The Chain

I’ve been wasting a lot of time on Twitter. I keep telling myself I keep my account for the sake of research, or writing submissions, but really I’m just hooked on the 140 character refresh thrill. Once in a while though, there’ll be something pertinent to the way I’m feeling.

The way I’m feeling is a strange writing anxiety limbo. It’s not writer’s block per se, I have plenty of ideas. It’s almost a sense that all my work, all that blood on the page will be for naught. Last term at university was wonderful. I wrote 1500 words of genre fiction a week, which was then critiqued by a small group of like-minded and talented students who gave me constructive and useful feedback. My creative writing tutor was just the right side of critical, and fed us little golden threads of Shirley Jackson, William Faulkner, and Stephen King. I was in heaven. Then, term ended.

My new creative writing module is large and chaotic, moving along between genres at a breakneck speed. The word count has been savaged. I don’t find the writing prompts helpful. I am currently studying a genre I feel completely comfortable in, horror, but…I am lost. I need more words, more space for characters to breathe before everything goes to hell. I’m not finding the space to do that in 500 words without making it gimmicky. I keep writing about serial killers.

I submitted about five pieces over Christmas to literary magazines and student anthologies. All of them rejected. I am still waiting on one piece, which is a nice lifeline. One of the magazines wrote me a very nice, very detailed feedback letter which I felt was a positive step forward. Still, rejection is rejection, no? Back to Twitter. I read a writer saying you should never talk about your rejection letters. I find that positively Trumpian. As long as you’re not writing enormous diatribes about how wrong the magazine was to reject you, why not?

My friend Randy told me Brad Meltzer kept all his rejection letters. I read an interview with Scott Snyder where he says it took about twenty submissions before he made any progress. David Mitchell says not to dwell on it, to keep writing, even on the same day you get the rejection letter. I have bought a little cardboard box, I am keeping it under my bed with all the rejection letters. One day it will be kept in a museum. What is life, if not a series of delusions?

Back to Twitter. Another writer says his days are a constant of staring at a blank screen, watching the news in despair, looking out the window at the arctic greyness, and closing the laptop. I thought January was supposed to be the cruelest month, but my Reader’s Book of Days tells me February is the worst. Nothing happens, you’re meant to be moving forward but you’re not. Not really.

So what now? Sitting in bed reading comics and feeling sorry for myself about how everything is so hard, that’s a lovely wallow for a couple of days but now I feel disgusted with myself. Letting it all out here is a good start. A shamanic re-watch of Devil Wears Prada, that Stanley Tucci pep talk always gets me. I’m not even trying. I’m not Junot Diaz reading 100 pages of short stories every day, endlessly re-writing after a daily run.

To the library! I have Julia Kristeva’s essay on abjection to read. I have a book on gothic horror. I’m looking for very short horror by very good writers. I’m going to scour Twitter, properly this time, for flash fiction submissions. I’m going to write for fun. I have some prompts, some writing exercises. I’m thinking back to Pepi, Luci, Bom. I bet someone told Almodovar he had…potential, and Almodovar laughed and just kept going, prophetic visions of Oscars in his head. Or maybe he just stumbled into grace, one film at a time.

Okay, I’m feeling better now.






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