt it almost better to scrap the whole project instead of continuing with it. Yet continuing with it was what I tried to do anyway. Instead of stopping to find out what I wanted to do with the story, I thought that I would just write forward, continuing this spiral of displeasure. It’s bad enough that the idea of writing anything after book 5 was nauseating.

For the last year I’ve been wondering what I really wanted to do with Gravity. It’s a good reason why I hadn’t moved on publishing books 4 and 5…  Of the over 330,000 total words I wrote last year, only 5,000 were in the Gravity story. I’ve stalled so badly on a story that at the beginning felt like it would be a cornerstone of my brand.

Enthusiasm had vanished.

And while I was on a fantastic roll last year writing a ton of words in stories I was happier with, Gravity was there, along with my short story, Leaving it Behind, both taunting me with how unhappy I am with them, permeating into my other stories, making me question what I was doing.

Melodramatic, I am sure. Add in all the other tragedies into last year and it was a sure recipe for where I am today: afraid to move forward.

In total, I do have 5 projects that I considered in the stage of review. If you consider how I’ve been feeling about the Gravity saga, two of those go right out the window, making it only 3 that I am ready to move on. But for some reason, I wasn’t willing to let go of the “next 2 chapters” in the story because I had some twisted idea in my head that I had to press on with it even though I lost my way with where I had wanted to take the story from the beginning. Sure, I didn’t have a plan per-se. It’s been what I’ve railed about before: not using outlines and notes, etc, to manage my stories. Plans would’ve helped to keep this on track, keeping the plot in-line with the themes or visions of my story that I was after in the onset.

What to do though… what to do…

Easy enough, the option is pretty clear. I need to do what I feel is best for my craft. If I have a story that I inadvertently took in the wrong direction, I must correct its path. If it means a dramatic shift in how I approach it, then so be it. Gravity will be part of that dramatic shift. I am going to take the 5 parts I have written, and I am going to put through the wringer, heavily editing the story to right the ship. Then I will republish as one book, rather than producing the novellas as I was. I love novellas, but not enough to make a long serial of it.

Next, I’ll have to continue to chip away at all the things I’ve let hold me back… even if it’s me.


Featured Image from Pixabay user strikers

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