A Bit of a Whine

I’ve nearly utterly failed to write here today (Wednesday, though now it’s technically Thursday) despite not posting Tuesday either, what with carnivorous birdy play-time.

The reason is that I’m having confidence issues.  Again.  Joy.

I’ve not been writing these past couple of days, and if I’m not writing then I’m not able to post about writing.  I don’t even find myself with a witty anecdotal diatribe to fill in the space.  And because I’ve already written a post about what I term “Writer’s Blah”, I felt like posting a second would just be whining.  And make me look desperate for someone to just tell me I’m awesome to puff up my feeling of self-worth.

Which I kind of am – but don’t do it!!!  I would hate for anyone to comment: “But you ARE awesome!!!” because that’s totally not what I’m getting at.  It’s a totally different kind of vindication that I need.

Let’s get to the gist of my problem:

I know I write well.  But I don’t write well enough yet.  My heroes are authors like Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman, Ursula Le Guin and all these others whose novels have always blown me away.  Novels that link beautiful prose with ideas, the sorts of ideas that make you think for weeks, maybe years, long after you’ve finished.

A good story is still necessary, in my mind, but to be something really interesting there needs to be more beneath the surface than just that.  This is where I find that what I write needs to be at the intersection of “literary fiction” and “genre” – both plot and concepts matter to me, and pretty much equally.

So right now I write decent plots, some lovely shading-on-purple prose (mauve prose, if you like), but where are my thought-provoking ideas?!  So far I’ve attempted:

  • Exodus – a retelling of the story of the Biblical Exodus, but apart from some use of gender, race and the theme of the Other, I never really pushed through to anything significant therein.  The Other will always be one of my favourite topics to thread through my novels, but I just haven’t gotten it right yet.
  • Cobault – deals with gender and the Other again, with Wollstonecraftian feminism (which is rather too old-school to be earth-shattering), and class struggle (see above).  Maybe back in the time of Maria: or, the Woes of Woman I could have been onto something.  Not so much in 2011.
  • The Long Road Home was just silly.  A romp through reworking fantasy cliches, plot-driven for the most part with some coming-of-age YA stuff thrown in there.  Fluff.

So when I think about His Dark Materials, when Pullman essentially turned Milton’s Paradise Lost on its head and praised mankind for the very thing Milton damned it for, I think – what the fuck have I been doing with my time???

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for a true Original Idea – I know that’s a long hunt for an imaginary quarry – but I’m holding myself to the high standard of these authors I esteem and hoping I can pull something together that’s inventive and creative with whatever ideas I choose to explore.  It’s just not happened yet.

And I’m seeing the massive gap between my novels and those novels I love.  It’s a depressing abyss.

I had to remind myself recently that all these writers are far older than I am, and were well into their middle age before the works they’re best known for were written.  I know I have time to work all this out, and to feel truly proud of what I’ve made.  But it’s very hard to keep motivated when faced with disappointment in yourself, regardless of what your logic and reasoning tells you.

These are the feelings that make me want to drop what I’m currently doing and pursue something else, an instinct I’ve posted about before, hoping that the next idea will have greater merit than the last, but am I wrong to do that?

I thought I was, and thus I’ve been trying to persevere with Cobault as it’s my most well-realised story, the furthest along towards actual completion.  Do I stick with it or do I give myself free rein to try something new, in the hope of uncovering something that makes me feel the abyss is slowly closing, however infinitesimally so?

3 responses to “A Bit of a Whine

  1. Do you want a (slightly) unbiased third party opinion? I know I read Exodus, but I don’t think I got to read Cobault. If you want someone to read it and give you some feedback, I’ll volunteer! It would be a nice distraction for me. If you think it might help motivate you.

  2. Oh, also, I forgot to add that mauve is pretty much my favorite color so I’m glad for the shout-out in this entry… Mauve is the last name I use for all my fake patients at work! Weee! Algernon Mauve!

  3. You shouldn’t beat yourself up about not writing, whether it’s for a few days, a month, or longer. Thinking time is important too, even if it feels like you’re not doing anything. I bet as you go about your business every day you’ve got ideas simmering away in your subconscious, some of which you may not even be aware of till you come to write them down. You know you’ll get there eventually.

    In terms of blogging, you could always review other people’s writing some more – I know you already posted about Ursula Le Guinn but if you’re really stuck, why not go back to the novels you admire and explain to the internet what’s so great about them. Or possibly do monthly themes, I’ve been known to do that – maybe a poem a day about some household object?! Not spoons though, they’ve been done…

    Doing this sort of thing may not be directly related to Cobault or Dr When or any of your ongoing projects, but it’s always when you’re working on one thing that you have ideas for other stuff. No?! So whilst you may feel like you’re abandoning Cobault for a little while, there’s nothing to say you won’t come back to it. In fact, why not consciously do that – set an alarm in 3 months time, the “I’m Going Back To Cobault” alarm – and don’t look at it till then. But you’ll think about it – you won’t be able to help yourself. And when you see it again with fresh eyes, you’ll be that bit closer to making it what you want.

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