I’ve been thinking a lot about writing and my own relationship with it lately.
There’s a story about a woman whose life is consumed by constant worry. One of her two children is an umbrella seller; the other makes and sells straw sandals. During the summer, one of her friends remarks on how nice the sun feels.
“But I am worried,” the woman said. “My son who sells umbrellas needs the rain, and he must be having a difficult time.”
Eventually the seasons shifted and the rains came. The woman’s friend commented that it was now surely the season of the umbrella seller.
“But I am worried,” said the woman. “My son who sells sandals needs the sun, and he must be having a difficult time.”
So her friend said to her, “You have to stop fretting about such things. Rather than worry, when it is sunny, think, ‘oh, how nice! My son will be able to sell a lot of sandals today.’ And when it is rainy, think, ‘oh, how nice! My other son will be able to sell a lot of umbrellas today.'”
And the woman learned the power of positive thinking from this, and was forever happy.
…Sounds kind of nice, doesn’t it? Like all we’d need is to always think on the bright side of things and then everything will be okay. We’ll be happy forever.
But of course life is more complicated than that. A few weeks ago I mentioned that the general state of the world has been really difficult on my creative drive. And since then I’ve definitely been able to pick up the pace somewhat! I’ve actually started writing regularly again. I’ve got a story about a hapless cambion who’s getting pulled in against his will to care about a very charismatic almost-vampire, and I have a story about a newly-awoken incubus who keeps accidentally seducing people. He tries to cover up incidents with clumsy owl imagery. Beyond that, I’ve got a story that just needs a final edit pass before I can submit it, about a princess who isn’t really a princess falling for the fairy who kidnapped her prince. (All of my writing wants to be a fairytale on some level.)
I even have a brand-new story for preorder, a fairy tale about a guy who wants to be a knight and goes to rescue a prince, only to find the situation is very different from what he expected.
And this is something that I am extremely nervous about, because — for one, it’s a much shorter story than I usually write (about 25K words) and deals with some elements of transphobia. And while I had people read it over for sensitivity issues, that isn’t a guarantee that I will have written it properly or well. I can think of a whole host of things that I am anxious about within this story alone. (Though, let’s be honest, I feel that way about anything I submit, whether it gets accepted or not.)
And honestly, I’m really scared about that. Of course my friends will give me the benefit of the doubt; they know me, and they will trust that even if my best isn’t as good as it could be, that I’ll learn and move forward from that. But as soon as you write something and submit it, it becomes part of the larger, wider world. I have no guarantee that anyone will read it, and I have no guarantee that they’ll like it. Of course I would love it if they did; hell, I’d be ecstatic if everyone read my stories and everyone loved them. Unrealistic as it is, that’s the not-so-secret wish in my heart.
I’ve talked to a number of people about this story since the jitters about it started. I’ve talked to friends with more experience in the field, I’ve talked to my girlfriend (who is my first beta reader in everything original I write), and I’ve talked to friends experienced in other fields of art. They’ve all been very lovely and encouraging, and I’m doing my damned hardest to try and actually believe them. It won’t be the end of the world if a story pans, or if I made mistakes in how I handled the subject matter.* I’m still writing and I’m still trying to get stuff finished up and sent and pushing forward.
* I should note that I would very much like to learn how to improve my handling in the future. I know it’s not anyone’s responsibility other than my own to learn, and I am definitely committed to that.
“Instead of thinking, yikes, there’s a story that’s coming out and what if people don’t like it, I want to think, ‘oh, how nice! I’ve got a new story coming out, and hopefully people will like it.” …Is what I know I should be telling myself, but it’s hard.
How do you handle your nerves? What are your methods for happy distractions?