How do you know if you’re good?

You can google that questions. It will give you seven ways to know if you’re a good person, ways to be good in bed, and ways to be a good kisser. But nothing that really says “this is how you know that you’re good.”

Try “at something” and it gives you a list of questionnaires to find out your strengths and weaknesses, and tricks and tips to finding your talent.

But how do you really know that you’re good at something? For me it’s writing. I write short stories, I show them to other people, and sometimes they say they are good. Other times they read them and say nothing. Still sometimes they don’t even bother reading them. That’s nothing new though, I’m sure I’ve passed over thousands of books to choose to read the few that I have. There are TV shows I will watch, and rave about, and there are others I won’t even give a second glance. But that doesn’t necessarily speak to weather or not something is good.

Today on Reddit someone asked what the worst part of self publishing was. I said marketing because I have absolutly no idea how to do. I think sometimes it’s just that I don’t have the confidence to do it. I don’t believe in myself enough, I don’t believe that people care what I have to say enough, so I don’t want to bother them with me begging them to buy, read, or review one of my stories. This belief that my words hold no value is ingrained from childhood when I was to be seen and no heard, and a lot of the time I wasn’t even to be seen. It’s a hard thing to undo.

Another person in that forum said they hated marketing because there were tons of books that were better then hers that aren’t getting any love because their writers don’t know how to market, while her books are doing fantastic because she is good at marketing. And there is the crux of the matter. If you know how to market you’re golden. If you don’t… then you’re me. 😉

I do get fantastic comments on my books sometimes, and I read them all because it’s so encouraging. The comments, wherever they find me, have been helpful in keeping me going in between publications.

But am I good? I don’t know. Perhaps time will tell. All I know is that for right now… I’m good enough. I’ve gotten to a place in my writing that I think I’m doing pretty good. Not everything is golden, not everything is solid, but the things I put out are decent and I would read them if I hadn’t written them. Isn’t that as much as you can ask, especially when you’re first starting out?

I hope some day to know weather or not I was good at writing. Until then I plan to just keep getting better, and keep putting things out. Eventually something is bound to touch someone.

I want to quit

(I added an addendum to this, so you might want to read that as well.)

I want to quit. I want to pull all my books off the Internet, go curl up in a ball, and cry myself to sleep.

How dare I even try to write an entire book. Who am I to think my words would be worth reading. They are stupid, grammatically incorrect, full of inconsistencies and pov issues, unworthy of anyone ever reading, let alone actually paying for.

I knew a lot of this before I wrote a novel. I knew, for example, that I almost always miss compound words because I just don’t know when a word is a compound or when it is two words. I often over use commas (according to some), and I sometimes forget to add dialog tags because I just don’t think about it.

I knew all of that, and more, but I dared to write a novel anyway.

Then I got the edits back, and I struggled through them for days. I learned about dialect issues, and phrasing. I learned that subtle points of description are sometimes pov issues. I learned that words and phrases I use every day aren’t considered “proper English.”

When done with the edits I was exhausted, sad, and feeling like I made a mistake. I expressed my frustrations and heard “the editor is only trying to help” and then I went in my room, and I cried.

Editing hurts.

This was my first “professional edit.” I’ve gotten edits before, but this was completely different, and it hurt. It cut deep and it left me thinking “what the hell was I thinking trying to write a novel? You’re not good enough, Crissy. You don’t even speak proper English, how can you write it? You never should have tried this.”

I’ll be honest. I haven’t written anything in three days. I’m trying. I look at the page and all I see are all the mistakes. I can’t get out of editing mode and get back to writing. And yes, some of it is definitly self pity, but a huge part of it is just me unsure if I am good enough to do this thing that I’ve always wanted to do. Is there a good enough?

Every editor I’ve had before has added some encouraging comments. They said they liked a line, or I used that punctuation right, or when returning the manuscript there is a note just saying how much they really enjoyed it.

This editor did none of those things.

Gregg reassures me that the editor is doing their job. They are paid to edit, not hold my hand and encourage me. And I get that, I really do. But it doesn’t sting any less.

I want to quit. I want to run away and forget I ever tried this.
But I’m not going to.

I still think my stories are good stories. I still think they deserve to be told. I want them to get out and be read.

Maybe it’s the “professional writer” part I’ll reevaluate, and just be happy being a pulp fiction writer. It’s not a bad thing. I love pulp fiction books. Millions of people read pulp fiction every day. Maybe it’s not exactly what I wanted, but it beats not writing at all.

Am I happy I did the editing? Not today. Today I’m raw and hurt and unsure of everything I’m doing. Give me some time and maybe I will be.

Did I learn anything from it? Lots of things. In that way this experience was good for me. Hopefully it will make my writing stronger. Only time will tell.

Will I do this again?

I’ll be honest with you…My confidence is a fragile thing. Every time I get shredded like this I hear the ex husband in my ear telling me over and over and over that I’m not good enough. No one will ever love me. No one will ever want me. “Who told you to think that way?” I hear it, and slip back into the victim I use to be. I start feeling useless and worthless like I will never, ever, be good enough for anything. And I retreat into the shell I carefully built around me to keep from being hurt. It makes me want to quit.

So no, I won’t be doing this exact process again. I need the little bits of hand holding, and encouragement. I need to know that the person editing my work genuinely likes it so that when the red ink starts flowing it doesn’t hurt quite as much.

Maybe in a few years my nerves will be a little less raw and I can try again. But not now…not after this one.

And the best part? I have two more rounds of editing to go. I’m going to do it. I’m going to pull up my big girl pants and I’m going to wade through the red ink. Then I’m going to go cry a little more and do it all over again.

Because sometimes making good art hurts like hell.

Pity Party, Table for One

I have really been hanging out in the dull drums lately, and I’ve been trying to figure out why so I can kick the thing that’s encouraging me to be there. It’s like this little monster sitting on the edge of a pit, and every time I pull myself up he bites my knuckles and I fall back down again.

But… why? What is this little monster that keeps nipping at my heels? Why does it suddenly find my fingers so tasty?

I think it’s because I’ve been lathering my nuckels with salt and pepper just for his amusment. Someone kick me while I’m down? That’s okay, lets feel sorry for ourselves. It’s just a teaspoon of salt. Someone get that bonus I knew I couldn’t get? That’s another tablespoon of butter. (Because everything tastes better with butter, right?)

I’m reminded of Johnny B Truants little book, “The Universe Doesn’t Give a Flying ‘F’ About You“. That person at work didn’t know I could have used that bonus. That customer didn’t know I was already in the dull drums and their harsh words just hurt that much more. All they knew was they “deserved it”, and they “earned it”. How dare that person get in my way.

What if I had gotten the bonus? What if that customer didn’t snap at me? Would I still be chilling on the ice shelf that is called “eh, good enough”?

When people kick you, run you over, and get in your way, you can salt and butter your fingers and let that little devil push you back in the pit that is the dull drums… or you can say to hell with it all, and stop playing the game.

The truth is, that little devil is only a few inches tall. Sure, he has sharp teeth, and they hurt, but if you stop just wincing in pain and dropping back into the pit then there is a really good chance you can fling that little demon off into next week. Then when you catch up to him you just fling him again. Eventually you’ll get stronger, and you’ll be able to fling him into next month, next year, or maybe next decade.

The real secret? Get off that icy shelf called “good enough”. Do something. Learn something. Apply for a new job. Stop salting your fingers and start putting on metal gauntlets with huge metal spikes.

The universe isn’t going to hand you a completed book, or a finished painting. It isn’t going to turn off the game and turn on the camera. It isn’t going to send a knight in shiny armor to save you.

SAVE YOURSELF! First from yourself, then from the little demons biting at your fingers.

Now I’ve got writing to do!

Just Throw Me To The Wolves, Why Don’t You!

I had a rather uncomfortable discussion with my boyfriend this morning. And I’m going to share it, because it isn’t about our personal relationship (sorry if that disappoints you, but really, go watch a soap opera) it was a conversation about my writing career, and what I want out of it. And more importantly, what I’m willing to do to get what I want.

He asked me “why are you afraid to promote yourself?”

And he’s right. I’m terrified. I called a library and asked for information on getting my book into the library system, and they never called back. So I never called them back either. And why? Cause I was terrified.

“What’s the worst they can do?” he asked me. “Say no?”

And really, it isn’t “no” that scares me. I could care less if people tell me no. People have told me no all of my life and I did it anyway. No, it wasn’t the “no” that scared me.

It was the asking.

How do you explain to other people that you are afraid to ask for anything from anyone. Even if I were starving and broke, unable to buy a loaf of bread, I would rather go pick up soda bottles and turn them in for a few measly coins so I could buy a banana, then ever ask another person for anything.

I have a very clear memory of going to my great-grandmothers house with my parents when I was about 6 years old, and asking my mom if I could ask great-gran for some pie. She made said it was rude. You never asked for anything in someone else’s home, except water. If they wanted to give you something that was fine, but you never, EVER, under any circumstances, asked for something.

The other day we were at our friends house, and one of them was heading out the door to get food. I’d mentioned that I was hungry to my boyfriend, but neither of us had cash on us. It was like pulling teeth to get me to just ask our friend, who was offering, to buy me a sandwich. It’s was just $3 for a sandwich, and he was offering, but I was so embarrassed. What the heck is wrong with me?

So today, when Gregg asked me what I was afraid of… He’s right, I need to figure this out.

I don’t have any problem posting on my blog, twitter, or Facebook about a new book. The fact is that I am an author, and anyone who chooses to follow me on social media knows that I’m an author, and should expect me to say something. But I’ve been thinking of handing my book over to the teller at the bank who asked about my book a couple months ago. I’ve gone to the bank several times, book in hand. And I leave it in the car every time, too shy to actually hand it over.

Why?

I have this intrinsic belief that I should be seen, and not heard. A belief stemming from years of reinforcement with my parents, and later with a husband who treated me the same way.

And it wasn’t even that they thought “a woman’s place was in the kitchen” or some ridiculous thing like that. It was me. They thought I should be quiet. And that thought was constantly reinforced with criticism and chiding. Sometimes angry yelling to shut up, go away, leave me alone…. Even while other women were encouraged to speak their mind around me. Just not me.

So here I am with this fear of speaking up. Of being heard. And I’m an author. An author who by definition must speak up and be heard. And if I ever want to get my books noticed, to get myself noticed, I have to speak up. I have to be heard.

To be fair… I have improved so much over the last few years. I never would have considered publishing a book of short stories just last year. I never would have considered doing a podcast, but today I am doing yet another one, and I am HAPPY to do it. I speak up. I talk over people to make myself heard sometimes. I tell the guys to shut up and let me talk… and I am happy for it. I enjoy it. It’s worth it.

So why is it still so hard to say “I wrote a book, here it is. Read it if you like.” ?