Monday, 25 March 2013

Only the Wind and Your Breaking Heart...

“Writing is like hunting. There are brutally cold afternoons with nothing in sight, only the wind and your breaking heart. Then the moment when you bag something big. The entire process is beyond intoxicating.”

― Kate Braverman

This isn't going to be the first time you've heard me say this. I've talked about it many times which pretty much says it's a huge issue for me. As far as writing goes, that is.

So here goes.

I'm...can't think of a better word...depressed. Frustrated. Heart-breakingly so.

I decided to speak of it out loud because the subject on my mind comes up in various forums and I realize I'm not the only writer who suffers this 'malady' on occasion.

And here's my ugly truth.

I have a dear friend, a fellow author, who happens to be one of the most eloquent yet simple, in-touch-with-the-human-heart writers I've ever met. And I've met a lot of them so that is saying a lot.

I won't mention his name, and I'm not talking behind his back, as he and I have talked about this. The only reason I'm mentioning it publicly is because I saw comments from more than one author on more than one forum who cited that they shy away from reading other authors because it discourages them, and ignites doubt in their own writing abilities. While sad to hear that, I was kind of relieved. That meant I was not the only one, that others suffer this insecurity at times as well.

And, yes, yes, I know. I talk about insecurity an awful lot. Yep. I do. It happens to be, probably, my number one weakness in my writing process.

  I remember one author---who I love dearly---claimed that she had resisted reading certain authors because she was...yes...jealous. I admired her honesty, her bravery in facing her fear. Because, let me tell you, she is not alone. I knew exactly what she meant. The funny thing about it? She, as it happens, is one of the authors I resist reading for that very reason. So there. Go figure. Us writers. What characters we are.

Anyway, back to my gifted author friend. I told him, as humiliating as it was, that I was hesitant to read his book because I'd read such powerful reviews about it. I was scared. Books which promise to blast me with emotion----no, not just angst, killing off characters and torturing them, but deep heart stuff, human stuff.

We're all insecure to a certain extent with our talent. Even when other praise us, when we see good reviews, there's still that speck of doubt deep down. I suspect even the most successful harbor those misgivings at times.

I will at least admit I write fair-to-middlin'. My prose, anyway. Oh, I've got miles to go in the plotting department, boatloads to learn about characterization, dynamics, everything.

But here's the kicker. While trying to pinpoint what I DO feel is lacking, what I DO see in my author friend's work that I feel missing in mine, I came across a quote by Eudora Welty from her book, On Writing, "To write honestly and with all our powers is the least we can do, and the most."

And I realized. That key. Honestly and with all our powers. And I knew, then, that the element missing from my attempts is that seemingly small but oh-so-gigantic all our powers.

You know that that means? ALL our powers? It means writing on all eight cylinders. Letting go. Giving it the gas. Letting it rip, gunning the engine, speeding right through those barriers of fear that keep you from going too far. It means writing fearless. Opening all the windows on that heart of yours.

Some seem to feel letting it go means to superficially shock. And I suppose it could. But, for me, it means losing all my inhibitions about exposing my gut to a reader. Emotion.

And that's where my depression sets in. I see these other authors who have that GIFT---and I consider it is a precious gift---of doing just that. They have this beautiful ability to express what is actually deep inside them. They are fearless in doing so. I admire that, I crave that.

It's not about words, either. I can come up with the words. I've got a warehouse of words, ready to be used to express my deepest soul. But, for some reason, fear of SEEING in that deep dungeon of emotion keeps that warehouse door barred to me.

I don't know what it will take to open that door, to bust off that rusty lock. But I DO know it's going to happen because the prisoners---my innermost thoughts---in that secret place cry out all the time, begging to be set free. All it will take is me.

So the depression, in a way, seems to be able to give way to satisfaction and then exhilleration. Because I DO have the key in my hand.

Who knows? Maybe, if I DO read those authors whose gift I fear, I'll feel something in their fearlnessness that will push me over the edge.

Ray Bradbury said, I did what most writers do at their beginnings: emulated my elders, imitated my peers, thus turning away from any possibility of discovering truths beneath my skin and behind my eye.

That sort of thinking, those beginnings such as he mentions, might have been one of my biggest obstacles. One WILL be miserable to read other authors in order to emulate their gift. Their gift---the one I seek anyway---is not something that can be copied. Their gift is unique to them but, oddly, available to me as well. Because the truth----MY truth----is beneath MY skin and behind MY eye.

Hot damn. Is that exciting or what? So rev her up, baby. I might not be able to go zero-to-seventy in one gunning of the pedal and be comfortable in sharing my innermost soul through my writing overnight. But I CAN get there. The destination IS within reach.

For me. And for you.


Dorien Grey said...

So glad to see someone put my exact feelings into words, and to know I am not, indeed, alone. Thanks, Carol.

C. Zampa said...

Thank you, Dorien. Oh, no, you are SO not alone.
But you ARE gifted.

Sue Brown said...

Welcome to my world, love, and yes, I'm still jealous of them, even though I am ploughing through their books. I will stand up and say that was me.

Every time I read a great book, be it by a first timer or an old hand, it affects the way I write. But I'm trying to train my brain to think, 'what did they do right?'.

It might not work for me, but I can admire them for doing it.

I worry about reading friends as well. What happens if I don't like their book? What happens if they're so good I feel like a speck in the dust?

In the end I pick and choose my books. Because I love reading and I love my friends. It's just me that's not logical.

Anonymous said...

Lovely post! I am one of those who fears reading because I get jealous and depressed and wonder what the *hell* I am doing, thinking I have the right to play with the big kids. It's so hard to get past that.

I'm going to keep this post bookmarked and come back to it. Hopefully, it will help me get past that barrier and stop feeling so much like I don't have the right.

Thank you.

C. Zampa said...

Damn, Sue, you are so dear to me. I, my friend, are one of those readers on my afraid-to-read list.
But if your writing is as honest and heartfelt as YOU, dear one, then I'm in for a wonderful trip.

Anonymous said...


I just lost a friend very recently and I think that part of what made him not want to be my friend anymore was my honesty about his book. I didn't like the ending. And I didn't want to tell him, but I didn't want to lie because I knew if it came out down the road that I did, it would be so much worse. So I told him.

And now he's not my friend. I don't know what all contributed, I'm sure it was more than that, but... yeah. I'm exceedingly hesitant now to read friends' books for the same reason.

C. Zampa said...

Oh, Grace!
You do SO have a right!

And I have a feeling that, behind every one like me and you, there was someone else to encourage them to go past their comfort zones. I know I've had so many prod me to let go, and---little by little---I am.

Admitting that fear, I think, is a begining.


Sue Brown said...

I'm sorry, Grace. Losing a friend is heartbreaking. Losing one for being honest about their writing is horrid. A lot of people ask me to read their books pre-submission and I dread it to be honest.

C. Zampa said...

I'm sorry, too, Grace!
Reading for a friend is delicate, for sure. And I hope your friend will understand one day that he should embrace honest feedback and be open-minded about it.

Anonymous said...

@Carol - Thank you very much. It does help to hear that. This post has already helped and I am working on reminding myself of the people who prod and support me.

@Sue & Carol: After that, I'm just not sure I am willing to read any more friend's books unless I *know* I'm going to like it (There are a few like that). I'd gone into this particular book with reservations to begin with. I hope he does understand that someday or he will find himself very lonely.

Tali Spencer said...

I'm feeling old and experienced because while I do get just a tiny, wee little bit (and sometimes a great lots) envious of my fellow writers when they write something amazing, I also have learned how to stand back and say, "Dang! I have to learn how to do that." And also to realize that maybe I won't be able to learn. My style, the way I work with words, may not be able to do what that other writer does. And I'm okay with that... maybe a little envious, but okay... because if I can write that story, that way, I don't need those other writers.

But I do need them, because I crave all those other stories I can't tell. :D

I'm sorry, too, that Grace has experienced losing a friend. I've had that happen also. :( One reason I'm careful about who I'll agree to critique. Not every writer really wants the truth. "You can't handle the truth!" from "A Few Good Men" comes to mind. No, they really don't want to know. More to the point, are they ready to know if what another writer says really is on point? The key is to reject the advice if you don't think it fits, not kill the advisor.

C. Zampa said...

LOL Tali @ 'You can't handle the truth'. Sometimes it's the way it is, though, isn't it?

I feel more empowered now, realizing I DON'T waht to write like anybody else. But I CAN learn to let my own creative soul go, and that I have learned from those others. They show their true hearts. And that's where all our stories are individually ours...our hearts are all our own private places. I love finally seeing that.

Putting it into practice and learning to let go...might take time for me.

Rick R. Reed said...

Lovely post and beautifully written. You have a beautiful and unique voice and that uniqueness is why you should never shy away from others' works. No matter what, your voice--honest and eloquent--is your own.

Sue Brown said...


Seriously, if I could stamp your words on Carol's head I would. Carol has beautiful voice and never realises that people listen to her.

Lloyd Meeker said...

Sometimes in a writing group I belong to everyone will write to the same prompt. Same scene, same characters, same goals and problems, same scene outcome, even.

The scene comes out so differently with each writer, simply because we are different people. It's been a healthy reminder to me that authors are NEVER in competition with each other when it's about the writing. I suppose there could be competition in terms of sales and fame, but never in terms of the writing itself.

We each are unique, and if we write with all our powers that uniqueness comes through. The more of us there are who do that, the better.

Shira said...

Beautifully put. It takes a great deal of strength to voice those sorts of feelings.

People often ask me if I listen to opera now that I don't sing anymore. I tell them that I don't. I don't tell them why. You can probably guess, though. I'm jealous. Jealous of the women who stuck it out and had a career in spite of all the obstacles. Jealous that they had something I didn't. Jealous that I wasn't "good enough."

Am I jealous when I read an author who makes it all seem so easy? Who can write about things in a way that's beyond my abilities? Who makes me laugh or cry and I didn't even see it coming? Of course I am. And I hesitate to read them, as well, because it reminds me of how much I still have to grow and learn as a writer.

You've given a voice to a feeling that I'm guessing most of us have experienced at one point or another. And you've given us hope that we are still worthy of being writers because each of our voices are unique.

That, Carol, takes some pretty heady talent. *hugs*

Kristoffer Gair said...

Two things come to mind reading this. First, I don't know any authors who finish the final draft of a book and think "I've nailed this! It's fantastic. I've got a hit." We're as doubtful about a story as anyone. I'll ask myself if I'm happy with it, but that's as far as it gets.

Second, I guess I'm fortunate in that I'm only very, very hesitant to read a book a fellow author wrote that happens to be a comedy that falls within the GLBT genre. There aren't many and that helps me breathe easy. If there were more, I'd be losing that much more sleep.

I find, though, that when I take the plunge and read a book by someone I know, it generates conversation, meaningful conversation. These people aren't looking for smoke to be blown up their bum. They're looking for constructive criticism and meaningful conversation.

It makes the difference to them. It makes the difference to us. =)

C. Zampa said...

Hey, Talia, that is gaining on experience, to be able to stand back and admire and maybe even learn. I'm getting there, too.
Good to see you!!

C. Zampa said...

Rick, thank you so much. I'll be happy when I can take the voice that is mine and go deep with it, where I'm always so afraid to go.

Again, thank you.

C. Zampa said...

**Hugs** Sue.

C. Zampa said...

Lloyd! I love that idea, the one about a group of people writing from the same prompt! And, boy, oh, boy, it sure would be an example of just how different our voices are. I just SO love that.
Thank you.

C. Zampa said...

Shira, thank you so much for sharing that. I know so much how you feel.
And the good thing is that you are talented---singing AND writing---and your horizons are so limitless.
Thank you, again, for sharing those feelings.

C. Zampa said...

Kage. AMEN to all you said.
Nobody DOES end a book and think how magnifcent it is. We all have those doubts.
And you're right about the sharing after reading books, and authros not wanting smoke blown up their asses.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

You don't need to fear this. Listen to me. I would never lead you astray. I get fired up when I read excellent prose. I get fired up when I read your posts. I know they come straight from your heart. The words are like lyrics in my head, and honestly I feel lighter. I envy the talent, yes, but I also feel exhilarated, knowing that if I can appreciate these wonderful sentences, then might I be capable of creating my own?

Why not? I'm full of experiences. I'm loved, lost, suffered, felt my heart split in two. All I have to do is listen to my characters, hear their story, joy, love, and write with as much honesty as humanly possible.

My advice: don't read as a writer. Read those you admire as a reader, a participant. Someone who has been invited into their secret world. Revel in how their words make you feel. And I promise, Carol, you won't feel inadequate. Au contraire, your whole being will feel fired up, rushing to the keyboard to let your inspiration abound.

Fear is natural, and should be embraced. We aren't kids any longer. We know what can't really hurt us will empower us.

If it's still too difficult to read someone you know, begin with the classics. And remember, read as a reader, not a writer.

C. Zampa said...

You know what, Joylene. No, you have never led me astray. OMG, how much your friendship and support have meant to me, for so long.

And your advice...I love that. Geez, it's so hard to distance yourself from the author inside when reading others, but it is the thing to do for sure. To just enjoy the experience and---like you say---share their worlds. That's what we write for, to open our worlds up. We want others to see ours, and so they wish for us to see theirs.

Thank you, my dear friend.