There comes a point where you just say screw it. Where quitting seems like not just the best option, but the only one available to you.
I have reached my perfect storm, dark night of the soul moment. I’m juggling house hunting, job hunting (because freelancing does not equal steady income), packing, keeping up with the mountain of reviews I’m doing, and the freelancing jobs I’m picking up, with a bruised, not fully functional arm and my overwhelming need to step back and calm down between bouts of forgetting how to breathe. That’s happening far more than I’d like.
This is the absolute best time for me to shrug and say ‘maybe this writing thing is a dream, and one that needs to go the fuck away so I can grow up and be normal’. I actually said that to a friend recently, who capslocked the hell out of a fandom-focused reply. Hell, she gave me homework.
The next time I was feeling freaked out, I had to put on a movie. Didn’t matter what movie- just whatever came to mind or drew my focus. The Winter Soldier ended up living in the DVD player.
Her theory is that there will always be a character we’re drawn to in the story, or someone we strongly relate to. Stories speak to the things we all feel, after all. Just because we’re not all superheroes (or super-villains, come to that) doesn’t mean we’re not all fighting battles in our own way.
Once you’ve found that character that speaks to you, think about why you’re drawn to them.
For me, it’s Bucky. A character coming to terms with a new version of reality that doesn’t match up with what came before, having to figure things out in a new way and figure out what the hell happens next. Even Freud would say, ‘No shit, Sherlock’ to that one. Armchair psychology really isn’t required at this point.
So, what would Bucky do?
And, okay, a Bucky version of reality would have a ridiculously high death count, and me distracted by the shiny metal arm because SHINY, and that’s not really the vibe I’m going for here. But on the other hand, he’s not exactly going to curl up in a ball, find a teddy bear to snuggle, and weep into ice cream, is he?
And this, right here, is what I love about fandom. It gets looked down on a hell of a lot, but if there’s a way to make a pseudo-villain into an inspirational speech, they will damn well find it.
How did my fandom friends suggest dealing with social anxiety? Casual cosplay. What would Crowley look like wandering a Con? How would he act? Fun fact: growling and pretending you have hellhounds works a treat when your ‘excuse me’ gets ignored in a crowd. You’re welcome.
How do my fandom friends suggest dealing with life stress? The same way. Take that fictional self-assurance and run with it. Fake it till you make it, but do it with an image in mind. You already know what that confidence and characterisation looks like, anyway. Why spend time creating the ideal you to pretend to be when you can cherry-pick the bits you like from characters and save yourself some time?
When you’re chasing down your dreams like they’re deer in a wolf reserve, you’re always going to find yourself in this kind of moment. Creative industries aren’t exactly the richest of professions for the majority of those creating. There will always be a moment of deciding how much is too much, and how much of a beating you can take for this cause.
Normal people? We don’t always cope well with those emotional smack downs, nor do we always know how to fight the good fight and actually win it. Fictional characters, though, are created to do just that. To be avatars of what we could be. So why not borrow from that when it suits?
There will always be horrible moments when you realise that the goal is hard. Writing is easy- writing well is really, really hard. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon, and the people who make it are the ones who reach this moment and push through to the other side.
Me? I have moments where I’m not sure that’s a fight I can win. But the characters I hang around with don’t have that problem, they just assume they will win. And maybe that’s a good way to approach this whole writing career idea.
Edit: this post is getting a bit of love, and I figured it begs the question: how do you deal with those moments of doubt? Any hints and tips you’d care to share?