Thursday, August 21, 2014

Writer's Confessional: A List of My Sins

 I am an unrepentant writing sinner. There. I've said it. I suspect I'm not alone, but it's rare to hear anyone admit to these  human problems. Today I'm coming clean, and it feels good. I think I'll call it pixel therapy. Most conventional wisdom  rubs me the wrong way every time I read it. (Every. Single. Time.) The litany of the writing profession labels me a woeful sinner in desperate need of salvation, one who must change her ways to succeed. According to various guidelines issued by Real Writers (TM)  I am the worst writer in the world. 

Today, I'm saying, "Suck it, world. You're right, but I don't care."  This is my little corner of the interverse, where I get to shout out my happies, my sads, and, yes, my sins. How am I a sinner? Oh, let me count the ways.

Pride
If you read the previous paragraph, you know I've got this one. I know what stories I want to tell, and if they don't fit the standard forms, then the forms can suck my toes. I know what works for me. I know what's best. I'm prideful, because Real Writers don't behave like that. Real Writers listen eagerly to suggestions, offer their work up for criticism and change it in response. They diligently follow the strictures of the craft that have been set down by older, smarter, and traditionally-published writers.  I dodge the classic definition of this sin only because I know I am not nearly as wise, as talented. or as knowledgeable as many others. I do invite and listen to criticism. I do know the forms and standards. I simply reserve the right to willfully reject them. Willful, that's me, and I am considered a lesser writer for it. To which I say, phhhhffllbbt. Because prideful.
Envy
I get jealous. When other people sell writing I consider no better than my own, I turn quite pea-green on the inside, and that makes me a wretched sinner.  You see, Real Writers don't admit jealousy. Real Writers become gushing fonts of pep when confronted by success. Oh, it's fine to feel envy. Everyone feels it, but it's tacky and unprofessional to admit it.  Think the successful writer's work creaks? Too bad!  Shut up and wave those pompoms. Believe in your heart of hearts that your work is superior? Who cares? Throw the confetti and glitter! It's the way things are done. It's mature. It's professional. 

It's bullshit. What a horrible cultural norm this is. It can cut like knives to see others rewarded while you stand rejected in the shadows, and I don't think anyone should be judged harshly for bleeding. (And yes, my opinion is what counts. See: Pride)  There is plenty of middle ground between "you don't deserve that," and "Your story is so great. No wonder you're getting famous!" Hypocrisy poisons everything. I'll never believe anyone who tells me my work is good to my face, because I know that the indie author culture does not reward honesty. (Don't even get me started on the damage inflationary reviews and ratings cause. That's a whole 'nother post.)

Anger
Hoo, yes, I get accused of anger.  In my defense, what I call anger wasn't always a sin. At some point during the last few decades, the sin of wrath -- overreactive, disproportionate anger -- became conflated with any display of negativity. Be positive is the order of the day now. Think happy thoughts. Focus on successes. Find the bright side to every black moment. Wish and make it so. Banish negative people and negative energy.

 Give me an effing break.  (But please, do not give me the cognitive behavioral therapy party line. I will drop links on you. This is not a condemnation of that. I reject only the sweeping misuse of a useful tool.)  The heat of anger can be a powerful motivator. I could more easily remove my own appendix than excise my sense of injustice and its attendant indignation. Unpleasant emotions can drive growth and feed creativity just as well as warm fuzzies. Sunshine Bear is not my avatar. Stitch is. Call me sinner.

Greed: 
I want more. More time, more ideas, more recognition, and yes, more readers. My measuring stick for success may be modest by worldly standards (a dozen positive reviews by people who don't know me personally, enough profits to cover editing & shipping costs) but it exists. Real Writers create Art for Art's sake. They have muses. I have a supportive husband. I write for the express purpose of being read by others. I write to connect. I. Want. More.

Sloth:
Early writings that mention this sin called it acedia. It's one of those old words that translate imprecisely. "Sloth" can be legitimately defined as despair or listlessness rather than laziness. And despair--that emotion, that behavior and its consequences--that deserves a post of its own. Next time. 

Here endeth today's confession. Did any of it sound familiar? Any other sinners out there? What do you think? Do we have a shot at salvation? 

Watching for sinners.

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