Writing

Art & Anxiety

This week has been one of the best and one of the worst. On one hand, I’ve completed something that I’m incredibly proud of, and I’ve put it out into the world. And on the other hand…I PUT IT OUT INTO THE WORLD!

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That’s the eternal struggle. I want to dedicate my life to making entertaining things for other people to enjoy, and yet I’m terrified of anyone ever seeing those things. Sure, this week I promoted the shit out of The Korinniad because it’s here, and I absolutely had to, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been secretly horrified about it the entire time.

When people used to compliment me, I always reacted the same way: smile and say, “I know.” It usually made people laugh, although there were a few who didn’t get the joke and just thought I was a pompous ass which could not have been further from the truth. Over-confidence and comedy are almost always cover ups for low self-esteem, and I merged those things into two little words that usually disarmed people into laughing enough to stop complimenting me. I do think everybody likes to be told they did a good job, but I still always see the mistakes, the room for improvement, the cringey bits, all of which become exponentially clearer after something is done, and it makes me want to crawl under the blankets and never come back out.

I’ve tried lately to be a little more…gracious? To try to take things as they’re given, be humble and say thank you actively because other people deserve that, though I still pull out the “I know” when it feels right. But with the release of my book, I’ve had to challenge all of that in my brain. Because I am incredibly thankful for the congratulations, the boosts from friends, the compliments, and I want them to know how much I am truly indebted and grateful for their support, but I still have that overwhelming feeling of “but it’s really not that good” always looming behind me like a high wave, ready to break and drown me.

And there were a couple times this week when I could barely keep my head above water. So many metrics to be followed in so many ways (honestly I have access to almost too damn much info on this thing), and when they don’t go how you expect or hope, it is totally soul crushing. I had days where I woke up feeling utterly amazing and then in just a few hours was on the verge of tears. Of course I’m logical enough to know that it will all even out. The weird 2 star review that popped up on my book on Goodreads within 12 hours of the profile for The Korinniad existing was probably a bot, and it won’t ruin my chance at a career in writing going forward (unless I let it), but in the moment, things like that feel like such a fucking punch to the gut, like having the mask torn away and the awful, talentless, incompetent fool I am revealed to the world.

I’m not saying this to fish for pity or compliments. I mean, just reread it–the compliments make me feel like a fake–I say it because I think it’s something a lot of us share in: this deep desire to be liked wrapped up in the carnal knowledge that we’ll never actually earn or deserve that admiration. The art is never really good enough, and sometimes people will actually tell us that, and other times people will gush–and they’ll fucking mean it–but we can never actually be sure because our brains are screaming that we’re impostors and hacks. And we unfortunately are smart enough, at least, to see the actual mistakes, and often that’s all we can see. The wall of water looms ever higher.

You want to really feel some weird shit? Go to the 6 min mark.

I told Husband that The Korinniad is the best thing I’ve ever done. I also told him I’m afraid it’s the only good thing I’ll ever write. I watched Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk a few months ago for inspiration, and in it she talks about how Eat, Pray, Love has sort of doomed her (or people have doomed her via it) because it’s probably the best thing she’ll ever do and everything’s downhill from there. I’m not saying The Korinniad is any Eat, Pray, Love, but it might very well be the best thing I ever do, and simultaneously (and worse) it might also be absolutely terrible. And the reality of it, even with Gilbert’s helpful point of view on genius and inspiration, most of us won’t ever really know if we’re meeting our potential or if we even have a potential to meet.

But I also watched a clip from Russel Brand’s podcast when he had Richard Ayoade on. I’ve always adored Ayoade, I think he’s so talented, funny, thoughtful, smart, and he’s the kind of person who I would so desperately want to like me as a person, that I would undoubtedly make him loathe me on accident. He put into words–a lot of words, thick words, cerebral ones–something I’ve sort of played around with for a while, but couldn’t put my finger on (and I’ll be honest, I still can’t.)

It’s this sort of idea of embracing your own terribleness, but it’s not exactly that. He talks about the gratification of the disparity between a piece of work’s intention and its realization, and how there’s a place in art to embrace your limitations and “creatureliness.” I don’t know, but the whole thing is just beautiful and inspiring, which probably isn’t exactly what either of them want out of it, but that’s too damn bad because it’s what it is.

Worth the watch, trust me.

Anyway, the point is that I love camp, and that’s what I at least tried to do with The Korinniad. I mean, it’s in the name: obviously this book is not The Aeneid or The Illiad, but it aspires to be while it fails, and therein lies what I think makes it joyful. Maybe? That’s what I want anyway: I say “look, I want to write a fantasy quest, but I want it to be funny,” and I think the comedy comes from subverting expectations. But does it succeed? I mean, even if it fails it still…kinda succeeds? It’s messy, and that’s just a whole new jar from which my anxieties can be plucked out and fed off by the dozens.

I really wanted this blog to be “I’m horrified about this thing, but that’s probably normal, and it’s okay to suck sometimes, and here are three examples of that.” I thought it would end very pleasantly, but now I sort of just feel weird. I wasn’t trying to justify anything, just talk about my headspace and how I think a lot of people share it in some way, but we rarely realize that, forever feeling completely alone on our little islands with the ocean rising around us. And yet I still feel lost and adrift.

Is that okay?

1 thought on “Art & Anxiety”

  1. Adrift is the “floating without control; drifting; not anchored…this my dear Writer is not you from all I have seen and read. You are aiming to please others with fantasy, fiction, comedy and creativity! May I quote you? You say, “Dedicate my life to making entertaining things for other people to enjoy”. Wow, this is inspirational, courageous, empowering and the strong backbone to keep going in the direction you are headed.

    Signing off for now,

    Bella

    P.S.
    Love your new photo!

    Liked by 1 person

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