Saturday, 13 October 2012

Wide Awake

That's the Katy Perry song I'm listening to on repeat for no apparent reason. It makes some kind of sense though. "I'm falling from cloud nine" ... I get that feeling, the feeling of falling, reeling back to earth after living in a strange sort of dream state for an extended period of time.

That free fall has been one prolonged state of being for the past two and a half years or so. I realize that's a long time to be free falling, but it's the truth. Sometimes it takes a while for you to realize you're falling instead of flying. Sometimes, you were flying so high for a while that you didn't notice how far you had to fall.

There were a couple of years of my life that I lived in a strange dream-state. 2008. 2009. The first little bit of 2010. And then reality caught up with me and I lost my way and began to lose altitude. At some point I had to come back down to Earth. I'm glad I did though. There were a lot of Earthly matters that needed taking care of. My real life in the real world isn't nearly as much fun as the world I've created in my head, but it's the one that dictates my imaginary world, that decides if and when I can make that imaginary world a reality.

I'm speaking of writing, of course. I'm speaking of the very real, very crappy job I worked for three years, convinced that a job at night (still full-time, 40 hours a week) would allow me to finish a degree I didn't really want to complete and to write the books I actually did want to complete. Life has a funny way of getting in the way. It slithers between your plans like a snake and takes a bite out of you when you least expect it. My job exhausted me. I didn't have the energy to write. I barely had the energy to get out of bed in the mornings. And I hated it, which made it all the more unbearable. Granted, there were things I liked about the job. I could pay all my bills and live comfortably (when I didn't have tuition to pay), and I ... well, I could pay my bills. That's the only really good thing. I met a couple of really good people, people I hope I know for the rest of my life. But that's not enough to keep a person going. (If you don't believe me, work a thankless job for a tiny tyrant with a bad temper for minimum wage for a few months and get back to me...)

I've known I wanted to be a writer for a few years now. I *AM* a writer in that I write things. I write lots of stories. I have an entire, insane, detailed, baffling world in my head. What I really want to be is a Published Writer. I haven't made much of an attempt to make that happen. Yeah, I've sent out a few query letters, but I really haven't thrown myself into it. The reason? For a long time, I questioned myself. I wasn't sure if I was ready to commit myself to something like a novel I'd written, to let it define me.

It's taken me three years to be ready. Three years to be willing to make the effort of writing query letters and trying to sell my stories to someone else, someone who hears this stuff day-in, day-out. Trust me, writing a novel is easier than writing the query letter. For me, at least.

I've never been comfortable 'selling' myself or my work. I've always believed that if someone likes my stuff, they like my stuff and if they don't, they don't. I'm not entirely comfortable telling people why I'm awesome. Don't mistake this for me having self-worth issues, it's more just that I hate having to tell people what to like. I figure we all know what we like and we're not going to be won over by a pretty description.

Only the publishing business is one of selling. I have to sell my story idea (and the manuscript) to an agent, who has to sell it to a publisher, who has to sell it to the readers. That's a lot of selling. I've known this logically for a long time, but I've never been entirely comfortable with it.

A book my cousin lent me, a book about introversion, got me thinking about why all this makes me uncomfortable. The book is 'Quiet' by Susan Cain. It's (nominally) about introversion, but it's also about the shift in Western ideals from that of the Ideal Character (think Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice) to the the Ideal Personality (think any entertainer ever and every pseudo-celebrity of the modern era). It's all about the value of different types of people and the value of different approaches.

It got me thinking that maybe there's a way I might actually be able to write a query letter without feeling like I am selling out. I'm not shy, but I have realized over the past few years that I am quite introverted. This is not a new thing, it's just a better understanding of myself, of what an introvert actually IS, and the realization that I am one. I am confident. I like myself and I can deal well with people in social settings. I am not uncomfortable in my skin. I do, however, need my alone time. I need time to think, time to write, time to be with myself and no one else. I need to be alone in my head, I need time to reflect on things or I become incredibly irritable and deeply unhappy.

This realization has developed over the past few years and it feels a lot like waking up, and being rested enough to see things more clearly. I can see how I left myself fly up into a dreamy stratosphere in 2008 and 2009. I needed to escape my life because it wasn't something I liked. I needed something to believe in, and here was this wonderful daydream of friendship and success and love that was so much more appealing than the slog of everyday life.

Thing is, it wasn't real. It never was real. It was a daydream and I couldn't make it a reality because reality has rules and green cards and the life I really want doesn't really line up with the kind of reality that would get me the things others imagined for me and for themselves as part of that reality. My reality is so simple. I want to write. I want to be happy. I want to belong somewhere. I'm still not sure where I belong, but I'm going to keep looking.


Susan said...

I don't think there is anything you CAN'T do, if you put your mind to it, including being a published author. You have a lot of people in your corner, cheering you on, never forget that. Life is going to get amazing-good for you, very soon. I am sure of it. You have all my positive thoughts coming your direction.
(as long as you are being amazing, could you settle this *&@#% hockey lock-out?)

mer said...

Susan, I love you. Pure, unadulterated love for this comment, but especially for the last sentence. I will go down to NYC and knock some heads about, okay?

Susan said...

You will have an army behind you!