Friday, November 8, 2013
Today I got one of my best compliments ever
Writing is an interesting thing. I clearly have a complex relationship with it. Because I grew up with a form of dyslexia I have a natural bias to think of myself as bad at it. The fact that the only class that I ever failed in my life was a class called Writing when I was 7 years old, gives me a certain bias against it.
But yet, even before I became an author, I had made more money as a writer than anything else. I was a producer for many years, but even then I was a writer/producer. Logically I have to think that I don't suck at it, but in reality do believe that I suck?
I wrote an article today about what the erotica you purchase says about who you are. I had done it because I knew that I would get a minimum of 4,000 "reads" and that would mean 4,000 free, and targeted commercials for my erotica books. But I am surprised how good I feel about what I've written. It's very smart. I genuinely think that those who "read" it will learn something about themselves that could help to make their life better. I think it's really insightful while being quite effective marketing.
So rereading that, I have to ask myself, 'could a bad writer write that?' I have to ask myself how bad of a writer do I think I am.
I guess the reason why this comes up is because of what I wrote the last time and the email I got this morning. The email was from someone who I'm sure did not read my blog post. It was a fan of my erotica work. She had written me before, but she wanted to write me again telling me that she had just gone back and given one of my books a 5 star review. It was the book that I described in the last past as the first erotica story that I ever wrote. It was the story that I described as being 'good'.
In the letter, the reader repeatedly told me how good she thought the story was. She mentioned how she cried hoping that the 2 main characters would get together. And she concluded it by literally thanking me for my "talented writing".
How does one respond to that... especially since it's clear how I feel about my level of ability. It seems that there are a lot of great things that I can accept about myself. Lord knows that I'm not modest. But it kind of makes it hard to breath to think about what she wrote.
As I think about it, this kind of reminds me of something else I used to experience. Up until a few years ago, I used to have the equivalent of a panic attack every time someone would gush about how good of a person I was. And believe it or not, I used to get it at least once or twice a year. See, I told you that I wasn't modest.
But the last time I had a panic attack, it was after a Christmas party. I was with this woman who I was hanging with at the time. This was our 2nd party for the season and the first party had a few of the same people attending.
At the first party I had done what I would often do back then. The conversation would turn to someone and their quibbles about life, and I would defend life. I would try to reshape the quibbler's understanding of their circumstances by giving them information about the way that the world works. But, like I said, this wasn't anything new for me. This was my standard routine.
But when I attended the second party, there was a woman there that I had had one of my talks with. She and the woman I came with, at one point, cornered me and proceeded to rehash our conversation. They both tell me how each of them had left the party and thought about everything I had said. They then proceeded to tell me how it changed the way they looked at life. And then they "gushed" about how great and wise they thought I was.
I did my usual response which was to smile and nod and do my best not to hear it while hoping it would stop, but it continued. But soon it came to an end and a little while later I left for home. Driving home I started to have my usual panic attack. I try to block out the memory of the situation but it won't go away.
When I get home, I sit in the chair I'm sitting in now and I can barely breath. Once my breathing returns I think about how ridiculous my response was. I then decide to do my little thing I do to reconnect emotions with difficult memories and I figure out why people telling me I'm a good person sends me into a panic.
What I remembered was being 12 years old at a teen camp for young Christians. I remember that even then I wasn't about to follow the crowd and pretend that I believed something that I didn't. And I remember being a really good and moral kid. I used to be the absolute last one to leave church ever night out of respect for the preacher, but I was the only one who didn't pretend that I was being "saved" by what was being said. I was 12, but I knew who I was and what I believed and I wasn't about to fake it with anyone.
Anyway, at this camp I was in a cabin that shared a wall with the girls shower. So naturally, one of these god-fearing 15 year old boys drilled a hole in the wall so that everyone could take turns watching the girls shower. Of course. And there was once when a couple of the girls I knew was about to take a shower that I subtly walked to the girls cabin, subtly called my female friend over and told her not to react immediately but there was a hole into their shower and that she shouldn't go in there right away.
Her being fifteen, what did she do? She ran from me into the shower and screamed for everyone to get out and get dressed. Further proof that 15 year old girls don't understand what subtly is.
Anyway, I wasn't about to run from what I did. I did it and that was that. I wasn't going to rat out the person who drilled the hole, but at the same time, I wasn't going to sell out my female friends' integrity for the "respect" of some dudes that I would never see again. And after all, wasn't what I did the Christian thing to do? Hypocrites!
So I did this and I was prepared to accept the consequences for it. The consequences were that every girl from the cabin came out and graciously thanked me telling me how good I was for doing it. And my older brother, who I came with, who I respected, who I looked up to, pulled me aside, looked at me disappointingly and told me that I shouldn't have done what I did. I looked at him hurt asking him how he would feel if his girlfriend were one of the girls being spied on. He said that she wasn't and he left it at that.
I was 12. This taught me a valuable lesson. It taught me that being a good person resulted in rejection by the people you care about. So naturally, every time from that point forward when someone graciously told me how good of person I was, it would result in me having the equivalent of a panic attack.
I was able to break that Pavlovian response of praise and panic. And it has also helped that people don't gush over how good of a person I am anymore. Hmm... as I think about it, I wonder if me not being a good person anymore is linked to residual effects of my Pavlovian response. I'm going to have to give that some thought.
Anyway, I write all of that to draw it into comparison with the feeling that I'm having right now about the praise over my writing. I don't know if it's exactly the same, because I have also gotten really horrible reviews about the exact same book. I feel like I should be able to say that the nature of art is it's subjectivity. In fact, the individual responses to work is what defines something as art. I feel like I should know and embrace this, but I just can't grasp it.
There is something in me that says that it's either all or nothing. Either everyone should love it or it has to be considered bad. Yes, I know it's ridiculous. And I would certainly dissuade other people from thinking that way, but that has been ingrained in me in some way.
Ya know, maybe it's not the Pavlovian response that is leading to my feeling of praise panic, and instead the dichotomy of people loving and hating my work.
Either way, perhaps I should consider another profession. Maybe I wasn't made to be an author. It really is a bitch of a process, especially the way I do it. My process is to mine every thing of emotional weight in my life and then wrap a story around it and hang it out exposed for everyone to read and critique. Why would someone do that to themselves? How could that not make a person crazy?
I think that at some point I need to pull the cord on my life and say 'this is enough'. I am always chasing after immortality. And I do it at the expense of everything. I have a great life, but man have I had to give up on a lot of things to have it. And the older I get, the more I realize that I will not be able to accomplish what I set out to do when I was a kid.
Even back when I was 15 I wanted nothing less but to change the world. I wanted to create something that made people's lives better. Even then, when I was a struggling dyslexic, I thought it would have to do with writing. But as I get older and older, I am starting to realize that I'm just not good enough to make it happen. And I'm not talking about writing a hit book. I'm referring to writing something that helps to change many people's lives for the better.
I know that I'm not out of time, but I feel like I'm approaching the limit of my ability and it isn't good enough.
Don't cry for me though. My image has been immortalized in a life sized bronze statue of me. I was the first person ever to get a certain type of low budget movie theatrically released. I got to be a national champion at my sport. I have changed the self-perceptions and hence lives of hundreds if not thousands of people with a video I released. I'm about to release software that will reshape the way that self-publishers publish their books. I've done stuff. It's just that I'm going to have to start coming to grips with the fact that by my own definition, my life will be a failure. But I tried though. I think that's the important part. I tried really hard and I did, and will continue to do, the best that I can.
And hey, according to some people, I've already done something special. I've had completely original ideas and I've moved people to tears with my writing. I guess, though, I just expected more from myself.
Ha! You know it takes a certain level of skill to take the most generous compliment that I've ever gotten about my writing and use it to further the idea that I'm not good enough. I guess I should give myself credit for that as well. I have the ability to stick with an idea in the face of overwhelming evidence. I say that that's also quite the skill. :-)
Anyway, I really do need to consider choosing another profession. This one might make me too raw. And on a positive note, maybe if I ended my all consuming pursuit of immortality, I might actually find someone who I could be happy with and life a happy content life. Ha! Who am I kidding? It would take more like a miracle for something like that. But meanwhile, I will just push on.
I'm off to have a conversation with my software developer in China. Even at 2:30am, my work day never ends.