Sometimes the journey inward is the scariest one of all. If there are things you’ve hidden from yourself, you can guarantee figuring them out will be an unpleasant experience. Speaking of unpleasant experiences, today I got a cortisone shot in my hand. The PA told me I probably shouldn’t draw tonight but obviously there’s no helping me. We’ll see.
You know how you sometimes have these eye-opening dreams where everything seems infused with wonder and meaning and there’s some kind of message or idea you want to carry back to the real world but once you wake up and try to explain it to other people, even if you can actually remember the dream in its entirety, you still can’t communicate the deep and sublime feelings that it instilled in you as you slept? It’s like that.
My 2 guest essays ran on Panel.net in the last couple days: the first one is about world-building and the graphic novel Aya, and the second is about reading comic books to a blind person. It seems like people liked them and I will be writing more in the future. Pretty excited about that. I’ve also been trying to keep my book review blog updated. I probably only read about 2 adult books a month, but sometimes I read 10 or 20 kids’ books.
This week I have a bulletin board to create, too. Everything depends on whether I have to serve jury duty, though. Ug. I really believe in democracy and the right to a trial by jury, I just don’t like being personally put out to ensure that it happens. I hate the courthouse and I hate being awakened too early and I hate being bossed around and I hate being forced to sit in merciless plastic chairs in huge rooms packed full of strangers. Jurors should be allowed to serve online. I would be much less uncomfortable if I could watch a trial on my laptop in bed.
My inner child is older and wiser than she used to be.
About a year ago my brother emailed me to ask my opinion of the “accuracy” of some depictions of the writing process in The World According to Garp: “To begin with, is it true that when you write everything seems connected to everything else?” My short answer: “cf: synchronicity.”
When a story is working, when the characters and their motivations are real and defined, it drives itself, and the world is its fuel. It just keeps shoveling ideas in one end, and plot comes out the other. Sometimes all you have to do is pick the words that keep the ideas in order. Yes, everything feeds writing. Some writers may be more focused in terms of which field they let the machine graze in, but whatever you have, that’s what gets in.
He also asked some intelligent questions about how stories are generated, and this is different for every writer, I think, but they don’t tend to spring fully formed like Athena from the brow of Zeus, unless you are very, very lucky. You still have to put the pieces together and keep the mechanism tuned: now it needs a new character, now a change of scenery.
Writing this comic, at this particular time in my life, has grown enlightening. I’m glad so many people are on this journey with me, but I’m writing it for myself. We wouldn’t have set off on this particular path if not for the unfortunate episode of bullying I wrote about a couple weeks back, which in turn led me to ask myself a series of questions, and the questions went deeper and deeper into the past, but kept dovetailing with questions about the present and future. It speaks to me as a tool for understanding, learning, and accepting.
In short, I’m working through some stuff here. Stay tuned. If you dare.
I’m not saying that every successful artist and writer I know suffers from Impostor Syndrome. Obviously, some creatives have massive egos. Then again, some of them evince massive egos to hide from the world the fact that they don’t think they deserve their success. However, I do know quite a few people who have received and continue to receive recognition (positive reviews, regular sales, prestigious awards) and also live in fear that someday the world will figure out that they’re not really that good, and they will lose it all.
One problem is that success can be so fickle. After Robin Williams’s death, most of us probably thought first, “But he was so great, so funny.” But some of us probably thought, a little bit later, and with a little bit of guilt, that The Crazy Ones wasn’t great or funny. I had to Google just to remember the name of his last sitcom, of which, like many people, I watched a single episode before making the choice not to follow. And Robin Williams was great. He was funny. But art doesn’t work like that. The emotions Williams made us feel in Dead Poets Society don’t keep The Crazy Ones from getting cancelled. So there is a sense that no success is real success in the arts. You’re only as good as your last performance, and if you’re hesitant to schedule the next one, you’re a has been resting on your laurels. You have to keep producing, and each production has to be better than the last.
Every little success is a boost to the creative mind, but the next day is a blank slate. If you don’t sell as many books, if your webpage doesn’t get as much traffic, if your critics are a little bit less congratulatory today than they were yesterday, you only feel the negative.
Most of us (the less insane ones, anyway) did not go into the arts for the accolades. Most of us went into the arts because our weird artistic brains literally did not give us any other choice, which makes success, or lack thereof, that much more difficult to process. Even if you’re great, even if you know you’re great, our society doesn’t look kindly on those who go around explaining how great they are. You might feel bad about your success because you want your art to transcend the need for positive feedback, or because there’s something illegitimate about becoming popular. You might feel bad about wanting or enjoying success.
Many of us simply believe we don’t deserve to succeed: because we don’t think we’re good enough, because we think others are better, because we feel that we haven’t suffered sufficiently, because we feel like there could be shame is being successful. And then there are those who are afraid to succeed, because to attempt success is to risk failure, and if we don’t believe we deserve to shine, we inevitably keep ourselves in the dark.