I have a whole host of fears and insecurities tied up with how things have gone previously in my writing. Let me take you on a brief tour of the dark places of my writing mind.
The first time I wrote something I was really proud of, a little voice inside my head said that it was really great―revolutionary even. It succeeded in cutting through all the old paradigms and it would bring my work to people in a way that was FINALLY understandable to the science types.
That little voice bolstered me through the dark times of waiting to hear. Would they like it? Would they hate it?
So the moment of truth would come, and I’d open the email. The letter would be two paragraphs long, inevitably something about the bones of the project being there, just needing fleshing out. And then I would open the attachment.
Imagine, if you will, 300+ comments on a 35 page paper. No line untouched by track changes. Each and every one boiled down to rewrite the whole thing, and for the Love of All Things Pasteur, learn the difference between farther and further. The little voice, the one praising my pioneering ways―my bravery at challenging the way Things Are Done―yeah, that jerk turned on me faster than lunch on a tilt-a-whirl.
In the early comments (of the 300), the direction was, mostly, useful, but as the numbers ticked higher, the comments would circle around to the “I already commented on how your usage of the farther is, strictly speaking, an abomination to the English language!” The gradient had started with professional, but slid quickly into stabby-stabby meany pants territory.
Still, it was a dream I had, so I waded through the vitriol and venom. I rewrote the whole papers, repolished, read every comment three times to be sure I understood what was being said, and then sent it back. Six months to a year (yes, these were ridiculous turnaround times, but that’s what I was dealing with) later, I’d get something back that said “Did you do anything at all? Now isn’t the time to be lazy!”
This was a decade of my life.
And now that I’m in a better place, and working on another dream, I’m insecure about history repeating itself. I’ve already mentioned that my edits are easily a bazillion times better than what I experienced under the thumb of academia, but there’s still this lingering fear that the mean, vengeful side of editing is just around the corner.
What if my editor comes back with “did you even work on this at all?” Or “Now isn’t the time to be lazy!” Or (one of my personal favorites) “How can you be so bad at a language when it is the only one you know?”
And I’m insecure because, on some level, I am lazy. Sometimes I would rather play videogames, or walk through the park, or knit, or all of those things that aren’t writing. And I know that if things come back rougher than I’d like, I’ll blame myself―remember that night you had a glass of wine after work and shot grunts with a sniper rifle instead of working on your novel? It was THAT NIGHT that made this a FAILURE.
In short, the voice lies. And it’s been whispering to me. But even worse than the whispering, is that the voice likes to tell truths mixed in. I’m not that good at English. Quite frankly, my comma placement leaves something to be desired (or at least everyone I’ve ever worked with has complained about my commas). My word usage could be better―puchier, zestier, less unorthodox, and while we’re on about it, I could use some a refresher on the differences between peel and peal and peek, peak, and pique.
So in short, my little voice of doubt (which isn’t very little at all) is telling me 80% of the truth.
(that means it speaks 100% lies―when will I learn not to listen to it?)