Sunday, August 15, 2004

Dear Charlie:

My beloved sister posed a very intriguing question on her blog. The link is to the side of this blog under "Links" if you'd like to see it -- the Joely Sue Burkhart one. I suggest you take a walk around her site. It's very, very nice.

But the question....

"...have you ever read something later and honestly not remembered writing it?"

Now, this happens to me a lot, usually with the better stuff I've puked out. I'll read over it and go, "Damn! Where'd that come from? It's hilarious!" or "Wow. Someone else must have snuck that in when I wasn't looking." or "Um, I honestly don't remember writing that." Happens all the time. But why?

I think it's because, when we hit the zone, it's not really us writing anymore. It's like watching a movie in our heads, and we're only taking dictation. So, where does it come from?

That's another question for another time.

As for the question at hand, I think everyone who seriously writes has one of those "What the hell?" moments where they read over their own stuff, the words produced from their fingertips, and simply cannot remember combining those phrases in just that way to make that incredible concept. I love that moment. It's like seeing it for the first time, even though you obviously put it there yourself. There's no other explanation, is there? *smirk*

I think my favorite "What the--?" moment was a ridiculous little pun I made that I didn't even think about until I was reading that section aloud to my friend Dave (you'll probably hear a lot about Dave in this blog) and just burst out laughing. Actually, we both burst out laughing, though mine was in surprise as much as anything else. If you're reading, Joely, it was that "Come again?" moment. *grin* I love that one. But I honestly didn't remember putting that joke down, though everything led up to it and it came out like it was meant to be.

So, how did I not see it? Simple.

I was in the zone.

I love being in the zone. I haven't been in the zone for a little while, and my beloved sister and I were just discussing that today, not half an hour ago.

Okay, that's not entirely true. I HAVE been in the zone recently, but not in the zone I want to be in. I haven't been in my trilogy's zone. I've been in the short story zone. While perfectly enjoyable, it's just not the same as the novel zone. And it's REALLY not the same as the trilogy zone. The trilogy is such a huge, all-consuming zone....

But, I haven't touched that zone in a while -- ever since I got serious about submitting things to editors. I don't know if it's the waiting for answers (some longer than others *sigh* ) or the idea that...*gasp*...I'm seriously thinking about querying out this trilogy that I've put so much of myself into.

Now, my beloved sister makes the absolutely brilliant point that we should take this monstrous step together. It would be wonderful to have such sympathetic support for all those rejections that are sure to roll in. However, my inestimably wonderful sister is already ready to tread those treacherous waters, and I, simply put, am not. Call me chicken all you want, but I can think of a hundred good reasons to wait, and not a damn one of them has anything to do with the real reason I'm not ready.

I'm a chicken shit.

There. It's out. Can't take it back.

Oh, I could delete this post, but I won't. I'm a chicken shit, but at least I'm an honest chicken shit. I'm not scared of rejection. I can handle that. I'm not afraid of success. I don't care much either way about that.

What I'm really...uncomfortable having someone IN THE KNOW read my work. It's one thing for friends and family to read it and like it. Hell, that took a bit of balls to do, but it didn't cost me anything and turned out for the best. But this....

Well, this is like standing in front of that Simon jerk on American Idol -- which I don't watch, but everyone gets the idea from the commercials -- and trying to sing your best.

It was okay when I was just singing in the shower. Hell, I was in the zone every night, writing 20-30 pages some days, and loving every minute of it.

However, now that I'm considering sending it out, it's like stepping up to that mic and seeing that self-satisfied, long-suffering smirk and knowing that, no matter how well I do, it'll never be my best stuff and it'll never impress that bastard. And HE is standing between me and my future. And he'll never be impressed. He might not cut me raw, but he won't be impressed.

I think that'd give even the most self-assured person a moment's pause.

So, there it is, folks. The one who's not afraid of anything in this universe but spiders is wigged out of her favorite place to be by the knowledge that someone IN THE KNOW will simply not be impressed. *sigh*

And that, Paul Harvey lovers, is the rest of the story.


At 7:01 PM, Blogger Joely Sue Burkhart said...

Although I absolutely love American Idol, you're right that I would never stand up and sing in front of Simon. Even knowing my past music history--absolutely never would I stand up there face to face and let myself be humiliated.

But occasionally Simon really is wowed. He sometimes has good things to say instead of bitingly cruel snarkiness. Therefore, his good opinion means even more when the contestants do win a positive remark from his mouth.

Sending our beloved stories out into the world is similar to American Idol, albeit not face to face. Usually!! Most editors out there are NOT Simons. Yeah, you hear about the Editor Gods who cackle madly as they stamp NO in big red letters on your ms. Yeah, they get hundreds upon hundreds of submissions.

Think about the poor grammar they must see day after day after day. The people who mix up words until you swear English is not their primary language. Noun and verb disagreements, run ons, unintentional fragments (come on--I love a really good fragment on occasion!!!). Sadly, this is supposedly par for the course.

Think how weary you might get after years of wading through horrible mss. Then you see some that are well written. Concise. Interesting. Maybe not right for your house or your line, but you can definitely appreciate the quality. Do you think said Editor is intentionally going to be cruel in that coming rejection? No, not at all. You might even get something more than a form letter. YOU KNOW, MS ENGLISH MAJOR, THAT AT WORST, THIS IS WHERE YOUR WORK WILL FALL. AT WORST.

You know me, Sis. You know how competitive I am, how sensitive I am to opinions of people I respect as mentors or teachers, including editors. It's very hard for me to put myself out like this, but my frame of mind has changed. No, it wasn't finally seeing some positive contest results with the Writers Weekend or RYIV (although obviously rewarding and encouraging!!)

Do you know what broke the Great Wall of Hesitation for me?

Those first two contests. Those brutal, harsh judges who told me so very clearly what my weaknesses were. How far I had to go. What needed to change. The judges offended by "love slave" and "wanker." The scores in the 60s!!!! For a suma cum laude and valedictorian (gee, I hope I spelled those right) and honors graduate in college! These were bitter pills to swallow. They burned all the way down and ate at my stomach like acid for weeks.

But that acid ate away the Great Wall. Yes, rejection and detours will come as we travel down The Road. But I've faced people with negative, horrible things to say and I came away stronger and more sure than ever. I improved. I corrected what needed to be corrected and strengthened what was shaky. I polished what was good until it sparkled. If I hadn't faced the sorrow of those contests, I wouldn't be here where I am now.

The next stage of The Road does indeed loom ahead as I prepare the Great Agent Hunt. Your Road will be different than my Road. We don't have to take each step at the same time. But know this. I have really long arms and I'm holding your hand. Even when I can't see you, even when your path diverges, even if you decide you really don't want to submit the trilogy anywhere.

You showed me the beginning of this Road, Sis. I'll always be right there beside you.

At 11:13 PM, Blogger GutterBall said...

Oh... *sniff* That was beautiful....

You really REALLY have a way with words, Sis! *hugs you long-distance*

I know I'm not alone. That's the only reason I've come even this far -- finishing books, cranking out short stories, sending said short stories off, submitting to contests....

I wouldn't have done that stuff without you and your support and occasional prodding. *grin* I wouldn't have let anyone but you and maybe Mom read my stuff. Hell, I wouldn't have let Dad read it if not for you!

So, Sis, all my balls I got from you. All the gumption I've mustered up to this point has been from that constant, long-distance, long-reaching support you mentioned, and I can't say with all the net space in the world how much I appreciate it.

I also can't say how much I admire you for your courage and your will. You WILL succeed in this. Of that, I have no doubt. And I will follow in your footsteps.

Just not this instant. *grin*


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