You’re here again. I’m a little chronologically disadvantaged here but here are my predictions for this post. Maybe your blog will achieve some level of success someday. Maybe it never will but you’ll keep pumping these posts out- reviews, analyses, thoughts, musings, China Mieville fan-pieces and advertisements to your own fiction. Your post count will rack up some significant numbers, regardless of your reads count. This post will pass into obscurity. No one will remember it.
Well, no one but you.
You’ll be back here again and again and again. Tomorrow will be a good day because you will be energised and refreshed and the words will flow from your fingers as they hit the black plastic keys of your so familiar keyboard. You will be proud of those words. And then, the day after that, you’ll be back here again. You won’t be writing. You’ll be marinating in your own mediocrity. You’ll be pondering. You’ll be ruminating.
This is meant to be a “get back to your Word document, arsehole” sort of post. But it’s also meant to be an exploration as to why you keep feeling this way. From all the books on writing you’ve accumulated and will accumulate, you have learned (and will continue to learn) that this clawing self doubt is normal. Perhaps it’s even necessary, this insecurity. And that’s fine and you’ll move on. But there’s an elephant in the room you don’t want to talk about.
Let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about the metrics you use to judge yourself.
Let’s talk about reads, votes, comments, ranks and internet accolades.
You’ve been reading since you were six and were read to before that. Your childhood has been enveloped in words, a rich, chocolaty cocoon. And you’ve been writing since you were eight. But you never finished anything till you were sixteen.
Let’s talk about that first thing you finished. Why was it on Wattpad? How much did Wattpad have to do with the fact that you were able to wrap that one story up? The growing read counter with every new part updated. The lovely comments from the lovely people who decided to devote a slice of their lives to reading and commenting on your work as you wrote it. Take them away and would you have finished it? How much of that novel was a performance?
Let’s talk about why you’re sad now. Let’s talk about this feeling you have about giving up because the read count doesn’t seem to be going up like for the first book. Let’s talk about all the conversations you have with yourself about how the Wattpad audience isn’t suited for a story like yours so that’s why it isn’t picking up. Let’s talk about things turning around after you do a little more marketing, after you get a different cover, after you change the blurb for the fiftieth time.
Maybe it isn’t those extraneous things. Maybe you could change your story around a little so it would get a little more traction. Let’s delete those slow-build first chapters and cut straight to the chase, character development be damned. Who cares about character development anyway. None of the Million reads club books seem to be exemplar by the way of character development. They just have Bad Boys and the Mafia and sparkly romance vampires and werewolves. They aren’t like you. You’re amazing. You’re spectacular. You’re the next goddamn revolution in the genre.
Let’s back up. Let’s talk about why you joined that website in the first place.
Let’s talk about constructive criticism. Are you still labouring under that illusion? You don’t even pay attention to anything constructive from any of the reviews you solicit. You just look for the praise these days. Make me feel good so I can write another chapter. Tell me I have amazing descriptions and stellar dialogue and that my concepts are like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Feed my ego. Fan my flames. Inspire me.
You made the internet your muse, if we’re being perfectly honest with each other here. And we should be, shouldn’t we? If you aren’t honest with me and I’m not honest with you, we should book ourselves a room in the nearest psych ward. You dance to entertain digits on the aether through tubes of cable across entire oceans. And you’re addicted to that now. You can’t write if someone isn’t going to immediately see what you do the moment you do it. You thrive on this constant positive feedback loop. The buzz from the feedback of each day’s writing pushes you on to the next day.
You began writing this post you’re reading now seeking more self-pity for you to marinate in, didn’t you? I’m not giving it to you. Man the fuck up and try to understand what you’re doing. Why here? Why put this up on the internet for everyone to see instead of in deep lockdown in the middle of your own computer? Isn’t this just another plea for someone to pay attention to you?
This isn’t the way you’re supposed to write a first draft and you know it. It’s supposed to be behind closed doors. Do you know how many reads Stepehn King had for Carrie? How many Rowling had for The Philosopher’s Stone? How many Mieville had for King Rat? How many Rushdie had for Grimus? How many Bronte had for Jane Eyre? you already know, don’t you? One. Themselves.
Go back to your Word document, David. Write your book. Be prepared to be lonely. Be prepared to write alone. Give yourself that much space to operate in. Maybe it won’t be good. Heck, probably it won’t be good. But at least you’ll be comfortable knowing that the only person to motivate you to write was you. I hope you follow this advice. I hope you’ll read this obscure old blog post later with a published book of your own in the shelf behind you and smile and thank me for telling you to do this. Even if that isn’t the case, even if you’ll be old and cold and you’ll have this frayed old manuscript in your hand that never went anywhere, did anything or saw anyone other than you, I hope you’ll still read this obscure old blog post and thank me. I hope you find your muse somewhere else.
The relationship isn’t polyamorous, as much as you want it to be. It’s just you and the muse and the muse and you. Tell me what she looks like when you find her. I hope she’s pretty. I hope she inspires you better than I did.
Go back and write.