50 Shades of Meh

Under normal circumstance, I’d be happy about the greenlighting of two romance films, even if they’re book adaptations rather than original projects. But I feel this overwhelming sense of “meh” when I hear about 50 Shades of Grey and its cinematic sequels.

I’m not sure what it is. The movie has high-caliber screenwriters. It looks better than your average Nicholas Sparks adaptation (not really romance since there’s no HEA but typically one of the three “romance” features that come out any given year).

But I’m filled with a deep unease. Maybe I’m jealous. After all, I’m never going to write anything that sells 100 million copies. And in all likelihood I’ll never write the film adaptation of anything that sold 100 million copies (or one million for that matter). I’ve never actually read the books, so I’m taking everyone’s word for their quality. Well, it’s not the quality I mind (a trashy book is always better as a film without the shoddy prose in the way), but rather the glamorizing of an abusive relationship. That my choices for male leads are either wannabe artist losers like the guy in Her or abusive alpha douches like Christian Grey.

Neither is my kind of man.

So, I guess, you could say that I resent the importance of this movie. If it were just a movie, just a book, fine. But it’s all there is in the romantic film world. It’s a fucking institution to the point where my father is asking me why women love this book about a controlling douche. And I tell him, how the fuck should I know? I haven’t read it, but I doubt I’d enjoy it as I didn’t enjoy books with similar themes and characters. And I can’t stand when NA heroines get married and have kids at 21 or 22. Probably because I have no internal instinct and hate children.

You could say that I resent everything it represents–that trashy, poorly written, wish-fulfillment fan fiction can sell so many copies while stories with real depth and character development go unnoticed. That I’m jealous, again. And I am. Money aside, I’d kill to write something that 100 million people read.

I guess all the posters and trailers are constant reminders of my failure. I, Fiona Fire, will never see any of my romantic comedy dreams make it off the ground. The only romantic films to make it to theaters are adaptations of obscenely popular books. And, even then, they don’t offer much for me as a viewer. If a girl isn’t into domineering asshole or tearjerker melodramas, where is she to turn? The Mindy Project, I suppose, but now (spoilers) Mindy Lahiri is pregnant so that show will probably go down the toilet.

Resent is right, but it’s not really 50 Shades of Grey that I resent. It’s that 50SoG has a role of such importance. It’s the only romance anyone knows about and it’s still presented as oh-so-scandalous what with all the explicit sex (or so I hear). If I mention my not so illustrious romance writing career, I am undoubtedly met with comparisons to 50SoG or Nicholas Sparks. And, well,I’m not exactly interested in explaining to people why neither of those things is the least bit relevant to me.

And I resent this stupid divide in romance, the popularity of the alpha douche billionaires at the expense of guys who aren’t assholes, the fact that I am a sell out willing to make my next project about one of these alpha billionaire types.

If I’m being totally honest, I’m exhausted and clueless. A year ago, I was finishing up a rom com feature I loved, tutoring a lot, and reasonably sure of where my life was going. Now, I’m finishing a novel trilogy that has been in the works since November 2013 (my timelines overlap, but fuck that noise). That’s nearly 15 months. And, in about one more month, I’m going to release (and re-release book one) it all to the world. Whereupon it will surely not get 50SoG sales.

Come Monday, I’m shipping my three books off to the proofer, and I have two weeks worth of work to do in that time. It’s not the least stressful thing. And my private life is equally full, in both great and horrible ways.

I’m not going to see any movies this weekend. I’ll be writing to my deadline the entire time. But I would so like if I could check Rotten Tomatoes without a sense of dread in my gut. Or a feeling that I’ll never be good enough to even get by.



Dear Screenwriting,

I hate how bad things have become between us. It was a simpler time when we fell in love. I was young and idealistic (perhaps naive is a more apt description). You were riding high on the wave of early 2000s film making.

Remember Closer? I was 15, inexperienced and desperate to learn something, anything about love and sex. And, Jesus, were you ready to teach. I still remember sitting in that theater at The Spectrum (back when it was still Edwards) with my dad and my best frenemy forever. They didn’t get it, but I did. Oh, I saw your ways– the delicious sparseness of pages upon pages of dialogue, the beauty with which you could transform a play into such a visual thing. The rawness, the emotion, the guts. I didn’t realize it then, but I fell in love that day.

You had me that year. It was no contest. It wasn’t fair. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Sideways. The creativity, the visuals, the clever but not too clever twists of phrase. How could I resist? How could anyone? My friends, they didn’t get you. They didn’t get us. They wanted to watch Mean Girls and Saw. Commercial shit. Not art. Not what I knew we could have.

It’s not like you worked your charms alone. You had my the unwavering support of my father. I know, you’re the one who convinced him to buy all those silly books on screenwriting. Who encouraged him to take us to that used DVD place in Newport Beach (it’s a BevMo now. My how things change). You brought out the High Fidelity in me, convincing me my taste was more important than any of my other traits as a person. (How I wanted to be Max Fischer so damn badly).

Remember our first time? It was so messy but so damn earnest. I was knee deep in depression (and calf deep in an eating disorder), desperate for any escape from those awful voices in my head. It was some Crash knock off about art and teenage angst instead of racism. It was some 60 or 70 pages, a total train wreck, but beautiful it its own way.

Film school was tough. I hated every minute of it–they weren’t giving me enough of you–but I held out until my senior year, until I finally got to fill my schedule with screenwriting classes. You pushed away all the uneasiness in my gut, that little voice that screamed at me after my friend switched his major from film to computer science. He’s right. I hate production. I hate being on set. I hate everything except being behind a computer. I don’t want a job doing this. I don’t want to be in this industry. But you drowned out that voice with your glorious white space.

It was you and me against the world, baby.

We had a bumpy patch after I graduated. I couldn’t feel my future, my progress. I was patient at first, but a year of internships and shitty jobs later, that dread crept back into my gut. I was still so naive. I grabbed every opportunity my the balls–the bizarre management company, the incompetent producer, the clueless writing group. I tried it all, considered it all, convinced myself I’d be there soon. A couple months maybe. Just a little longer.

Things really clicked when the eHow shit dried up. I spent hours with you every day (what else was I going to do?), and I fell back in love. Hell, I was addicted. I told myself I couldn’t live without you, I couldn’t accept any job that took me away from you. And I did everything I could to stay with you, even sinking to some really awful deeps (really, going on dates with men for money, pretending as if I was single. That is low).

I did it all for you. For us.

But something has changed in the last year. I see what you are. No, where you are. See, it’s not you. You’re great. You’re still perfect. But you don’t have guts the way you used to. Female characters are nothing to you. Creative storytelling is nothing to you. Independent film– it’s all on TV now.

You promised so much. But that was a different time–back when Ebert and Roper was on the air, when Hollywood Video was still in business, when I was too young and stupid to consider making ends meet. Before I realized how much I care about women getting their say. You try, sometimes, but I can tell your heart isn’t it in. You’re more at home with Nolan and Sorkin and Fincher and their dead wives and pretty blonde murder victims.

I’m sorry, but I can’t keep lying to myself. I can’t stand this damn industry. I can’t stand the incompetent people, the demands of work for free, the total lack of respect. I can’t stand this whole starving artist thing. I hate it. I always have. I want to have a job, to work 40 hours a week (instead of either 60 or 0), to feel like a functioning member of society.

Two years ago, we made a deal. I gave you until I was 25 to show me some real progress or get lost.

You’ve tried. The Nicholls placement was nice. And this new media thing. It has potential. But it’s too little, too late.

So, it’s time for us to part. I’m taking my writing elsewhere. To new adult and erotic romance novels. I know what you’re thinking–why them? Why not you? My first book made no traction. Hell, it costs me well over $1000. I could shoot a micro-budget feature. I could do the festival circut. I could try to keep this marriage alive.

But I can’t try anymore. My passion is gone. I know you can do better than these 40 year old tools who only care about MEN and their important male problems (and, God, aren’t women useless). Hell, I bet, deep down, you want to do better. But I can’t be the girl who saves you. I don’t have the patience for it.

I know. Romance is no better. Not really. Characters still need to fit inside narrow boxes. But there’s something there, something more… I have to pursue it, even if I leave it the way I left you.

At least there, I can make a product. I can be a business owner and not an aimless creative wannabe.

You won’t miss me for long. There are so many people who love you, who want you, who are begging to be with you. (And so many of them are 20 something year old tools, ready to grace your pages with shitty scripts about men, important, important men and their important male feelings. Be honest. That has always been your true love).

But, hey, we’ll always have Closer, Chasing Amy, and Sideways.

I’ll always love you, but I can’t bare to live with you for one more day.


Fiona Fire

P.S. You’re kidding yourself if you think I don’t realize all those excellent movies about about men and their important male feelings. You really don’t have room for women, do you?

The Music or the Misery

I tend to blame writing as the source for all my problems–my jacked up neck and back, my constant self-doubt, my lack of ability to function in society–but I don’t think that’s fair.

Not exactly.

It’s true that I’m often frustrated because my writing career isn’t going the way I’d like. I am confused and lost and unsure of what to do. But that isn’t the cause of most of my unhappiness. Mostly, it comes out of nowhere (and sticks around). I push everything inside, totally incapable of expressing it to other people, trying so, so hard to seem together.

That has nothing to do with writing.

I’m too introspective and too guarded and too unable to relate to other people. I don’t say what I feel. I actively avoid conflict. I cut ties instead of telling people they’ve upset me.

I am terrified of asking anyone for help with anything.

And, sure, all of these traits mean writing appeals to me in particular. I get to work alone. I get an outlet to express myself. I get a safe place to explore conflict. (Which probably explains why I write such angsty shit when I’m writing first person).

Writing doesn’t cause my dysfunction. Dysfunction causes my writing.

I’m in a weird place right now. My tutoring hours are practically nil, and I want to work my way into a career. An actual career with progress, not this one day I’ll get an agent and magically transform into a screenwriter kind of career.

In two years time, give or take, I want to be making a living. A decent fucking living. And I want to feel like I have room to grow.

I’m ready to move on from screenwriting and focus only on books. But I have only the most tenuous grasp on how to write a commercial book. How to write commercial books quickly enough that I could make a living.

Because I am done fucking around.

If I’m going to put this much time and energy into writing, I’m going to treat it like a business.

I’m done being a failing artist. I’m either going to make money as a writer or I’m going to push it into hobby territory in favor of something else.

I admit it. It’s overwhelming and terrifying. Do I have any idea how to write genre romance? I don’t feel like it. When I try to read something in my *ahem* wheelhouse, I run away from awful alpha douches, shitty prose, waves of filler, or convoluted plots. (Mostly, it’s the alpha douches).

Honestly, I don’t know what people want to read. I have never been a voracious romance reader. I was barely aware of the genre until a few years ago. But I know it’s exactly the kind of thing I want to write: angsty, steamy, first person romance. And I know these books have the potential to do well–they are burning up the fucking charts.

But I don’t know why certain books do well. I don’t know what appeals to people. I only know what appeals to me, and my tastes are… contrarian to say the least. I can’t just write to my taste. I can’t just write what I feel in my gut. That will be 80,000 words of introspection that everyone will proclaim TOO WHINY.

If I am going to treat this like a business (and why shouldn’t I, I am putting out a product– books–that I want people to buy), I need to study the market. What sells, what flops, what hole desperately needs to be plugged.

It’s a huge undertaking and I’m not sure that it’s worth it (whatever that means). I’ve given myself until the end of the year to decide if I really want to go full-throttle–to spend about two years writing and releasing and marketing like hell–and I’m not sure yet.

It would certainly be easier to get a teaching credential. It would be stable, secure. I wouldn’t hate it.

Do I really have it in me?

I’ve got no fucking clue.

17 Again

Sometimes, I think I’m living in a dream. I think I’m going to wake up any minute, still in college, done with the horrible nightmare that was the last four years of my life.

Because, there is no way smart A (okay A and B) student Fiona Fire has become this. There is no way she failed so hard at living up to her potential. There is no way she’s so far on the path to becoming her mother.

Sure, I wasn’t the hardest working high school student. I opted out of most activities. I got a lot of B+s in classes I could have easily aced. But I did well. I had potential. Excellent writer, great critical thinking skills. Hell, I was just as good at chemistry and math. I got a 5 on that AP test and it was easy peasy. I could have become a chemist, whatever the fuck chemists do.

But, no, I am here. I am not about to wake up. I am not going to do anything to erase how much I’ve failed to support myself the last few years. This is what I’ve done, and I have no excuses for it. Yes, I have a job. I work. But I don’t work enough and I don’t make enough. Tutoring sounds a lot snazzier than waiting tables, but it’s just as dead end. Maybe more so.

I saw an ad for Californiacation today. That show is the greatest masturbatory fantasy of all time. A good looking novelist turned screenwriter whines about being a sell out, is constantly propositioned by women, and stays in the good graces of his ex-wife and daughter despite being a terrible influence on their lives.

Sometimes, I think I am living a just as maturbatory fantasy. I spend my time writing, or whining about how writing isn’t supporting me, when other people learn real skills and take real jobs.

Sometimes, I think I am going to snap out of it and wonder why I wasted so much time “chasing a dream.” I will wake up and learn to code or get a teaching credential or get some shitty entry level job.

Sometimes, I think I am deluding myself about writing. Do I really love writing or am I just lazy? Is this simply my excuse for working part-time and writing 20 hours a week? Am I looking for writing or am I looking for a job that allows me many, many hours to watch Seinfeld reruns?

Am I looking for something to feed my depression– some excuse to stare at the computer with my heart torn from my gut?

I don’t know. I’m having one of those days where I just feel exhausted. I’m trying to cram a rewrite into one week, and I’ve been tearing my hair out trying to maintain focus. This whole book publishing endeavour has been as painful as it has been pleasurable.

My expectations were too high, sure, but I’ve never felt as fucking devastated as I did that first month.

I feel like my only chance at ever being successful is by writing. And, right now, it is. I’ve got no other fucking skills. So, every time my writing fails to live up to its potential (ugh), I feel both the sting of disappointment and the sting of OMG I HAVE NO FUTURE.

Maybe I’m melodramatic. I don’t know. Maybe I need to bite the bullet and get a day job. I have six or seven months until I’m finished with my tutoring commitments. That’s plenty of time to learn a skill, intern, get a portfolio in order. Something…

It would be easier than writing, honestly.

And I’d have a steady paycheck. I’d have a career path. I’d have a future.

The thought of it makes me sick.

But so does the thought of continuing like this. I’ve almost completely lost the motivation to write any screenplays. I can’t believe it took me film school and four years to realize how fucking hopeless it all is. I can’t even work on my super awesome, super fun idea. And it fucking kills to keep writing this romance series when I know nobody fucking cares about it. My reasonable self tells me I can make some changes to make it a little more palatable to readers. My reasonable self tells me I didn’t get enough exposure, that I gave away over well over a thousand copies during a five day promo with no advertising, that people will want to read it once they find it.

But that other part of myself screams that I am a stupid failure, again. And why do I bother working so hard when A) no one cares and B) I don’t make any fucking money? Really, why? I could invest so much of myself if I did something different. Sure, I would never really be excited about my work. I wouldn’t feel that passion. But who needs passion? Passion is a curse. Passion is a roller coaster. It demands all of your time and energy.

Maybe life would be easier if it were flatter. A train ride instead of a train wreck.

But, every time I try to talk myself into quitting, I get all sorts of ideas about a character at a turning point, thinking of abandoning her passion… and, of course, being reminded that she has to hold onto it.

That’s the narrative of art. Of course it is. It’s made by artists.

But, my imagination always runs away with all sorts of possibilities. I’ll win Nicholls, Jennifer Lawrence will star in my movie, I’ll win an Oscar (Jenny will win one too), Roger Ebert will come back from the dead to give me 4 stars, I’ll write a bestseller, earn a thousand five star reviews, have a rabid fan base who constantly asks me when my next book is coming out. I’ll be so rich, I’ll have a house in NY and a house in LA, and hell, why not one in Portland or Seattle too? I’ll travel the world. I’ll finally have the wardrobe of my dreams, and I’ll looks awesome at all times. No jeans and baggy t-shirt bullshit. I’ll have all sorts of friends. My life with be full–hobbies, an active social calendar, better relationships with my family. And I will look at my bank account and feel safe, because I have more money than I can spend. And I’ll fall asleep content, finally.

It’s all bullshit, I know. Back in high school (and even middle school), I was chubby. I daydreamed about the life I’d have once I lost weight. Things would be perfect. I’d be popular, stylish, cool. My grades would be better. I’d be prettier. I’d finally have a boyfriend.

And guess what– I was never more miserable than when I got down to 125 pounds. (I’m 5’10”, okay. That’s quite thin). I’ve never been more lonely. I was bulimarexic and depressed and the only reason why I’d even eat my fucking lunch was so I could get through my work out. I thought about driving into freeway dividers. I thought about swallowing bottles of sleeping pills. I lied in bed all afternoon crying to songs about suicide.

And I was only 17. Fucking 17.

It’s so easy for those of us that call ourselves artists to glamourize this pain. Oh, we’re so fucking deep and insightful because we hurt so much. And maybe there is some truth to it. Maybe we do have a better understanding of life, knowing how easily our brains can lie to us, knowing how hard we have to fight to even feel normal.

Or maybe we’re pathetic, whiny losers. Maybe we really can suck it up and get a job and contribute to society.

I once got into an argument with a friend over a Blink 182 song. He was annoyed by the singer whining about his hard high school life. Now, my friend is a rather self-centered person and he seems to believe that because he works 60-70 hours a week (when he’s employed, works in *shocker* the VFX industry. Shocking that a job in the film industry sucks) other people can’t have problems. But I told him I suffered more fucking pain in high school than some people suffer in their whole lives.

I feel like an asshole for saying that. Who the fuck do I think I am, claiming all this pain like it makes me special? But it’s true. I feel like I’ve had so much pain in my life, and sometimes I wonder if I can really add any more to it.

Can I really take yet another disappointment?

Can I really suffer any more pain?

It might be better to say no now. To get a job, work 40 hours a week, and stay too busy to realize I’m not fulfilled. Maybe I would be fulfilled. I don’t know.

I don’t even know what I’m saying.

I started getting really serious about writing in high school, back when I was feeling all that pain. All that honest, raw emotion. And, really, journaling constantly was the only way I could keep it from rising up and swallowing me whole.

Maybe it would have been better if it swallowed me then. I wouldn’t have wasted so many years of other peoples lives dragging into this black hole. I wouldn’t have spend 100 grand of my dad’s money on a useless film degree.

But what good does that do me now? I know I’m a depressive. I have fucked up brain chemistry. I eat right. I exercise. I’m in therapy. It only does so much. I’ve tried pills, but I don’t like them. Sometimes, I feel like I have to devote all my mental energy to keeping depression at bay, to keeping it mild. It comes back no matter what, no matter how good things are.

It can be the tiniest thing, the tiniest disappointment.

My pain doesn’t make me more real or more authentic or more worthy. It just makes me another whiny, entitled brat.

And nobody wants to read some depressed bitch’s depressing shit.

I had this moment a few years ago. I realized that it would hurt too many people if I did kill myself. And I realized that the great challenge of my life would be making it to the end without committing suicide.

It’s exhausting.

And writing is exhausting.

And failing over and over again is too fucking exhausting.

Maybe I just need to pick up the pieces and accept mediocrity.

The truth is, I haven’t changed that much since high school. If I look at my high school journal, my thoughts are exactly the same. Sure, they sound a little nicer now. The polish is better. The writing is better. But it’s the same shit, over and over again.

I’m still melodramatic.

I’m still in my room, crying by myself.

I’m still incapable of getting thoughts from my head to my mouth.

An eating disorder was the only thing that got me through my high school depression.

If I’m being totally honest, nothing has felt right since. I’ve lacked that purpose, that reason to wake up every day.

So I think I will wake up from this dream and be 17 again, trapped in that ugly gray life, pouring thoughts onto my drab gray blog (Diaryland, of course).

But at least I will have eight years of potential I’m yet to waste.

I’m a logical person. I can see the results of my actions. I put so much time and effort into my writing and the net result is pain. The opportunity cost is so high. There is some fulfillment, yes, but it comes at such a heavy price.

Is it better to cut my losses?

I don’t know. I wish someone else had the answers. I shouldn’t be responsible for them. I barely have any mental energy left. I used it all up trying not to slip into another fit of depression. Again.

I swear. I don’t even know how I’ll manage to have a job. I really don’t.

I kept a lot of journals in high school, online and on my computer. Xanga is down. Diary x is down. So many of my thoughts have turned to cyber dust.

It means something, but I’m not sure what.

I can’t think of an apt metaphor, but I have to wonder… what will happen as all these disappointments add up? At some point, where my heart just break?

Maybe that would put it out of its misery.

Horny Yet Awkward

I had a revelation yesterday. A revelation that was simultaneously obvious and obscured. That is both dramatic and irrelevant.

See, I finally figured out why I care about project A, why I had to force myself to write project B, and why project C, an amazing idea that almost everyone responds to, holds so little appeal.

And the revelation occurred in the form of a ridiculous anime sex comedy.

You see, this show was so ridiculous it has some poorly translated slang name, and I would have almost no hope of finding it on Google if it weren’t for the power of Netflix remembering what I’ve watched. I will spare you the trouble. It is called (I dare you to remember this in five minutes, much less an hour) B Gata H Kei and it is about a teenage girl who wants to have sex with a 100 men, well, teenage boys. Only she is totally clueless about all things sex.

It is everything I ever wanted out of screenwriting (even if it engages in all sorts of shameless fanservice).

See, when I finally got good coverage (*cough* no thanks to the first blcklst reader *cough*) on project A… I guess we can call it High School RomCom (although that really does it a disservice), I was delighted. The score, a six, was not amazing. Fair enough. But the reader called it a unique take on teenage sexuality (I’d like to thank the academy…) and praised my protagonist as awkward yet horny.

And, holy shit, did this weird anime encapsulate awkward yet horny, turned up to 11. If you watch anime, you know good anime turns everything up to 11 or 12. Everything is ridiculously, wonderfully over the top, making great use of its conventions, even as it breaks them. I’m thinking mostly of my perennial fav, Death Note, but also of my lesser fav, Ouran High School Host Club.

It’s not that I didn’t realize I love writing about awkward sexuality. I did. But I didn’t realize how much it appealed to me. I still love High School RomCom, despite not having touched it in over a year. And I’m still lukewarm on Projects B and C, despite knowing they are better written.

I just don’t care. I don’t care about the characters or their problems. Objectively, the scripts are better. The dialogue is better, the story is tighter, the concepts less convoluted. But I don’t care.

Even though they deal with sexuality. B is all about sex, even more so than A, but it doesn’t have that glee, that youthful exuberance. It’s so pragmatic. It’s real, and it makes a good point, but God does it lecture.

Now, it’s possible that distance makes the heart grow fonder. That HS RomCom was a beast to write. I was still in the phase where I had no idea what I was doing, and made a million lateral changes, and rewrote everything to death. By the time I declared myself done with it, I never wanted to see it again.

But I miss its je ne sais quoi. My current projects are lacking whatever it had, and that’s draining my motivation. I’ve got no real desire to be funny anymore, though I don’t know if it’s burn out, depression, or something else entirely.

I don’t know if– gasp–part of the problem is actually that my sex life is unfucked or that I’m sick of writing about sex period, what with writing smutty books for 20 hours a week.

And I don’t really care.

Except, that I have this weird feeling I used to recognize as inspiration. I think. And I actually WANT to write something for the sake of it, as opposed to because my schedule says I must write it.

I’m sure, that this slutty new idea is a tease, that once I tangle with it, I’ll realize it’s just as difficult as anything else I’ve ever written. And I’m not really planning to devote much, if any, time or energy to it.

After all, I don’t see much utility for another teenage romantic (sex) comedy script, even if I write this one knowing what it is, instead of figuring that out after a bajillion drafts. I already have the one. It’s not great, but it’s pretty good.

It’s not likely this will actually help my career. Or that I’ll ever have a screenwriting career.

Still, I might entertain it for a little while…

The truth is, I’ve been pushing this aside, shoving it where it can’t hurt me. I’ve told myself I don’t care what I write, as long as it’s in the ballpark of what I like to write. And that’s true, to some extent, but it hurts to think about not writing the awkward female sexuality stuff.

It’s literally painful.

I really do enjoy writing my angsty romances, even knowing I’ll have to write a little more to market, but I like them for different reasons. I still need that outlet, that opportunity to get into the weird and funny of sex, and especially of burgeoning sexuality.

But I can do both.

Sure, I won’t be able to devote a ton of time and energy to the latter, especially not if I go through with my plan of devoting myself to self pushing romance novels for 2 years in the hopes of making it into a career.

I’m 25 and I’m on track to make less than 20k this year. I want to have a career.

I guess, what I’m saying, is that there will be a screenplay D after screenplay C, and it will be another take on awkward teenage sexuality.

Or maybe I’ll write a YA novel instead.

Or maybe this is a random assortment of thoughts that lead to nowhere.

I’ve figured out what’s missing in my life (my writing life at least). That’s a solid first step.

Even if I’ve got no plans for a second.

A Passionless Marriage

It’s funny. A few days ago, I was getting ready to write a post about how I’m not quitting writing. But, now, I’m unsure again. No, scratch that. I am not quitting. Not right now at least.

But it’s starting to feel like it’s all work and no play. I don’t mind work, and I expect writing to feel like work some of the time, but I’m starting to dread it.

I’m not excited about my projects anymore. They feel like time and energy sucks instead of artistic fulfillment.

I guess a side effect of trying to make money off of something is that it becomes work.

But let me back up.

I wrote a book. I didn’t have much of a plan when I wrote it. I wanted to try out this whole novel thing. I did a little research and learned that romance is a popular genre. And, hey, I always write romanceish screenplays, so why not a romanceish book? And why not a sexy book too? I’m always taking stuff out of my scripts because it’s too sexy.

Then, I did a little more research, and I bought a cover and paid and editor and I published the book as the start of a trilogy. I failed at some marketing stuff, and I totally failed to move any copies.

Apparently, this is normal for most. But it’s still depressing.

You’ll notice that I failed to accomplish a critical step in this process–to properly understand the genre. I never read romance until I got the idea to write this book, and I only read a dozen or so books. Certainly not enough to give me a feel for what the readers want.

And, well, the thing is… I might hate what the readers want. It’s mostly alpha males and billionaires (no, really, it is) and I fucking hate alpha males. Just. No.

No, no, no.

And, now that I’m finally doing some proper research, I’m realizing exactly what this book publishing endeavour might entail. I’ll need to publish 3-4 books a year, in a series, that really cater to reader’s expectations. A breakneck pace that would surely leave no room for screenwriting (not that I’m particularly excited to do that either).

No room for enjoyment really.

I get so caught up in making these writing and publishing plans. My ambition skyrockets. Then, it all crashes around me and I have to ask myself–would I actually enjoy this life?

And, at this point, I just don’t know.

Maybe I’m just in the downward part of the swing, but I’m starting to feel like it’s just not worth it. It’s too many compromises.

Yes, I want to be a writer. And, yes, I’m willing to mold what I write to some degree in order to appease whoever…

But sometimes I get the distinct sense I’d have more luck if I tossed my integrity out the window and just copied what’s popular.

And that’s depressing.

Or maybe I’m just depressed and nothing would really stimulate me.

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).