Monday, February 14, 2005

What It Takes

So I'm down right now, because the Scryptic piece is languishing in "what am I doing" territory. I wrote 500 words yesterday, and 800 today, and I don't know if any of it's good or not. I realize now that I pretty well half-assed the planning on this. I didn't go very much beyond the opriginal idea, sought out the bare minimum of information, and now I'm trying to make it up as I go along and not getting very far. I may be able to put out 2000 words on this topic, but I don't know if they'll be publishable, and I'm not at all sure if I'll be proud of them.

And this has gotten me thinking: Am I really a writer? I *like* writing, and on those precious and few occasions where I've produced work I'm proud of, I've been pleased with myself. When I'm on, it's something that makes me feel good while I'm doing it, as opposed to just occupying my time as most work does. I feel the urge. But is that enough?

I can put words together, but making them mean something... I don't know. Plot, character, theme, dialogue; I focus on these things little, if at all. When it works, it's almost as if by accident. I don't plan stories or develop ideas; either I vomit them onto the page by reflex, or they languish and die of malnutrition in notebooks and brain cells. Hell, I'm not planning this; the words just fall on the screen where I place them. Revision? That's something that happens to other people.

I look at writers I admire, writers who've gone the distance, and they all seem to have certain things in common. Writing is a craft for them. They spend their entire lives, from childhood, working on it, even unconsciously. They start simply telling stories, then slowly become aware of their craft. They build, they organize, they knuckle down and sweat until they get it right. They have more than need; they have drive, bloodlust, and some ineffable quality within them that makes them go forward even in the face of small or no hope.

Do I possess those qualities? I don't know. I see the pitfalls and sacrifices, and they frighten me. And I can't help but find something lacking in myself for that. I didn't tell stories to my friends as a kid. (I didn't have many friends, but that's another thing all together.) I didn't fill entire notebooks with ideas and scenes and dialogue and characters and THINGS from my head. I found other things to do with my time than write; very often, I looked for them. I spun my wheels in college; while a good friend devoted himself to a single-spaced page a day for a year, I read MiSTings, played Unreal Tournament, and temporarily obsessed myself with web porn. I wrote when I had to for class, and read books about and by real writers, and told myself I was learning to write.

I don't know if I was born a writer. I'm by nature lazy, inefficient, and daunted by real work. I don't know the first thing about sacrificing for my art. And I'm 23 years old, and I don't know of anyone who's been all those things at this age and gone on to have any kind of real creative success. But I still want it and need it so badly, it hurts.

What am I supposed to do with myself? Am I a writer convincing myself I'm a failure, or a failure deluding myself that I can be a writer? I don't know anything, and it's killing me.

More than anything else, I want faith. I want to be sure of something. But I can't be. And I can't change the world to fit how I am. All that's left is to change myself.

Is that possible?

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