Monday, July 15, 2013

I Wrote the Wrong Book

I overthink everything.  Nothing new there.  So when someone says something to me, I usually mull it over for a really long time, and then I replay the conversation in my head until I've satisfyingly rewritten it into something much better than what it was.  In my replay, I'm wittier, I'm well-spoken, and I come up with a response that is so profound the Greek philosophers wish they were the ones who thought it.  Okay, maybe not the last one, but a girl can wish, right?

So my most recent Overthink began nearly a month ago (yes, I'm still thinking about it).  Because it pertains to my writing career--and current lack of one--I decided to share it here.

The initial comment:  "I'm telling you.  You wrote the wrong book."

Let's put aside the fact that it was said with genuine feeling and meant to bolster my opinion of myself.  That's aside.  It's gone.  I don't want to talk about that.  I get that.

Of course, no author wants to be told she wrote the wrong book.  I've put serious time into LitD.  I don't watch television anymore.  I lost fifteen pounds.  I haven't sewn a dress in ages.  My shelves of canned goods are bare, while the empty Ball jars in the basement are overflowing.  I put on fifteen pounds.  This is what LitD has done--is doing--to my life.  So when someone tells me I wrote the wrong book, I'm all like, "You wrote the wrong book.  So there!  Take that!"  Finger snap and everything.  Well, maybe not that. Okay, definitely not that.

Actually, I feel a little sad.  I *love* LitD, but now the seed of doubt is sown, and I can't stop thinking about how maybe all this time has been wasted energy.  You see, I'm the type of person who has to be perpetually busy.  I don't like lounging in bed after the alarm goes off because there's just too much to do.  And now that maybe I've written the wrong book, I can't stop thinking about how hours upon hours of work might amount to nothing more than someone else's really long marathon of the Bachelorette.

Want to know the other reason why I'm obsessing so much about this? Because a few days later, I got the same message in an email.  The person who sent it shall remain nameless, but here is a small piece of that email:

As I read LitD, I could not help but think that Celia was you. That you went into the darkness and came out a bonafide hero. How could that not be cool? So get the science fiction thing on the page (whether it's you or not). And then tell your own story. The strength of your character, the person you are inside is far more interesting and heroic. I am not shitting you now, either (just ask your husband. I'm sure he knows.). You are a remarkable young woman. The world deserves to see that.

And then, oh wait, I get another email from a different person about a week after that:

i got the sense...that you had an extraordinary childhood---like serious fear and trauma, and all kinds of stuff you didn't go into when you were talking about being a kid. i hope at some point that you write about it---as fiction, as memoir---whatever gets you into the material. because the great consolation in being a writer is that you begin to control your history, you use it and shape it and transform it. and you could make something really rich and deep out of growing up as april. sooner or later, when you're ready, that's the stuff....think about it, for after you're done with the current novel.

So maybe neither of these emails said I wrote the wrong book, but they say essentially the same thing: maybe I'm not meant to be a science fiction writer. Maybe I should focus on writing that other story, the one that I haven't penned.  There are many reasons why I haven't.  The biggest, though, is that I feel if I tell That Story, then there won't be any stories left in me to tell.  THAT would be...sad.

Now I think about it all the time.  Actually, I'm obsessing over it.  Like losing sleep obsessing.  Like getting sad and angry for no reason obsessing.  Ask my husband.  He'll tell you.  Or don't ask him, because that will be weird.  He'll have no clue who you are.  It's just that...I want to be so much better than I am.  I want everything.  I want it all.  And I don't want even a little bit less.

Here is part of my response to the second email:

I want to be fantastic for what I do, not for what was done to me. Think of Patrick Stewart.  Everyone knows him because he's such a fantastic actor.  His childhood wasn't great either, but people don't know him for that.  And he didn't become loved because of it.  People know it now, but really only after he made himself.  I want to make myself first, too.  

"They" say write what you like to read, and LitD is what I like to read, so that's where my energy has been this year.  Maybe it won't go anywhere, but maybe it will.  Maybe it will just be a stepping stone on to something better.  We shall see.

I haven't responded to the first email yet, because I just can't figure out what to say.  I guess I'll do that after this blog post.  It's only polite.

So--Is LitD the book I wasn't meant to write? I can't say yet. I *want* it to be the right book.  I wish beyond wish that it is the right book.  But to quote a fantastic novel--The world is not a wish granting factory.

This is where I get a pep talk from you, oh strangers of the internet world.