A Writer’s Reflections: The Fight/Flight of Fish

What are you thinking right now as you read this title wondering to yourself why another writer should bother to preach to you about positivity. That word. Doesn’t it just send unconscious shivers down your spine? Oh you don’t want it to, I understand that. But it happens. Because you feel like you’re failing. And that feeling is unjustified, because life fails all the time. We get older, cells start dying, reminding us that we have limited time.

Our bodies defy positivity.

And as writers, when we are staring at a manuscript which is going every which way but the way we want it to, we wonder to ourselves if we’re wasting time.

And then it starts, the feeling that you’re just pretending. Pretending to be a better writer than you actually are. You look at those few words on your screen or pad and then snatch up any book close by and wonder why there is no magic in your hands. Why can they do it and you can’t?

I’m not going to bring up the usual speel of some famous writer who put in x amount of submissions and finally after x amount of years he/she gets accepted with x amount of dollars attached with the letter.

You don’t need that because you’ve heard it all before.

I believe, from the process of observing and talking to other writers combined with heavy doses of self examination, that the life of a writer is like a fish swimming upstream.

There is just a need to do so. A need that almost defies rational sense.

And that need is to write.

The frightening reality is that you need to enjoy the process of that swim. That hard, bloody, sweaty swim if you ever want to carry on life as a writer.

I know this feeling well.

I’ve started on a first draft of a novel, a novel which is set within a genre that is populated by fantastic writers whose names could eclipse the artistic sun. It’s difficult because the temptation to compare my writing to those writers is an intense one.

Positive statements others have made sound hollow, because you don’t believe them. You think their words are tainted with sentiment instead of rational honesty. And even if for some reason you believe them to be honest you then question their taste in books. Freddy thinks my book is good but he also thinks x book is good, ergo his opinion is worthless. We all know a Freddy.

What about constructive feedback? Even if the word ‘constructive’ means many things to many people.

They tell you a character doesn’t work, or that your dialogue is too stilted. First, you’ll start wondering if they’re right. Then the other side takes over and tells you they are wrong. And then there’s the third, which is a bit of a mesh of the two. You think they are right because they didn’t get what you were trying to do. And the reason they didn’t get it is because you didn’t write it well enough.

You’re back to square one.

Take a deep breath.

Start swimming back up.

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