Friday, June 17, 2011

Demons #1

Sometimes when I submit work I make stupid mistakes. Years ago I spent a weekend working feverishly on a submission for a screenplay competition. It was to be a dark comedy about working in the civil service on a small island. I had, not long before that, worked in the civil service, on a small island. What I wrote was pretty good. Relevant, funny, appropriate. It should have had a shot.

But I added my name to the top of the document as a header. Only afterwards (I think) did I read the guidelines fully and see that entries were to be judged anonymously. All that work for nothing. My screenplay would have been binned immediately.

I still do things like this, and the truth is that part of it is unconsciously intentional. I deliberately screw my chances, pour effort into the work and then at the last minute sabotage it, pretend I don't care, do something fucking stupid. Veer sideways when it was all going well.

And when something manages to get published, I can't escape the fear. Writing is bliss. Publishing is terrifying. But without the publishing - it's not really writing, it's diary-keeping, isn't it?

Audience is part of the work. Connecting, responding, communicating. When we're learning to write, I think part of what we're learning is also how to share, how to perform, even, how to relate to an audience. That, for me, is probably the hardest part.

Writing seems like a secret escape hatch from what you fear. Look, you can hide behind the page, behind the story, behind the words. You are not you, you're an author. But the world has a way of throwing your fears back at you. The only way out is through, isn't it? You thought you'd found somewhere you could whisper your secrets, but it turns out you were writing them in scarlet across your chest. And now you have to answer to them.

So, in the interests of facing demons: Fear of Success, I see you, you hopeless knee-jerk reaction, and I've got your number. I'm zapping you! Pxzap!

(For my next submission, I shall be reading the rules carefully and resisting the urge to add something juvenile in the last line of the covering letter. As I did, only yesterday ... [forehead slap])

{In the interests of full disclosure, the juvenile thing that I wrote - it was a cock joke. Yes. Somebody slap me, please.}


Vida said...

Um. Did you know the person you were submitting to, with the cock joke?

I self sabotage, but with procrastination and mediocre effort. Underachievement. I just read the comments on my Masters thesis again yesterday, and I felt soooo smallll.


Nikki Magennis said...

Oh no. I made the joke to a serious literary magazine editor. Like a twat.

: )

Jo said...

Ah, who knows. It might make you stand out above the rest. It might go down well ;)

Erobintica said...

Fear of success. Check.
Procrastination. Check.
Mediocre effort. Check.
I'm sure more could be added. I still look at anything published as a stroke of luck. Which probably does no good.

Let me know if your zapper works. :)

Janine Ashbless said...

But I want to know the cock joke...

Shanna Germain said...

Me too, me too! Cock joke, please...

Now I think we should start a Stupid Submissions blog (a la "Things My Students Write") and showcase all our missteps. I have so many.

Nikki Magennis said...

The cock joke was weak, I'm afraid. The story was called 'Cockerel'. I said something like - I usually write erotica, this stories has cocks in it but not that kind of cock. hahaha.

: (

Madeline Moore said...

I dunno. When I emailed an enquiry to Scarlet Magazine I asked, 'Whose desk would I have to have lunch under in order to get my new novel excerpted in your magazine?'

I believe it was Emily Dubberly who replied, 'That would be me.'

I got the excerpt. Of course, it's Scarlet, not some fancy publishing house like, sigh, Random House.

I fear without Black Lace I'm lost.
I have the best title ever and so far have missed two deadlines for anthologies that were geared toward the story I imagine I want to write.

But all I have is the title.
Procrastinate? As far as I can tell, it's part of the writing personality. For God's sake put off doing that which you love to do!

I fear success and I fear failure.
So why not fritter the day away posting on other people's blogs in the, mostly futile, hope that they will come to your blog and post something there?


Cancel that. When I needed erotica authors to help rescue me from a serious depression, everyone turned out to sooth, empathize, and encourage me back to health. I realized then that I belong to a community that cares and I'm not going to mess that up by trying to make people read my blog. I might, however, stop blogging. Even for a procrastinator, it's mainly a waste of time I could be spending on Facebook or Linked In.