I’ve come to the conclusion that writing needs to be a secondary activity for me. The trouble is that when it becomes a primary one, I become like a rabbit in headlights, afraid to move left or right for making some mistake or other. That isn’t conducive to being creative.
Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t about dropping the level of work, but I can sit at my desk for four hours and edit a page, or I can do something else then come and edit one and a half. I’m coming to the conclusion that my creative process works best when it’s subconscious.
I am a worrier though, especially when it comes to writing. I’m so worried that I’ll do something stupid, piss off the wrong person or write the wrong kind of thing that it can make me petrified.
I guess this all comes down to self-confidence, something I’ve always struggled with as a writer. I know that if I allowed it, I could let my ego go into overdrive (although I don’t think I’m the only writer to feel this). Maybe not enough to offend but certainly enough to bore. But that balance between over and under confidence feels like a tightrope most of the time.
I shouldn’t worry. I’m not a person who naturally offends and usually I’m happy to be a lone voice. I’m only just starting to find that in fiction and yet I’m still concerned I’ll make some dreadful social faux pas. Stupid really.
I’ve found it in the last couple of weeks after some arse basically complained that new books are not like the old books and therefore crap. Now I don’t believe that. I’ve always subscribed to the fact that I like what I like. That means some old and some new. Yet, things like this come along (and get rightly rounded upon) and people start taking pot shots at Tolkien like some bastard child trying to usurp the king.
I get really annoyed about this. I mean, I love Tolkien but am open to his faults. However with fantasy fiction there seems to be no respect for the forefathers. He was a product of his time, and as such I can enjoy it as such. It’s too black and white some people decry. Obviously. It was written at a time when Nazism was an absolute evil. Times have changed. The enemies in our day to day lives have changed, become more complex. A suicide bomber could be the guy next door who lent you his ladder. It’s natural we want our fictional villains to reflect this, to be more complex, less clear cut.
But it seems that because Tolkien doesn’t fit modern day audiences in this instance, he’s automatically derided. And let me be clear: there is a difference between derision and personal dislike. You don’t get Marvel comic fans talk about Stan Lee that way. You don’t have people complaining about the state of the graphics on the old Final Fantasy games. This inability to see a novel as a product of a time genuinely worries me.
And you know, last week I thought “sod it!” I don’t think these people I’m talking with are idiots, I actually respect a lot of their views, but I’m not gonna let this go. So suddenly I’m in the role of defending Tolkien.
There seems to be a lot of tribalism forming in genre and defending Tolkien does ‘feel’ (even if it is not intended) like you’re not in the tribe with the cool kids. But bollocks to that, I’ve had enough of the disrespect. My paranoia told me that everyone probably now thinks I’m writing a Tolkien clone.
And I think that’s when something snapped; not directed at those I was discussing things with (as I said I think they are incredibly intelligent on genre and I wouldn’t be discussing with them if I didn’t like them), but at just worrying at feeling like the sole voice (well me and the arsehole).
My worry isn’t because I don’t know who I am and what I want to write, it’s because I don’t know where I fit in, if I fit in at all. No wonder identity is a major theme in my work, huh?
But worrying isn’t gonna make a bad novel good or a good novel bad. And I do feel good about this novel. Good enough to take my time to get it right, despite an almost primal urge to get it over and done with. It still might not be good enough, but anyone who thinks it’s a Tolkien clone might be in for a bit of a surprise.
So why am I letting this worry and angst consume me? Because I’m afraid I’ll make some mistake that’ll stop the novel getting published? I really need to get over that. The problem is that I think my brain needs something to worry about, and this is why my writing needs to be a secondary activity.
Because then I’ll stop wasting time worrying and spend it writing or editing instead.