Monday, August 15, 2005

Tastes like Chicken

For the past few weeks, I’ve been in a sort of a daze. My Father died on July 20th – it was an unexpected shock that really brought home all those cliché notions about never putting things off another day. The funeral wasn’t until this past Saturday, due to him having lived in Yuma AZ and my stepmother bringing him up here to Seattle. So something that should have taken place sooner ended up being dragged out nearly a full month, placing my brain in a sort of holding pattern.

I toyed with a few topics to write about, concerning death and writing – death of main characters and why I despise that emotional crutch used by many writers of both literature and television/movies.

But I’ve had enough of death for now. While closure is only for doors and windows, I feel my life slowly returning to something akin to normal, and I’m craving that.

The one thing that kept me relatively sane during those long weeks was my writing, which I continued to do whenever possible. My characters were welcome friends, and it was a relief to lose myself in their universe.

As a consequence, I’ve managed to complete my latest story. Only its first draft form, of course, but the bones are all there. Now comes the interesting part, wherein I must add flesh to the bones, see that they’re properly filled out and working well. Then I’ll give it to my reader, who will offer suggestions and requests.

Then it’s microscope time – where I practice my newly established solo editing.

And this is the tricky part.

This is the part that makes me stop and wonder, on occasion, if other writers feel the same way. At that point in time when a story is done, basically ready to either sink or swim on its very own out there in the big scary world . . . I wonder if any other writer gets as chicken as I do.

It’s that point where I haven’t committed yet – I can still back out and not post it. I can still run away screaming like I’ve just seen a spider and go sit in a corner somewhere, clutch my can of Raid and mumble to myself.

This is the point where I start to find “other things to do”. Stuff that I can use as an excuse NOT to sit down with a pencil and printed copy and put in several hours of work.

Next to actually posting – and spending that horrific few days wondering if it was a hit or a miss – this is the hardest, scariest, most difficult time.

I’m quite sure I’m my own worst critic. I read past stories and all I can see is their flaws – which I’ve vowed to rewrite and improve, as soon as I have some time this year. But right now I get to deal with the butterflies. And the questions . . . Is it exciting enough? Did I describe that section well enough? Is the emotional level there? Does it all make sense? Does any of it make sense? What happened to my sense??

I can’t really talk to people about this, because they’ll just look at me funny, laugh with derision, and wonder why in the hell I’m doing such a thing when I don’t get paid for my trouble.

And I have no good answer, since I really don’t know why in the hell I do such a thing, I just know that I do it. It’s what I do. And as long as I do it, I’ll worry about it. I’ll fret over it, panic about it, and fuss with it.

And then, when it’s over, I’ll most likely do it again.

As much as I’d like to think all the great writers feel this way, I’m quite sure they don’t. I’m sure their egos have them so far removed from the real world I’m slopping around in, they couldn’t relate.

Yet something – some little, quiet, perhaps overly hopeful voice is wondering if maybe, just maybe, that life I’ve so longed for - - the life of the published author - - isn’t possibly exactly like this life, only perhaps a little more satisfied. If I ever were to “make it”, become published and perhaps – dare I wish it – popular, and attain that life of theirs, would I even notice the difference?

Fame, fortune, peer acceptance – take that away and I suppose we all do taste like chicken.