So a few weeks ago I was on Twitter reading all these very witty comments other authors had posted (and feeling rather insecure about my writing) when I found this jewel: Libba Bray’s blog post on the “I Suck” Playlist.
Everyone should read the full post here: http://libba-bray.livejournal.com/
But for those of you who don’t have the time/interest, here are the tracks:
Track #1: I Suck
Track #2: I’m Not Smart Enough to Write This Book
Track #3 No, This Is Different
Track #4: Maybe I Could Become a Firefighter/Gravedigger/Finger Puppeteer
Track #5: I Suck, Parts IV-VIII
Track #6: Why Can’t I Write Like (Fill in Blank)?
Track #7: This Doesn’t Happen To (Fill in Blank)
Track #8: Will You Help Me Fake My Death/It’s the Only Way/My Life in a Storage Unit Medley
Track #9: I Suck (Extended Dance Remix)
Track #10: What Was I Thinking?
Track #11: This Is Hopeless! (DJ Flail ‘N’ Whine Mix)
Track #12: So Overwhelmed I’m Underwater
Bonus Track: Also, I Hate My Hair
I cracked up when I read this because every single track felt so incredibly applicable to me. And when I read on about how during every novel she tells her husband that she can’t do it and her other successes were a fluke, it made me feel better about myself. Because at some point during each of my books I get this overwhelming feeling like I’m some talentless punk kid who doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing. And that fear spins itself out into my amazing editor shaking her head in regret for signing on with me and my fantastic agent scrounging through her purse to pay for groceries.
The rational side of my brain knows that this is utter nonsense.
But the “I Suck” Playlist tends to drown out rational thought.
So then, instead of writing, I obsess about writing. I watch way too much television and wonder if it really is too late to join the CIA or even better yet, Witness Protection Program so I would have a good excuse to avoid everyone who wants to know how the book is going. Sometimes I will do something that masquerades as work. I have a lovely character collage now that took me way too long to create. I have detailed outlines. I have lists of potential title names. All of which is great–it’s just not writing.
So when I finally returned home to Ashland, Oregon after spending so many months traveling it was easy to unpack my suitcase, flop across my king-sized bed and flip open one of the many books that were waiting for me. But the whole time I was inwardly freaking out.
This post has a happy ending though. See, my mom is part mountain goat and a firm believer in the power of a long walk as a mind-clearing aid. So I told her about the characters I had created and how my problem was that the damn thing had no plot and that’s not exactly something you can fake. And she listened and tossed out some ideas and for roughly a week nothing seemed to be happening. I advanced a little but never enough to give me a sense of anything close to satisfaction. Mainly, I gritted my teeth and growled at my computer.
And then yesterday, it happened! I suddenly understood what was going to happen next and best of all, I liked it. I switched off the “I Suck” playlist and got down to work. And, yes, it is work because even when I love what I am creating it rarely (if ever) feels easy. But at long last that missing sense of satisfaction in creating something good returned and reminded me why I spend my days staring at a blank screen and trying to fill it.
So here’s my recommendation for anyone battling the “I Suck” Playlist, whether it’s for writing or drawing or accounting or anything, really. Try going for a walk. And whining productively with someone who helps you brainstorm solutions.
And, okay, maybe the “I Suck” playlist hasn’t completely left me. But it’s been muted to a level where I can ignore it enough to write. Fingers crossed, I’ll be able to tune it out for the rest of this novel. And my next one. And the one after that.
But I seriously doubt it. The “I Suck” playlist is kind of like Justin Bieber’s song Baby: you might hold it in contempt but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to get it out of your head.