Saturday, March 31, 2007

You're the loser, I won't dismiss you out of hand.

I like myself so much better when I’m writing fiction. It isn’t that I feel I am good at it. I get completely lost in it, I don’t think about whether it is any good or not, I don’t care about the possibility that it is all crap and will never be good enough for anybody else to read. It is only when I come to read over it, to edit it, that it occurs to me that have written hundreds of thousands of words of complete and utter nonsense. And that causes me to panic, full physical heart-racing stomach-churning cold-sweat panic.

So I dawdle. I allow myself to become distracted by other things. Stuff to do with other people. Stuff for other people. But this makes me like myself less, because I don’t get lost in it, I do care very much about whether it is any good or not. And in the end, everything I do for other people feels like a little act of treachery; it is never nearly as good as it might have been.

It’s not that I have some chronic self-esteem problem, it’s just that I fuck up almost everything I do. This isn’t self-pity (it might be, I’ll tell you in a minute), it’s not that I imagine I am a bad or worthless person, but I make a cup of tea and it’s a small miracle if I manage not to spill boiling water or milk or blood. And that’s not very funny when it’s true, actually. Okay, so it is a quite funny, sometimes. But other times it causes no end of hassle, costs energy, sometimes money and generally pisses everyone off.

And it is me. It is, in part, my doing. For example, I do have poor co-ordination, which I can’t help. If I had really appalling co-ordination I would not attempt to pour boiling water into a mug to make tea, but it’s not that bad. And if I put every ounce of my concentration into the task at hand, I am less likely to spill things. I will still spill things, but less often. Thus, none of the ways in which I fuck up are completely and utterly out of my hands, whether it is to do with co-ordination, or short term memory, or absent-mindedness, or any other aspect of cognitive dysfunction and fatigue. So I am failing, me, failing, not just my wiring. Several times a day, every day. The more I do, the more I fail at. Not just practical stuff, but social stuff too and, of course, my writing.

Which, thankfully, isn’t particularly off-putting, not after ten years. The only things it stops me doing are those where the cost is very high, or where I am likely to put myself or others in danger, like if I got behind the wheel of a car, for example.

However, it does impact on the bigger picture, this chronic state of rubbishness. Always trying not to be rubbish. Always afraid of being rubbish. And always fucking up, often in ways I don’t understand.

Oh misery me! You still here? Yes, sorry, it was self-pity, after all.

I know I am holding myself back. This is getting silly really, the time I have spent on this Bloody Fucking Book. Especially this stage, which this winter has mostly been held up by such feelings not the Lurgy, which has been relatively kind to me; the first winter in many years which has not invited a significant relapse. Okay, small matter of house move, but you know I'm still doing pretty well. I put enough crap up here. If the best book I can write is complete pants, then I really have to find out sooner rather than later. Or simply give up and think or something else to do with my time on Earth.

Ah, but that’s the other thing, isn’t it? If there is absolutely no possibility of making a living out of writing, then there is absolutely no possibility of making a living out of anything. In my melodramatic moments, I feel my life depends on this. Which is as good a reason as any to postpone the great revelation, if indeed I am due such a revelation.

Nah. It must be doable; half the stuff I read is complete pants anyway, there must be room on the bookshelves of the world for me. And even if this one is pants and nobody will touch it with a barge-pole-length bookmark, at least I’ll know then I can write a book and then I can write another one which will be better. Or more saleable. I’m sure I could make up some crap about Wizards or the Catholic Church – perhaps Wizards in the Catholic Church. Or better still, Wizzard in the Catholic Church. The Pope, desperate to improve the Church’s image, employ the glam rock band Wizzard to come up with ideas. They sing, “I wish it could be Christmas everyday.” And so they make it Christmas every day (when the kids start singing and the band begins to play). And all the priests and bishops start wearing glitter and platform shoes. But somehow it all goes horribly wrong. Uh… because… of… someone with a French accent, a nasty scar and a limp, obviously! Come on, you'd buy it out of kindness.

In a bit of a hole about the book, just now. It's all such tremendous crap.


Gone Fishing said...

Keep going, keep goping, whatever you do don't stop!!!!!
I stopped too many times, and as Winter approaches i amd etermeined that this year I Shall write a book! And complete it and I Shall do some damn fine paintings, no ditractions by people wanting me to weed their gardens or anything else which it seems is of great proffit to thsoe who want it done but to me NOTHING.
I am sick of people feeling sorry for me and taking advantage of me through good intentions.

This Winter I SHALL Paint and write Productively and through the Summer so shall you!

Mary said...


It isn't just you - and I have to say it's reassuring to hear that you get days like this too and it isn't just me. If you follow.

But you know this will turn itself around. I bet it has before.

I'll sooner be a bloody-minded cow who regularly injures herself, than an over-indulged pathetic-invalid who won't (not can't) make an effort or take a risk for anybody. Although like you say, not to the point of extreme recklessness.

I often feel that my life depends on my family and friends, and therefore time and energy spent on them is time and energy well invested.

The book will be ready when it's ready, and it will be tough sending it out for possible rejection, but whether it's sent back by every publisher with a note saying "send us no more of this drivel!" or if it is published immediately, sells a million copies and gets rave reviews in the Times, that doesn't in any way affect the value of The Goldfish the person. Who is somebody that I for one have a great deal of respect for.

Anonymous said...

Take it a day, a task at a time, Goldfish. Say not the struggle naught availeth (now where have I heard that before?)

If the book is not coming along then I should put it aside for an hour or a day, because you are getting it all clogged up with your negative feelings here. Try not to think beyond the next paragraph, certainly not to its ultimate reception.

I agree with Mary. Why shouldn't we make blood sports out of tea brewing if we want? Above all don't fall into the trap of disliking yourself because you feel you don't measure up to some factitious standard. Whose standard? Goldfish as she is is a great person whom I am glad to have as a friend (which may not be much of a recommendation, but hey).

Sally said...

On a purely practical note, if you do not already use one, have you seen the cheap stand for electric kettles, which holds the kettle while you tip the boiling water into the cup. There are millions of people out there who risk serious damage every time they make a cuppa; if it were otherwise there would be no market for such tools.

On a purely friendly note; as above with the sentiments, particularly CD, and mixing up book writing with the negativity that will always be around. It is hugely difficult to have a sense of oneself that is realistic let only solely positive, when the feed back we get is very limited; sometimes limited to only the four walls, the blog and comments on one's blog.

(again blogger has asked me to re-enter this four times, so apols if its repeated)

Gone Fishing said...

Strange coincidence has occured over the last few days.

I have becomne aware of the importance of the need for "confidence" and the need to ensure the "wow" factor is in everything you produce.

I have rambled about it here and maybe try and explain it a bit more, but so far being confident that this year I can achieve the "Wow" factor in things I do is helping.

Anonymous said...

You know one of the things Dr M from James P asked me was if I was clumsy, so I reckon more of it is down the The Lurgy than it sounds like you realise.

Me, I'm more clumsy in thought than action which I why I spend unhealthy amount of time just browsing the internet, which is "safe". Well, as long as I stay away from my bank and eBay - oh and commenting too! So,it really isn't just you.

And you know, I really think perhaps you need to let a few friends read, say, a chapter of your book - like I've said before, this blog is proof you can write so I'm sure all of us who read this have confidence it's going to be very good. OK, probably not a classic in the Dickens sense, but I reckon it would be an unbalanced literary diet that consisted only of classics.

Don't forget that Jasper Fforde wants to go round bookshops changing words in his books and Robert Newman wouldn't recommend his first two books!

The Goldfish said...

Thanks everyone, really very much appreciated. :-)

Anonymous said...

Everyone writes shitty first drafts. The trick is to force yourself to finish it, so you can make it better when you go over it again.

Just remember that everything you buy at a bookstore and read is at least a second draft, and sometimes a tenth, twentieth or fiftieth draft. At this point it just doesn't matter whether what you've written is good or bad. What matters is whether or not it's written.

The Goldfish said...

Bad news, Andrea: this is number four. This is why it is taking so long; this is the one I want to be right.

The first draft was horrendous and shall never be seen again by human eyes, but only took me a few months to run off. This... uh...