I had a long talk with myself recently. What we in the South refer to as a ‘come to Jesus’ meeting. Or in my case, a ‘get your shit straight’ meeting.
When I quit my job last year, I was determined to be a capital-w Writer. For a while that determination was all I needed to sustain the dream. I have since come to understand that the little tick-boxes I had set for myself as a measure of my capital-w status were ridiculous, silly at best and destructive at worst.
I wrote a novel, a terrible little rag, forty-eight thousand words of drivel and explicit drivel at that. I wrote it because I thought it would sell quickly. No other reason. I picked a genre I had no experience with based solely on anticipated sales figures. I did exactly the wrong thing right off the bat, and I did it at light-speed. It took just over three months to go from idea to published ebook.
I sold two copies. Total.
After a few months living with the taste of my fraud in my mouth, I yanked the book from the virtual shelves. I felt ashamed and apologetic that I had released it to the world, half-formed, barely literate, moderately offensive.
I didn’t respect the genre, my work, or myself.
When I was set to publish the book, I started this page as part of my marketing platform. After I pulled the book, I tried to ignore this page, mostly because it is linked to my failure. I adopted the childish attitude of ignore it until it goes away, thinking my shame would somehow disappear if I just didn’t think about it.
Desperate to redeem myself, to prove that I can be a capital-w Writer, I started what I refer to as ‘The Experiment’ – a daily writing challenge meant to force me to acknowledge my writing, the good and the bad, and work to improve it. To practice not just the mechanics of writing, but the simple act of putting words on paper every day.
I was more than a little hesitant about putting myself and my writing in the public arena, but I knew I needed the public scrutiny to keep me in check and on task. The question became where to post: here on what I considered my “professional” page, or somewhere I could be a bit more casual.
I ultimately decided to post to my LiveJournal account. I’ve had a page there for a couple of years, it’s pretty obscure, and I felt I had more freedom to be myself. It allowed me to write how I wanted, to use the language I wanted to use. I didn’t have to censor myself there.
And therein lies the problem.
Because I don’t have to censor my language or my opinions, I end up with sloppy work. Grammar and spelling aside, the posts tend to ramble or stray off on tangents. I’m suddenly a 10-year-old child saying ‘fuck’ every other word when her parents aren’t around just because she can. Lack of restriction quickly became lack of style.
It became evident there was a problem about a week into the experiment. I wanted to apply for a freelance writing job. All I had to do was email my resume and a sample of my work, and I would be considered.
I combed my blog trying to find something appropriate to send. After four hours, I gave up. There was good work, but it was so impossibly tangled with expletive-laden rants and twisted tangents that I couldn’t piece together one short sample. I was mortified.
How can I be a capital-w Writer if I can’t write a simple post, an article, five hundred words around one concise idea? Is all the work I’ve been doing just a waste of time and effort?
Practice makes perfect, right? Wrong. Perfect practice makes perfect. And what I was doing is about as far from perfect as you can get.
To get myself back on track, I’m moving my daily posts to WordPress. There is a professionalism about the site that forces me to be more polished. It makes me work harder, and in turn, makes my writing better.
For the immediate future I will be linking to LiveJournal, but I don’t know how long that will go on. It’s my hope to eventually shut that page down, move what I can salvage over here, and make WordPress my online home. Stay tuned.