This time, I mean it

Something inside me snapped last week. I’m not sure exactly what it was or what it means, but I feel myself pulling further and further away from writing.

The more progress I make, the farther away I feel. 

It hurts too much to put so much of myself into my work only to have it fizzle. It hurts to much to work so hard for nothing. And it hurts to much to feel like I’m not a productive member of society.

Once upon a time, I felt like I have so much potential. Now, I feel like I’m squandering it.

I’m increasingly unhappy by the products of my efforts. Not by the actual act of writing, though that’s never really been about being happy, more about being fulfilled. But by what comes after the writing and editing and perfecting.

And the problem is that so little comes after it.

The last few months were, arguably, my most successful ever, but I’ve never felt more like I’m wasting my time. Screenwriting is so whatever. And my novel is so not getting the response I hoped for.

It’s not that no one likes it. It’s hovering around a solid three and a half stars on Amazon, is (barely) scraping by at 3 on Goodreads (I gave a way a bunch of copies in exchange for reviews on Goodreads and using a Netgalley co-op)… but so many members of my intend audience are simply not interested in something anywhere outside of the contemporary romance box.

You wouldn’t believe how many reviews basically amounted to — It’s not exactly what I expected, I hate it. The characters aren’t likable enough. I hate it. The main character thinks too much (it’s too literary). I hate it.

I mean, it’s possible I’m making excuses for my own failure, but I don’t think I’m too far off base.

I’m proud of my work. I worked fucking hard to write something that is a great fucking book about fascinating characters and not just another formulaic, mediocre romance. An interesting fucking book, not interesting for a romance.

You know, the standard advice–write the book you want to read that doesn’t exist yet. And this is what I want to read– a contemporary romance with 3-dimensional characters, plenty of sex, and literary appeal.

And I think I succeeded.

But, apparently, I’m one of the only people who wants to read this kind of thing.

So many readers (apparently) just want the same damn thing. Over and over. I feel like they would have liked my super tropey first draft more than the polished, insightful draft I published.

Like I’d be doing better with something that, by my standards, is crap.

So, it’s not that I feel like I’m not good enough. I’m getting there. But I feel more and more like it doesn’t matter that I’m good enough. Trying is pointless.

And it hurts too much to see your marketing effort has created no sales, that you’re asking the wrong people for reviews, that so many people don’t actually want something thoughtful. When I saw my Goodreads score fall to just under three, I felt like I’d been hit by a truck.

And it only makes me feel worse that Bared to You has a better rating than To Kill A Mockingbird (insert other classic here). Are the readers as tasteless (no offense to Bared to You, it’s good for e-rom, but it’s not TKAM) as everyone suggests? Is romance a crap genre? Is writing a more literary book a big fat waste of time?

By all accounts, it’s looking like a yes.

I spend half my weekend actually thinking up an alternate career path.

I could never give up writing. I love it too much. But I’m starting to feel like all this time in front of my computer is only making my depression worse. That throwing myself out there in the world to be torn apart is too fucking painful.

See, in college, I took a lot of animation classes. A big waste of time, but studying film was a big waste of time. Back then, I was vegan and very passionate about animal rights. (Long story). In one of my classes, I spent the entire semester on a painfully earnest project about a guy adopting a pig. And, after I presented my final, my teacher made a joke about how bacon is tasty.

I never took another animation class again.

I was just done.

I’m starting to feel done.

Not with writing, but with ever trying to make anything resembling a career out of it.

I think I’ll be happier if I get a 9-5.

I’m not ready to call it quits just yet. I’m going to see my(school) year of tutoring and my trilogy through.

I’m going to keep writing in my spare time.

But, sometime in the next year or two, I’m going to be learning a new skill or going back to school. I’m going to work towards an actual career. (Probably teaching or programming)

Writing for a living is a pipe dream.

But worse, it’s stressful and depressing and utterly suffocating.

(Of course, there’s a good chance, I’ll be making this claim again sometime next month. Hope is a real killer).

Tomorrow Never Comes

Things haven’t changed much in the past year. I’m still not pulling my weight. I’m still not seeing the fruits of my labor. I’m still languishing in what the fuck am I doing ville.

Only, a year ago I believed I could make tutoring into a legit gig. I’d still be part-time, of course, but enough of a part that I’d pay my share of the expenses. I had this idea that maybe I’d write a novel, but I still clung hard to the I will be a successful screenwriter thing.

Okay… my first statement wasn’t true. Things have changed.

I published a book.

I made quarter (but not semi) finals in the Nicholls fellowship after two years of nada (not even one positive review).

But, mostly, I lost sight of where the fuck my life is going. A year ago, I had a clear end point. Now I don’t even know. I don’t feel like a novelist or a screenwriter or even a functional adult. I don’t want to keep delaying having a J-O-B, but I’m terrified of what would happen if I actually looked for a 9-5, legit adult job. I don’t have any skills.

(I actually can’t look for a full-time gig at the moment as I’ll need to help take my mom to chemo treatments in the next few months).

It’s not the job I want. It’s the sense of satisfaction from taking care of myself. I’m tired of relying on other people, but I have no freaking clue how to stop. Writing is the only thing I’m halfway decent at.

And, I know, I know, in both the case of screenwriting and novels it takes time to build a career, but knowing doesn’t help. My mood is a fucking roller coaster, plummeting with every perceived setback. I compare myself to other people, over and over, completely sure that I will never be successful the way I’m doing things. That I will never be successful unless I publish a (shitty) book a month. I obsess over these shitty books’ 4 star ratings. How can such utter crap receive such high praise?

Is it possible I know nothing about writing? Nothing about what people want to read? Is it possible all this I need time to write stuff is just laziness?

And then I convince myself that no one wants a well-written book about actual characters just like no one wants a weird comedy screenplay about dysfunctional women with dysfunctional sex lives.

Of course, with screenwriting, I have some idea of what I need to do to be successful. I don’t need to sell to the audience. I need to sell myself as a writer with ability to the people with writing assignments.

I don’t know how to do that, but I have some ideas.

I know my niche.

I know how to sell myself.

I’ve had zero success, but I have some idea (or I’ve deluded myself into this) of what the people want.

But in bookville, I’m going crazy, worried I’m not selling what the people want. And, well, I knew some people wouldn’t like my book (not everyone likes everything), but I didn’t realize the doubt it would strike into my heart.

With screenplays, I sort of expected that nothing would ever come of them. They are samples at best and files on my computer at worst. But I have screenwriter friends who encourage me, talk to me, commiserate with me.

I didn’t realize it, but I put so much hope into this novel. And it’s not like my hope has been dashed against the rocks. I know that self-publishing is a slow road. I know not to expect too many sales until I have a few books out (even with a few promotions), but I don’t know how to freaking deal with that. I don’t know how to convince my feelings that this is okay. Because they are not happy. They are riddled with doubt. They are agonizing over how hard I worked on this book (six months, at least), and how other people publish first drafts they wrote in a month and sell more, get better reviews, whatever.

And, sure, I know that it doesn’t matter what other people do, but try telling my feelings that.

Because they are convinced I’ll never be successful writing a book every six months, that I’ll never manage to make ‘dem benjamins writing stuff I actually believe in.

That I would be better off peddling crap.

Or at the very least, devoting all my time to straight up erotica.

And the thing is, I know my self-esteem and happiness can’t come from external forces. I know I need to feel comfortable with myself and my life regardless of whether anything I write ever makes a freaking cent.

But I still keep telling myself I’ll feel better after my promos, when my sales improve.

I’ll feel better when I finally have some validation that I’m doing the right thing.

And I will.

But what if that validation never comes?

Chicks on Whatever

It’s weird. Despite caring very much about the issues of female representation in film and lack of female writers in hollywood, I have no interest in girl writer meetups.

One of my usual groups is hosting a writing meetup specifically for female writers. And I have no interest.

I’ve never had good experiences in groups based on gender. Inevitably, it feels like we need to talk about our gender and the experience of being a woman and sexism and all that. I have a friend I met through her feminist blog, and whenever we get together, it feels like we have to talk about feminism and women in TV/film. It’s exhausting!

I mean, I don’t want to be here screaming about shitty female characters. I don’t LOOK for them. I just find them everywhere.

I try to mind my own business, but I can only watch Orange is the New Black so many times before I have to take a chance on something that might be sexist.

Honestly, I just want to watch a movie and NOT think why don’t the female characters do anything? I want to be able to watch The Princess Bride and not wonder why all the interesting characters are dudes. I think it’s a satire. Right? So Buttercup being useless but pretty is the point… maybe? Don’t get me wrong. I still love the movie. But I’d rather not have to question why there are, say, 10 important characters and only two of them are women.

I want to go to REGULAR screenwriting meetups and happen to see women there. I don’t want to go to special women screenwriting meetups.

I don’t really want to talk about writing at all.

Can’t we talk about Death Note or something?

(But, you really can’t talk about Death Note without talking about sexism).

Rollercoaster

After making it into Nicholl quaterfinals last week, I got a 4/10 in a Blcklist.com review this week.

Now, I can and will go off on how incompetent this reader was. The 4/10 is one thing, but the person wrote a convoluted coverage. It started with a generic “this script needs more development,” and did not get any better.

Trust me. I know bad reviews. I go and read one star reviews of my favorite books on Amazon just to rile up my anger. My favorite was the person who went on a three paragraph tirade about why The Hunger Games was bad for its use of first person, present tense.

(The best person/verb tense IMO. But, even if you don’t like first person, present tense, that’s the STUPIDEST REASON IN THE WORLD for a one star review).

I’m not interested in revising this script, but, if I was, this review would be ABSOLUTELY NO HELP.

I want my $50 back.

I’m in an awful mood. It doesn’t shake my self-confidence really. It’s fine if someone doesn’t like my script. OBVIOUSLY, some people did like it because IT IS IN THE NICHOLL QUARTERFINALS (not to brag or anything… but it is IN THE NICHOLL QUARTERFINALS).

And, quite frankly, I know it’s not a 4. The guy–let’s face it, he was probably a guy what with the convoluted comments he made about female sexuality–gave the dialogue a 4. Plot a 4–sure, whatever. The plot is just okay. But the dialogue is FAN-FUCKING-TASTIC.

A lot of people liked it. I know BECAUSE THEY TOLD ME. And I know they weren’t just saying that, because these people have read other things I wrote, and they did NOT tell me they liked those things.

I’m not upset in a oh no, am I a good writer??? kind of way. I know I’m a good writer and I know my script is good. And, I know, from this coverage, that the reader paid little attention (the location is mentioned in the first five pages and the reader didn’t know what city the script took place in. Even if the script totally sucked, the reader should have paid attention for the first five pages). I wrote coverage for a while, and I had to read other writers’ coverage and, quite frankly, A LOT OF THEM WERE IDIOTS.

It’s just… after getting the quarterfinals email, I was starting to get back on the screenwriting train. I was like Hell Yeah, I’m the shit. Top 2% in the most prestigious screenwriting competition around. Maybe there is some way I’ll become successful. Maybe I should spend some of my writing time on screenplays.

And I started thinking that I actually missed screenwriting. I missed my silly comedy. And I missed using sex as a punchline. And I missed formatting my dialogue in lovely centered blocks without quotation marks.

But, this convoluted coverage and its mediocre score have reminded me that there is little merit to whatever you want to call “breaking in.” It costs me $75 to get one review and one month of hosting. Sure, I can pay another $50 for a review, and I’d be willing to bet I’d get a better score, but why bother if I might get another person who OBVIOUSLY ISN’T PAYING ATTENTION.

What’s the point in writing any more screenplays at all?

I don’t know anymore.

I might pay for another review. Out of curiosity. Honestly, I don’t see how anyone could give the script a four unless he was having a bad day. It has problems (none of which were mentioned in the weakness. It was only painfully generic things like “this character felt two different ways about something. Inconsistent. I do not understand subtlety.”), bit it’s at least a solid six.

But what if I get another four? I’d freak the fuck out to be honest with you.

Cheating on My Wife

I feel strange lately. I’m finally confident in my screenwriting abilities. I finished my latest feature and it kicks ass. I know I can write shit that rocks. I know I’ve finally started to figure it out.

And I am losing interest in the whole thing.

Now, this wouldn’t be the first time I lost interest in something as soon as I had a handle on it, but I don’t think it’s anything like that. I still love the act of screenwriting (and we are only talking about screenwriting here, not prose writing), but something about it has turned me off completely. Is it all the dumb people on the internet? The feeling of impossibility? The desire to change my life and get out of Los Angeles? The utter difficulty of a real job in the real world–working in a restaurant is fucking exhausting–making me flee to something easier? Is it all the stress about my mom/family problem? I don’t know… the best explanation I have is that I am tired, stressed out, and over-stimulated. The thought of getting off my ass and producing something is utterly exhausting.

What’s the point?

Am I too mercenary? At this point, I feel I am a good enough writer that I deserve compensation for my work. I don’t want to write things just for fun. I want to write things that will lead to me making a living. Because, now that I work 20-30 hours a week, and I have to give up work days to scurry my mom to appointments, I don’t have any time. And I want to use my time to build a career.

Will screenwriting ever be a career?

I don’t know. I do feel like there is a different part of myself who does screenwriting. The girl who writes comedy is different than the girl who writes drama. But they’re both me. If I gave up either, I would feel weird and unbalanced. And, to be perfectly honest, I’ve been drowning in drama world lately. It’s a little much, spending so much time in the head of a character with distorted thought processes…

I love my silly, weird, girl-focused scripts. I wouldn’t trade them, or working on them, for anything. Even if I’m usually miserable while I’m writing them because something is just not working. But that’s writing in a nutshell. When it’s working, it’s awesome. When it’s not working, it’s utter annihilation.

Maybe I am getting ahead of myself. Again. Just because I can no longer stomach even an episode of Scriptnotes or a few minutes on a screenwriting forum doesn’t mean I’m over screenwriting. It means I’m tired of hearing the same retreads of three-act structure and likable characters. And, though John and Craig seem like really nice guys, they are clearly out of touch with what it’s like to be broke and tired and trying to carve a career out of nothing… and, for my money, they take far too lenient of a stance on sexism/sexist tropes in movies.

Or maybe, after listening to 50 something episodes, I’m just tired of listening to them.

I don’t know. I’m going to publish my novel in about four weeks. I have a release date. A cover. It’s proofread. I still need to format it and do more press and do more marketing, but it’s quite the accomplishment. And I’ve never accomplished ANYTHING like this with screenwriting. Ever.

Now, being the mercenary girl that I am, I am more than willing to pull back on my publishing plan to take paying screenwriting gigs. Say, if my script was a finalist in Nicholl and I got a bunch of attention… I’m publishing all this stuff myself. I can put out a book a year and still do tons of screenwriting. But two books is another thing entirely.

Am I just sick of the entertainment industry? Unfortunate for me, cause my protagonist is a TV actress, and this book is only the first in a TRILOGY. Lord help me.

Am I just sick of Los Angeles?

Am I just tired? I feel tired.

I have to remember. I’m not even 25. I have plenty of time to build a career or build a second career. But, still, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m cheating on my wife. We don’t have the same spark we used to have, and I’ve turned to some new thing to wake me up.

Or maybe I am overly dramatic.

The Personal is Political

I’ve never thought of myself as a political person. Perhaps, as usual, I underestimated myself in comparison to everyone else. After all, I do have very strong opinions about the feminism and the death penalty and social programs and fair wages…

Okay. I might be more political than I thought. But most of this stuff is obscenely obvious. Who, in this day and age, is actually against women having the right to choose? And who, in this day and age, thinks it’s acceptable for companies to decide what birth control woman should be able to use?

Oh, wait, just THE SUPREME COURT.

Sadly, when you are a woman, the personal is political. Want the same pay as a man who does the same job? You’re greedy. Want birth control? You’re a slut. Want an abortion? Why the fuck didn’t you use birth control, you slut? Want to press charges on your rapist? You were probably asking for it.

When I was younger, say in high school, I didn’t understand why anyone would write a political song. I thought songs needed to be personal. I thought art needed to be about feelings. But, as we all are in high school, I was immature and limited in my perspective.

The political is personal. And it’s full of all sorts of strong emotion. Mostly outrage, but, hell, that’s a strong emotion.

And that is why everything I get so mad at people who tell me their writing is apolitical, or people who tell me they have no message to impart.

There is no point in doing art if you have nothing of value to say.

If you want to write like Seth MacFarlane and continue to spew mildly misogynist shit, because it’s just a TV show, then please, please, stop writing now.

Just stop.

I have no time or patience for you.

There is so much in the world that needs changing. There are so many people whose minds need changing. If you want to write for film or TV, you need to have something to say, because, one day, you will have a platform.

It is not enough to want to entertain people or make them laugh.

You need to make them think.

Treat Yo’ Self

I am terrible about treating myself. Even when I play video games, I hoard my money like it’s nobody’s business. Really. I refuse to buy items, and, worse yet, I refuse to use items I picked up from enemy drops. I might need them for later. You never know.

I always felt like there were two win conditions for the Sims: be swimming in cash (without cheats, of course) and get married.

Honestly, when I daydream about financial security, I lust over the most mundane things. Wouldn’t it be great to have Keds in every color? And a dozen adorable dresses from ModCloth? And comfortable jeans?

But why wait for this mystical success to reward myself with even the smallest things? I can afford a few pairs of $50 shoes ($30-$40 on sale). So, in celebration of my novel being DONE (save for formatting and final cover decisions), I added to my already extensive collection of Keds–if only I was being paid for this endorsement!– with a new hot pink polka dot pair. And I added to my small collection of dresses with two new $50 numbers. Sure, they are Sunday afternoon dresses and I won’t wear them all that often. But I don’t care. Because I deserve a reward for all my hard work.

You have to celebrate your victories. No one else is going to celebrate them for you.