Friday, 6 April 2012

Feeling blue...

I seem to have lost confidence in the book I'm working on at the moment. And that's making it much harder to write. With every single word, the voice in my head whispers, "Nobody wants to read this. No one will ever want to read this!"

Trouble is, a couple of friends asked to read it. And although I don't much like sending out work-in-progress, they meant it kindly, so I sent them what I'd written and tried not to think about it.  It's impossible though - for me at least - (surely for anyone who's ever written anything?) not to wonder how it's being received. Are they laughing at the funny bits? Do they like the characters? Are they being drawn in by the plot?

In this case, the worse seems to have happened - unbearably - they simply don't seem to be able to read it...

At first, when the days passed and I didn't receive a response, it began to feel as if I was waiting to hear back from the dreaded agents again rather than friends. The voices in my head started to suggest reasons for the delay: "They hate it. They hate it so much they can't think of a single thing to say about it."

That's the trouble with writing - it's just you and your book. There's simply no way of measuring whether it's any good or not. And if you've already been turned down by numerous agents, it's hard to recover enough confidence to keep going. Unless you're an undiscovered genius like Rupert Pupkin, you're constantly braced for an adverse reaction to it.

Of course I should probably consider the fact that I might be just too thin-skinned to be having a go at this - the critics in my head are so fast and so mean!

I seem to be abiding by some sort of unspoken set of rules which dictate that I must not ask my friends if they've read it - or when they'll read it - or what they think of it. Nope - all my energy must go into pretending that I'm not giving the matter a single thought. So they can hardly be blamed for believing that I'm not bothered.

A while ago, my friend HH was asked to send her manuscript to another mutual friend who later admitted she'd had no intention of even looking at it. When I asked her what was taking her so long she gave me a great big rouguish grin and said "I know! I'm really naughty, aren't I?"
"Yes, you fucking are!" I wanted to shout at her, but HH seemed so unfazed by the whole business, that I thought I should follow her lead.
Although now I'm wondering how much she minded really...

I think that anyone who ever asks anyone else if they can read something they've written ought to feel honour-bound to read it (or at least pretend they've read it) and then say something nice!

After three or four weeks, one of my friends sent an email explaining that she hadn't yet had time to read it.
Instead of making me feel better, it made me long to somehow suck my half-written book back up the wires of my friends' computers - so they no longer feel as if I'm forcing them to read the damn thing. Ugh - can't bear the idea that something I've spent so much time and effort (and unspoken hopes) on is inconveniencing people.

I'm being over-sensitive, I know this. It's why I don't like sending my writing out to other people to read.
Besides, I expect she really has been busy. People do get busy...

Eventually, she sent another email admitting that she's unlikely to read it all.

She's unlikely to read it.

And if I ask her why not, I know she'll say (tactfully) that she's busy - and after all this time I won't really believe it.
Meanwhile there is total silence from the other friend I sent it to. Which begins to take on a darkly ominous meaning. Damn, damn, damn!
So I drink pink wine and feel blue.
The bloody thing's unreadable. It must be. It's going to be turned down by every agent I send it to - just like the last time. Damn, damn, damn!

So why am I still trying to do this?

Maybe other people will want to read what I've written, even though there are those that don't. I once lent Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone to my next-door neighbour so she could see what all the fuss was about - and she simply couldn't get through it. Imagine that - imagine not being able to read Harry Potter! She had it for about eight months - and it's a children's book!
I expect there's someone somewhere who can't get through any of the best books ever written. 
But today's email has made continuing with my story feel almost impossibly hard work, so I think the lesson is that if you don't like giving your work to friends to read you should probably stick to your guns - at least until you've finished!

(Another lesson is surely that you shouldn't write blog-entries in a fit of pink-wine-induced self-pity...sorry!)

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