Monday, May 31, 2010

WTF Are We Waiting For???

Sigh… I’m going to be perfectly honest with y’all, fellow writers. Even if it is trapped in its perpetual infancy, The Crooked Table should be a place where writers can vent their frustrations, share their victories and generally speak their mind on any and all topics, from a writer’s perspective, of course. That is, after all, what I envision to be the site’s underlying philosophy.

So here’s my piece: I’m. Sick. Of. This. Shit. If that’s too vague and indistinct for you, allow me to clarify and add a bit of context . I have been thinking seriously about becoming some form of creative writer since the freshman year of high school, when I created the secret agent character whose name I have since adopted as my faux alter ego.

Years passed with little creative development, save for the expansion of an ever-growing laundry list of story ideas and concepts. I began to develop an interest in screenwriting and came up with an entirely new, semi-autobiographical tale to tell. This process involved lots of brainstorming , note-taking and other, more arbitrary preparatory work, but I never completed what I considered to be a satisfactory draft of that story. I blamed this largely on the screenwriting format itself, but really, the problem was that I never developed all my notes and ideas into a cohesive outline. But I digress…

From there, I attempted to team up with a couple different friends of mine on a writing project, but nothing ever came of it. It sucks that it’s even harder to find someone else as committed to writing than it is motivate yourself to do it. Again with the digressions… haha... Don’t worry, I’m getting focused now.

Finally, after a year and a half of little significant writing progress, I took it upon myself to take sole ownership of a project that had been intended to be a collaboration, and last year, I finished the first draft of my first-ever novel. Having given myself Thanksgiving Day as a deadline, I finished that very night, my belly still full of turkey, mashed potatoes and black beans and rice (my family’s Cuban, btw… lol).

Having reached such a milestone, I figured that I had earned a little break from the dark, trippy and hyper-cynical perspective of my main character. However, somehow a break of just a couple weeks has turned into six months. In the blink of an eye, my novel-in-progress has gone from being a constant focus to a dust-gathering memory.

Which, of course, brings me to the title of this post. WTF am I waiting for? I seemed to have a good thing going with this story. Along the way, I had even developed deeper themes, sharper dialogue and innumerable suggestions on ways I can flesh out and repair the skeleton of the initial draft. Even the few people who I’d let read selections from it had given me positive feedback and helped me stay optimistic that what I was doing was worthwhile and not the biggest time-waster of all-time.

So, with all that moving along so smoothly… why is it that I have let so much time go by with picking up the proverbial pen and returning to work? This reminded me of a quote from “Planet Terror,” the Robert Rodriguez-directed half of the 2007 double feature film Grindhouse (of all things…). When one character asks another about her failed dreams to become a doctor, she simply replies, “That’s the thing about dreams. They become the thing you talk about instead of the thing you do.”

If we are truly so passionate about making it as writers, why do we shortchange ourselves by half-assing our efforts? Is it that we’re more infatuated with the romanticized notion of what a writer is and how he represents society through the written word than the rush we get when a project is going really well or when we finally get what’s on paper to match the brilliance in our own heads?

Naturally, for some people, this is the case, but for argument’s sake, if you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that you truly are serious about being a writer. Either that, or you’re one of the many Robert Yaniz Jr. cyber-stalkers out there. You know who you are… ;)

The most obvious reason for slipping into inactivity is laziness. That, coupled with a hectic day job and subsequent sleep deprivation, is probably the most common and certainly the most justifiable reason for letting your creative mindset slip temporarily into the ether. I know that this is usually my default cop-out as to why I haven’t done any work on my novel.

But really, there’s got to be more to it than that, some subversive part of our subconscious that prevents us from continuing to follow our dreams, building ever closer to that fateful day when we can see our work sitting snugly between “Lord of the Flies” and “The Da Vinci Code” on a Barnes and Noble shelf. (Yes, I realize those two books are not classified in the same section, but the point stands regardless… )

I believe it’s the intimidation factor. We know before we begin the near-insurmountable odds that anything we write will ever see the light of day or gain a readership any larger than ourselves, our family members and close friends. This fear of failure cripples us right from the outset. To a writer, there are few things as terrifying and sweat-inducing as the blank page.

This only gets the worry wheels turning even faster… Is my story worth a damn? Do I have any idea what I’m talking about? Is my whole goddamned existence a sham, a self-induced fabrication designed to shield myself from the harsh reality that I possess absolutely no creative talent whatsoever?

And really, it’s an awful lot of time to spend on a pastime that – in all honesty – is unlikely to ever garner us a single cent. That’s when the practical side of us kicks in, attempting to rationalize away our total lack of writing progress on the fact that we’ve been busy with our “real” job. You know, the one that actually pays the bills and keeps us fed and sheltered.

But for us true writers, it doesn’t matter where our paycheck comes from. The act of creative writing, whether it’s screenplays, poems, short stories, songs, novels or whatever… That’s our calling. It’s what drives us and carries us from day to day. It’s not so much something we want to do as something we must do. Without it, we feel like we’re being untrue to ourselves and that eats us up inside.

That’s what I’ve been experiencing over the last several months, and it’s gotten to the point that I’ve undergone so much self-exploration thinking about not writing that it seems a shame to not expound that same amount of energy towards something that I am truly passionate about. Passionate about, but up to now, not 100% committed to. That’s what I need to change… That’s what I need to focus on.

In fact, let me get to it now… I suggest y’all do the same. See ya on the other side! ;)

Happy writing,