This Grand Experiment
The other day I started to wonder if I should hit “pause” on reading fiction while I’m attempting to write a novel. I also started to wonder if trying to write a novel is even worth the effort.
Because I’m not good enough.
What was that?
All other authors are better than I could ever be.
Uh, reading fiction. Writing. Reading fiction while writing fiction. That’s right.
Why try at all?
I might as well give up…
I don’t know where all that came from.
Let’s try this again. Reading fiction. Writing.
Okay. Well … I’m a little bit of a book snob. But I still mostly read popular fiction, which means I can’t be that much of a snob, right?
I once tried choosing books by the stars/reviews on Amazon, and I quickly realized that my standards for a five-star review are much, much different than most people on Amazon. So these days I do research before buying a book to find out which ones have won awards or to see what critics and other literary-minded folks think are worth looking into. Most of what I read tends to be quite well-written. I don’t have time or patience (or money) to read anything less.
See? Book snob.
My favorite genres are sci-fi and fantasy fiction, and within those genres there are a wide variety of styles. Some of it’s pretty philosophical and heady for popular fiction. “Heady” and “philosophical” are not the types of fiction I want to write, but a part of me wonders if I should. And then I start to get scared because, in my fear and doubt, I equate not wanting or being able to write like that to not being able to write.
I should just stop now.
There it is again. That voice.
I’ve heard it before, all my life.
It sounds like me, but it’s parroting something else. Culture, maybe? Or bullies from my childhood. Societal and religious norms.
You’re not good enough. Everyone else is better than you. Stronger. More beautiful. Holier. Try harder to be like them.
Don’t be yourself.
Have you ever heard that voice, or a similar one? Does it sound like you? Or are there actually people in your life who tell you that?
None of that is true. That is the voice I’ve started to believe. For me that belief comes with my faith and how I know God views me. With love. Unbelievable acceptance. And in the past few years I’ve actually, finally, listened to what he has been whispering longer than the voice that sounds like me. For the longest time I just couldn’t hope to believe.
I used to think (for the most part subconsciously) that to be strong, successful, a “real” man, a good person—pick your favorite identity issue—that I had to look or act a certain way. Look or act like a certain kind of person. Be good at things I wasn’t good at. Have a different kind of personality. To, basically, not be the person God made me to be. And it’s taken 40-something years to get to the point where I actually know that’s not true. I don’t have to be like him. Or have her set of gifts. My life doesn’t have to look like that.
And yet I’m hearing that other whisper again as I research and prepare for this novel I hope to write.
But writing isn’t any different, is it? I hear the same lying, wheedling voice, and I need to stop believing I have to write or think like someone else.
Here’s what I know right now: I might not end up being a very good novel writer. That’s part of what this journey is to find out, and it’ll be okay if I’m not. But I certainly won’t be a good writer if I try to write like anyone other than me. Which is why I might need to consider more carefully the kind of fiction I read while I’m in the midst of this grand experiment of mine. To not be discerning about that is a little like insisting on going to a gym where only young, tall people who like to work out go, not because the world says I’m supposed to look like them (although it does) but because I think I can actually make myself be young, tall and someone who likes to work out.
Ugh. Now that’s a depressing thought. Wanting to work out all the time sounds terribly boring. I think I’d rather work to my strengths.
Anyone want to meet up for coffee, conversation and a few laughs?
Or maybe I should go get lost in a good book!