Blog post

Kill Your Idols

Various forms of “kill your idols” exist. “Burn your idols,” or “kill your darlings.” They each mean something slightly different (“kill/murder your darlings” is more about writing; cousin idioms, if you will). I’m here to talk about killing our idols, and pedestals, and distances.

For the record, please do not go out and actually kill anyone. Metaphors, people.

“Kill your darlings” goes hand-in-hand with impostor syndrome, except rather than focusing on your perceived short-comings, we’re examining the perceived perfections of those we look up to. Think of the people you look up to, and the traits and qualities you admire in them. If you’re one for making lists, you can do that, too, although I imagine it is going to be a long list, waxing poetic about their virtues and talents.

That list makes that person (or those people) seem larger than life, right? So high above you. If you lifted your hand and stood on your tip-toes, you still can’t reach them. The pedestal they’re standing on is made of all the things you love and admire about them, and it puts so much distance between you. The sun rises and sets around them, they can do no wrong, every word they say is gospel, and no one else can compare.

I am so guilty of this. “I’ll never write as beautifully and poetic as ___ so why should I even try?” “___ is so kind and thoughtful and generous. I’m not worthy of their friendship.” “Why would anyone look twice at me when ___ is there?” “I finally got validation from ___. Now I actually believe I might have [random quality] despite what everyone else has told me.” “My favorite [author/artist/whatever] was further along into their career when they were my age; I’m such a failure and so far behind them.” “No one can hold a candle to ___ so we might as well not even try.”

These thoughts are toxic and problematic. Don’t siphon off your own positive self-image just to feed into your projected image of someone else. It’s exhausting. I should know, I do it all the time. I drain myself of any good things I may think about myself, and fuel it into my thoughts of others: “yeah, I’m cute, but ___ is cuter,” or “I’m proud of this thing I wrote, but ___ could do it way better,” or “I’m a good listener, but ___ is so much more caring and compassionate,” or “I’m funny, but ___ is way more entertaining and memorable.”

Stop it, self. Stop doing that. It is so unhealthy. The pedestal helps no one.

Not you, and certainly not your idol(s). How does it make them feel, knowing the expectations you have of them? To feel like they need to live up to those expectations and perceptions? What if they fail? Why do their admirable qualities mean that you aren’t worthy of them?

And the people around you? How do they feel about the way you put this person/people above all others? Why aren’t they worth the same consideration and appreciation? Are you singling out this person at the expense of acknowledging and showing gratitude for the other people in your life? Are their contributions not as important?

So you have this person, and in your mind they are out of reach. You know what you admire about them. But this person? These people? The heroes you look up to and try to emulate? They’re people, too. With flaws, believe it or not. Think about those flaws. Make a second list, and with each flaw you realize, drive it into that pedestal, use it to chip away at the raised platform. Bring that person closer to your level.

It’s okay if you don’t bring them all the way down to where you’re standing; you admire them for a reason. The goal is not to hate them and to change your mind about looking up to them. The goal is to kill the unattainable image you have of them. This perfect image only fuels your impostor syndrome, and puts more pressure on the person you’re projecting onto. Encourage them, believe in them, support them, and be there for them, but don’t erase their humanity. Don’t deify them; but if you do, remember that even gods have flaws and make mistakes.

So take that image of the people you think are out of your reach, then punch it in the face. Stab it. “What? I would never want to hurt them!” Trust me, you aren’t hurting them. That perfect, flawless, carved-from-marble image isn’t them. You’re doing both of you a favor by gutting that image and then reshaping it.

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Blog post

Having a Community

Several weeks ago, many members of the North-Central Ohio Writers group attended a retreat, and I was fortunate enough to go.

Others have already made posts about their experience and what occurred (see the previous post I linked to on this blog), so I will spare the recap of the activities and ramble about my thoughts/feelings/emotions.

You may have noticed this blog is rather quiet, and that is because I am still going through that weird Ominous Feeling and questioning my abilities. You know, the whole “maybe I’m just good at coming up with concepts and ideas and not skilled enough to execute and make the words happen.” All my works-in-progress are stalled because that doubt  gets to me every time I open a writing file, or jot an idea in my notebook, or think about editing something.

Going to the NCOW retreat helped push some of that doubt away. I could not ask for a better community of writers, and am so glad that some of our newer members joined us, too. I felt safe to share my ideas and worries, and wish that we had more time because being around that group is incredibly comforting. At thirty, I am still looking for a place where I feel like I belong, and while I still have a desire to live in a bigger city, being around these people always feels like I belong, like an extension of Home.

I learned things about myself, my writing, and got to know this group even more. Being creative in general can be so exhausting. Sometimes that exhaustion is great and fulfilling, and sometimes it’s more tiring and feels like a weight holding me down. When I feel like burning all my writing, I think of them, and their kind words, and tell myself that there are people who actually want to read what I have written.

I would have given up by now if it weren’t for these people. Maybe not entirely, but the motivation from these people makes me think that I have a chance, and that someone cares about the stories I want to tell. On top of that, I am so excited to see all of the wonderful things this group is going to produce, because damn, do we have an amazingly talented community.

Thank you, Carma, for planning all of that for us, and thank you to everyone else who attended and helped organize and contribute. I am so lucky to be part of our growing community.

Blog post

Hello. It’s me.

I was wondering if after all these months I should post an update.

The last time I checked in was… an embarrassingly long time ago. Since then, I have moved around different departments at work, fallen head-over-heels into a new fandom, started learning the basics of D&D, played and completed new video games, and finished my re-read of the Harry Potter books from beginning to end. In March, C. Bryan Brown held a get-together for local writers and authors to meet and pick each other’s brains, and I went to MARCon at the beginning of May.

Between all of that is the writing. Oh, the writing, how I love you and also want to throttle you.

There is also this… thing. I have had this very ominous feeling the last few days like something is going to change. I feel like it may be a good change, but I honestly have no reason to think that. I have not knowingly reached out for this. Does that make sense? I keep getting these waves of anxiousness and apprehension waiting for whatever it is to happen. For all I know, I could be wrong, but I have this gut feeling that I should expect something.

The Ominous Feeling is inspiring me, at least. Maybe in the end that is what it is meant to do; kick me in the ass to be productive. Yesterday I decided to open one of the novels I am working on, then started a whole new file and cranked out 1,655 words for the new opening scene.

I’ve been struggling lately and doing a lot of internal arguing with myself. I do this thing where I look at all the ideas I have for stories, and then evaluate my actual skill, and I wonder if maybe I’m only good at coming up with ideas, but not talented or skilled enough to execute them. Maybe I’m also better at evaluating stories than I am writing them. Maybe it’s just because this year was a milestone birthday year, so I’m looking at my life and wondering why I’m not where I want to be. Because let’s be realistic; it’s one thing to have a goal and a dream and to work for those things. Sometimes those dreams aren’t meant for us, and it’s okay to change them.

I plan on riding this wave of hopeful productivity until I either crash land, or find myself jumping for joy whenever this Ominious Feeling sorts itself out. At least I know that I need a change of some kind, and soon.

Blog post

Creating and self doubt

It’s been a struggle the last several days to think positively about my writing goals. Yes, we are only eighteen days into 2016. I expect my blog will have lots of highs and lows expressed here.

Today at work we did an exercise where you share your goals and whatnot with your coworkers, and one question was “What’s holding you back?” or something along those lines. Well, really, it’s me. I’m holding myself back, and simultaneously motivating myself and tearing myself down is exhausting.

Part of this is because I’ve actually talked to people about writing. This is wonderful! This is great! I’m trying to tell my introversion to chill out and share my passions with people I work with, and friends and acquaintances online. Co-workers have asked to read the project I’m currently focused on, and others have offered to look at parts of it for me. They ask how my writing is going, and if I’ve written, what I’ve written. I’m incredibly touched by this, but also scared, because the things we create can feel so private and personal, and once you share something it’s out there forever, even if you only share with one person. It’s not just yours anymore. It is uplifting and intimidating that people are interested in what I’m doing.

This is where the second part of my struggle comes in, because I start being mean to myself. “You’ll never be as good as all your favorite authors, so why are you even trying? Why are you still putting words together when they’ll all a pile of crap? You suck at description, and your pacing is terrible, so you might as well give up. You are never going to be as good as any other writer you know, so just stop and save yourself the time and frustration.”

It is a horrible mindset, and one I find myself in frequently. When I get like this, I remind myself that stories happen in stages. My current pass through it will not be the final one. I can go back and work more on the description and fill it in after I’ve made a more structured first draft. I know that I will go through the revision process a few more times, and that my first attempt is not supposed to create a flawless, beautiful shining product. I know this, and yet I expect this of myself, because I want to tell stories and move people the way I’ve been moved by my favorite stories.

I need to take my own advice and stop comparing myself to others.