Work has really been kicking me in the shins lately. You know what I mean. It’s painful, but not debilitating. It’s irritating, but not terminal. I feel bruised and battered by the end of the day, but I can crawl out of bed and stagger back into work the next morning.
It’s been like this for months. My ability to continue dealing with this level of stress is wearing a bit thin. My creative energy is completely drained by this kind of daily workload and I’m not getting much writing done right now, which is always depressing.
Last night, I read a debut novel that captivated me from the first sentence. I was staying at the cabin again, which was bittersweet. The property will be sold soon, and the cabin had been stripped and cleaned. Normally I would have tried to get a little writing done in the peace and solitude the woods, but it was too hot and there was no furniture, and besides, the book beckoned. As the light outside faded, I sat on my air mattress with a battery operated lantern, reading in the dark like a small child. The author kept me guessing along with the protagonist as to what would happen next, and I followed her same journey. My interest, like hers, was piqued at the discovery of some old letters. I became involved in her investigations. Her hopes and dreams became mine, and my fear for her safety was intense when I realized that she was headed down a path of danger.
It was utterly brilliant. I finished the book wanting more, something that is rare these days. If you like rebellious Victorian heroines in romantic suspense stories–this is the book for you. Read it. And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander. I just found out that there are others in the series–I am off to buy them now.
In the afterward, author Tasha Alexander quoted from my all-time favorite novel, Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers. She said she was reading Gaudy Night and these words leapt from the page at her:
If you are once sure what you do want, you will find that everything else goes down before it like grass under a roller–(and all other interests, your own and other people’s.)
It was on reading this that she knew it was time for her to fulfill her dream of being a writer, and so she did.
I confess, I was more than a little depressed when I finished the story. For a first time novel, it was a stunning achievement. It made me look at my own work with a jaundiced eye. My writing seemed amateurish and childish in comparison, not to mention that it would appeal to such small audience that ten, twenty, thirty years from now, no one would be reading it. I began to question what I’m doing with my writing and why I even bother trying.
I shared this feeling with a few of my fellow authors and friends. Susan Mac Nicol (who has been on my blog several times recently, first with a post on writing M/M romance and her love for Benedict Cumberbatch, and then yesterday, with a post about her bestselling new release, Stripped Bare) offered some excellent advice. She said she had to learn early on not to compare herself to others. That yes, there were great writers out there, but that’s not to say they are better than you are–simply in your head they are.
She went on to quote as well, sharing with me these words from Neil Gaiman: The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.
Wise words indeed.
I know that it is difficult not to compare yourself to others. We’re taught from an early age to do so. It is the yardstick by which we are all measured–in comparison to something or someone else. Sometimes it is hard to remember the joy lies in the process, not the accolades. In the journey to Ithaca more than the arrival.
But just when I was at the point of telling myself that maybe I should just give up the idea of being an author and just go back to piddling around with my stories for fun, I remembered what a reader told me about how much she enjoyed my stories and how they made her life a little easier. And then I got a tweet from Rainbow Book Reviews praising Crying for the Moon. I didn’t even know the story was being reviewed–it’s been out for a few years now. Apparently reviewer Christy Duke loved it!
Yeah, so maybe what I write isn’t great literature. Maybe it doesn’t even qualify as ‘good’ trashy romance. But it brings me pleasure, and it brings other people pleasure, and if even just one person can read one of my stories and feel better about their day as a result, then it was worth it.