In the In-between

“Sometimes when I think how good my book can be, I can hardly breathe.” ~Truman Capote

Authors have love affairs. Some of them are lasting, life-long affairs that wax and wane like the cycles of the moon. Others are short bursts of passion whose fires fizzle out as quickly as they were lit. We don’t … however, marry.

I’m talking about our writing, of course. I’ve been happily married in real life for nearly 10 years.

And I’m not talking in general terms about our storytelling either. I’m speaking literally of how we feel about our ability to write. We crush on it at times, especially when we get a particularly glowing review from a blogger or critic, or better yet from an agent, our editor, or our publisher.

But we don’t love it.

We love the act. We love the stories, the characters … the worlds we create. We even think we love our writing at times. But, like all affairs, the truth comes out in the end and we, being the fickle lovers that we are, we change and look for other mistresses. Other mistresses, being however you chose to interpret this analogy. It’s different for each of us.

I’ve never read a single blog post where the author raved about their talent with words. Storytelling, sure. But don’t think for a minute that we don’t all feel that deep-in-your-gut dread that says none too quietly, “Wow, I’m absolutely horrible at this. I’m that girl in the church chorus whom they’ve doled out solos to because they pity her.”

Even the great Capote, who knew damn well that he had a firm hold on the English language (as evidenced by his many self-indulgent quips), had his darker moments. Note that in the quote above, he didn’t say how good his writing could be—how skillful his prose could be. He said my book. Big, big difference.

There are moments, however rare they may be, when we read a paragraph or a chapter (or if we’re really blessed, a whole book that we’ve penned), and we think to ourselves, “That was incredible.” But, it just doesn’t last—that feeling. It fades as quickly as oak furniture in direct sunlight.

So what do we do?

We love like hell in those passionate moments—in the in-between. And we learn. My God, do we learn. And we wait. We wait for the next breathtaking moment.

I promise you … if you are patient, it will come. Remember, feelings are fickle and are apt to betray. Promises however, if you mean them, can last lifetimes. And I promise to stay faithful to my writing, for better or worse.

Do you?

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13 responses

  1. it’s a thoughtful blog and a great quote by Truman who wrote at least two very very good books and had a right to feel good about his talents with words. my happiest moments are when I’ve nailed a poem, it lasts for a while but then comes the aftermath, the dreaded thought that that might be it. at least for a while. there are troughs and crests but most of the time the sea is flat

  2. I’ve heard that Capote lived near Harper Lee when they were younger and he always envied her fame, despite the fact that as a writer he had far more commercial success. Self-doubt seems to be the demon most right-brained people dance with throughout their lives.

  3. What a ping-pong existence writing is! So good to know that others share the same rollercoaster. I can clearly remember my own sense of wonder and achievement when I read back through early drafts of my work – did I *really* write that? Then the huge trough of uncertainty and depression that followed showing my work to someone – it’s rubbish, no one’s going to like it. They’ll all ridicule me – or worse, give me that insincere, pitying smile – oh, you write fantasy? How nice. Then the powerful emotional high when they actually *like* it, followed instantly by more doubt – but did they *really*?
    But it’s all worth it when you feel the Muse once more hovering over your shoulder, ready to take you over again. And it’s just as well, because you really have no choice!

  4. I wonder if I have a choice in the matter. I’m married to my writing, but sometimes we take separate vacations. Truth be told, it feels like the marriage was arranged for me, maybe not before my birth and certainly not by my parents, but by someone who knew me when I was very young and “had my best interests at heart.” I don’t know another way to live. I’ve hated, loved, abused my writing, been embarrassed by it, yes, and abused by it–if you count humiliation, sleep-deprivation and other forms of psychological torture, not to mention stress positions and emotional water-boarding (talk to Capote). It’s an on-again, off-again, deeply committed, unsanctioned and uncivil union.

  5. Oh yes, I can relate to this! Very good! Thanks for posting it. Inspiring on a day when the writing is not going easy.

  6. Ah, but you see, I read a blog post like this and my first thought is, “In my best moments, I can’t even write as good as J.S. Chancellor’s blog posts.”

    I suppose lusting after another is the doom of all marriages.

  7. Wow, this is amazing. Found my way here from Michelle Davidson Argyle’s blog: thank you. This post is a gift to anyone who has ever dispaired in their love affair, turbulent, tormenting, intoxicating, with writing.

    ~bru

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