I write, therefore I suck.
It's something everyone, from Aaron Sorkin to Uwe Boll, has said to themselves as they put pen to paper, or fingers to keys. We live with it everyday, that gnawing fear that what we are trying to do is utter bullshit, that no one is reading, and even worse, no one cares.
We write in a vacuum. At least I do. I'll tap tap tap away, fearful that anyone will sneak a peak at what I'm doing. It's why I've never been trendy enough to write at Starbucks. The chance of someone asking what I'm doing is far too great.
Nobody reads a word I've written, oddly enough with the exception of this blog, until I am 100% sure it isn't a steaming pile. That's what I'll tell myself anyway.
I'll never be convinced that what I write isn't shit. Ever. Someone can attribute this to the correct person, as I am only paraphrasing, but writing takes the narcissism to believe that what you write is worth reading, and the doubt to believe that what you've written is terrible.
Sadly, the only way to become a better writer is to continue doing so, even when you're inner guidance counselor is telling you to enter another profession. Slinging burgers won't bring you fame and fortune, but it hardly opens you up to ridicule. And nothing makes you want to be a better writer that seeing your less than great work out there in the world where it cannot hide any longer.
For the most part, I've gotten over this fear. I've published some comics, some of them even well received, and I've come to accept that my comic work is decent. It' doesn't hurt that I can hide behind artists as well.
But prose, oh she's a bitch. I've written far too many things that sit, unread, on hard drives. I came oh so close to finishing a novel, only to become a coward at the last moment. That first chapter, it's solid, but only because I've re-written it a thousand times. Page 225 hasn't been written once.
Perhaps I'm just setting myself up for failure, aiming for the novel.
Solution, the short story.
I've been reading a metric ton of them lately, and it's something I'm sure I can do. Can I do it well? Who the hell knows? It's worth a try. I've been reading what are apparently the best written mysteries, and it's encouraging. They've energized and inspired me.
The problem with all these "best of" collections are self-evident, they only have the really good stories. That's all fine and dandy, but to really learn, you should read some of the bad stuff as well. Unfortunately, my creative writing classes are behind me. It makes it harder to read fiction that might not be quite up to snuff.
Enter the internet.
It shouldn't have come as a surprise, as everything is on the internet. Complete a few searches, and suddenly I've got about twenty short story sights filled with amateur fiction.
Some of this stuff, although unpublished by traditional standards, is quite good. Other stories, not so much. Honestly, some of it reminds me of stuff I wrote when I was eighteen and in love with Quentin Tarantino's cadence. That's not a good thing.
It's helpful though. I don't want to sound like my writing is wonderful, I know it has bad days just as everything else does. The people on these sites, they don't care if it's their best work. Or maybe they do, and it is their best and they are willing to look foolish just to see their work on screen.
I'm coming off like a complete asshole.
I admire everyone who is willing to put their balls out there. Writing is a scary thing to do, and being judged on that writing can be absolutely terrifying. Paralyzing fear has stopped me from even submitting my work time and time again.
I think I've overcome that fear. Today's rambling would certainly suggest this statement to be truth.
Was I even trying to make a point?
Oh yeah. I'm gonna write me some short fiction and submit the hell out of it.
And go and visit Beat to a Pulp. They've got the goods, no visit to a bookstore necessary.
REED CRANDALL of Mars
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