Here’s mine for 2019:
“Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.”
~David Bowie 1997
I’ve been very unhappy with myself this past year.
I wrote one new thing. One.
The thing was wild and weird, and barely romance, and only just YA. I wrote it with my daughter and we gave ourselves permission to write without worrying about marketing it. Just write the damn story. After I got it back from my editor, who said it was an easy edit (easier than my others, is what she didn’t say 😉 ) I realized the reason it worked so well was that I was writing with my true voice and not writing what I thought I should. What I thought might be “marketable.”
It sounds like a cliche and it probably is one. Write your truth. But, as with most cliches, it’s rooted in veracity. When I was writing what I thought I should write, when I listened to people tell me what was selling and that my vocabulary didn’t match my audience, and that I needed to add more of this and less of that if I wanted to make it marketable, I froze. Instead of looking forward to walking into my office in the morning the way I used to, I began dreading it.
It’s not that I mind criticism–in fact, I like it. I’m a weirdo who loves it when a great critique comes along that helps me refine and polish the story that I’ve written. So, it wasn’t that.
It was the nitpickers. It was the judge that wrote “Why are you doing that now?” in my MS entry that didn’t place, the one who told me they didn’t “understand” words like deign, as in I wouldn’t deign to answer that question (written tongue-in-cheek, but seriously? A writer doesn’t know what that means? Not even using contextual clues?) the one who told me I needed to pick up a grammar book because she didn’t like my style, the one who told me they didn’t like my characters’ names. No reason. Just didn’t like them.
They got under my skin and I let them and then I let that seep into my inner editor and I started writing “safe.” I started writing things that I hated and had no talent for. And they came out as bland as a butterless piece of white toast. Writing them made me feel bland. My wardrobe became a sea of black. I considered wearing beige shoes a fashion “risk.” I stopped reading fiction for a while. I stopped going to places I used to enjoy. I stopped exploring. I hid.
That’s enough of that nonsense.
This year I’m going out of my depth. I figure if I don’t do it now, I never will. Maybe what I write won’t be marketable, maybe it won’t make sense to everyone, but I’ll be productive and happier and … free.
Wishing you all courage and joy in the creation of your art. Have a great week 1 of 2019, everyone.