A few weeks ago, the very wonderful John Anealio wrote a great blog post about getting out of the success grind. What he said made a lot of sense. Sometimes your ego makes the artistic experience painful and miserable, and it’s stupid to turn the joy of our lives into torment. Sometimes you have to change your relationship with your ego to make good art.
This is a lot easier to say than to do. For example, I used to feel like a prolific writer, but I’ve slowed down a lot over the last few years. Sometimes I absolutely loathe myself for writing so slowly–after all, if I was a “real writer,” I’d be cranking out the words. That’s what all the advice tells me I should be doing, from Stephen King’s books to Chuck Wendig’s blog. My pathetic daily word count must be indicative of my weak skills and lack of commitment to the craft. When I hear that a friend has finished yet another book, I want to curl up under my desk and cry.
But not that often. Only when my ego is shouting too loudly for me to drown out. Maybe writing really quickly worked me before. Right now it’s not, and I can’t change that. I need to push down that ego and focus on the writing.
Sometimes I hate the fact that I’ve never been published by those Hugo-nominated magazines I wish would publish me. It drives me crazy that I haven’t written anything prize-winning or Year’s Best-able. Sometimes I just want to punch myself in the nose for being me and not Kij Johnson.
But only sometimes. Mostly I remember that holding a Hugo award in my hand can’t possibly feel as good as that moment when I’m lost in a story and there’s no time or space except the stuff I’m unfolding in my head.
I’m glad John Anealio has found a way to make his art and life feel even more awesome. I wish more people could take a look at their lives and see so clearly. It’s easy to focus on the publishing deals, the awards, the reviews. It’s scary to look at your self. It’s scary to look at what motivates you to write every day.
When I look at myself, I see a neopro with some short story credits and a book on its way into the world. I have a few reprints. I have a handful of really nice letters from people who have liked my work. It doesn’t look like very much when I type it on a screen, but it’s the tip of my iceberg. Underneath all those achievements is a solid mass of thousands upon thousands of wonderful hours spent writing.
How many people know, absolutely and totally, that they spent that much of their lives doing so much of what they loved? And does anything else really matter?
Suck it, ego. I’m happy being where I am right now. I’m writing. It’s what I need.