Over the past few days, I’ve been really going back and forth over way too many small things:
- Should I use ruled, plain, or grid paper in my next notebook?
- Should I taken that bite of raw chicken or put down my fork?
- Should I keep using wordpress or should I come back to tumblr?
- Should I just suck it up and buy a new laptop?
But there was one question rushing through my head like a rapid white river:
Am I better at writing essays than I am at writing fiction?
I asked myself this as I continued to edit a short story from NaNoWriMo tonight. Instead of editing the language, I rewrote the entire damn thing. It pissed me off that I had to rewrite something I thought was great when I wrote it. Then, I thought about how the new rewrite might suck even more if the first draft was crap. Thus the cycle began.
After finishing the draft, I stared into the words as if it would reveal its secrets to me. Will you be a good read? Will people find you interesting and share you with other people? Will this bring me what I’ve been waiting for since I was 12 years old? I kept perpetuating this damn cycle.
In order to pull myself from the cyclone of questions, I turned to the small literary magazine I planned on submitting my story to. I read through the requirements for submitting once again mulling over the font choice on the page and wondering what it means by “be patient, we receive a lot of requests.”
Naturally, my stomach churned. Somehow the inertia of this cycle made me feel like I was stuck in a centrifuge. The talents of my writing bubbled to the top while the shit, well, sank to the bottom. I heard the liquid in my belly bubbling up. I’m nervous about submitting this story. And even though I know I’m going to go ahead and submit this story anyway, I won’t have the great confidence that I do when I write blog posts or when I submit cute essays to online magazines. I’ll submit it with the knowledge that this story will lead to just another series of rejection letters I read in my inbox far too often.
And yet, I can confidently turn in an article much more personal than a fictional story. Why’s that? I think there is only one real reason. Because my fiction writing skills are not as good as my journalism skills. I went to college to become a journalist, not JK Rowling. I couldn’t stand those creative writing/comparative literature nuts who walked around campus holding their pile of books in some really moody way and bumming cigarettes off of people walking on the sidewalk. God knows that I love to read as much as the next person, but that’s not what I wanted for my life. I wanted to write about what I saw and what I experienced. I’ve been doing that since I was a kid.
But the challenge to write a fiction novel in 30 days enticed me. It wagged its little carrot in my face and I needed to chase it until I had the sweet flavor stuck between the tastebuds of my tongue. Now the bigger challenge appears to be trying to convince someone, anyone, that I can write fiction. Perhaps this is a clear message. Perhaps there are some much stronger forces here nudging me and giving me some sort of a “hey, this isn’t what you want. This isn’t what you’re good at. You should continue and excel at writing essays about your life. I mean, everyone wants to read about what interesting Japanese snack you found at the grocery store.”
Either way, the inertia of my life over the last few years was slowing down. I can feel it starting to speed back up and I want to continue speeding up until I can’t speed up anymore. No matter what, I’m going to write. I know that for damn sure.