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don’t try this at home

When a cockroach runs across the bathroom floor, do not think you are a gymnast on the parallel bars. The towel rack will come out of the wall, anchors and all, leaving four holes and torn wallpaper. You will hit the ground shoulder first. The stool you sit on while you fix your hair will fall on you. Bits of drywall will fall on you and coat the floor. You will have bruises on your shin, a pulled muscle in your thigh, a terrific bruise on your lower back, a bruise on your elbow, a pulled muscle from your elbow to your shoulder, tiny cuts on your fingers, a bruise on the back of your neck, and pulled muscles in both shoulders. It will hurt every time you turn your head. For about ten minutes you will fell like vomiting. For much longer you will feel like an idiot.

Amazing the power of a 2 1/2 inch cockroach.

When I let people read my work, I have moments of panic. A desire to escape as if there is some trick to escaping myself. But usually the long list of excuses for why everything is still not right just leads to looking more foolish. I’m tired and in pain and wondering why I can’t pull off the published author trick. Hey, I’m not a gymnast.

Lately the why-aren’t-you-published question is akin to the why-are-you-in-pain question. The cockroach answer is as embarrassing, but more people understand it.

If publication is a goal, what holds you back?

You could say that publication isn’t necessary. You could also say I should’ve just mushed the cockroach. But I don’t actually believe either of those statements.

11 thoughts on “don’t try this at home

  1. Speaking of unreasonable panic… I too have become unreasonably afraid of those 2 1/2 inch cucarachas. Not the regular little german cockroaches that I knew in NYC, but the huge, prehistoric looking palmetto bugs that you find in Florida. The one’s that will fly at your hair, the ones that make tiny “click-clicking” noises as they walk across your bedroom in the middle of the night, the ones that don’t die when you hit them, unless you hit them so hard they squoosh ucky white goo everywhere. The ones that will grab your finger even after they are dead, when you reach into the shadows to pick up what you thought was a toy. I still can imagine the feel of those little legs attaching themselves to my finger. *shudder*

    Uhm, what? Why so much love for cockroach hate????

    Because it’s easier than understanding my fear of showing my writing to the people who know what good writing is. My fiction, specifically. AFRAID to show it to people who write. AFRAID to show it to my college writing professors. AFRAID to show it to agents and publishers and other industry folk who could actually take me to my goal of being a published author?

    Why am I so afraid? Don’t know. Perhaps I am afraid, that if I try, if I show my work, I will find out that my dream of being a published novelist is a fantasy because I’m just not good enough….

    I don’t know. But I’m with you.

  2. The last time I saw a cockroach, I hyperventilated and sobbed. My husband had to take care of it for me. I want someone to take care of my publishing for me too, so I think you’re on to something. 😉

  3. Wow, Marta. Wow. You see what you did there, in that first paragraph? You actually told a complete story — without using the usual “First this, then that, then the other thing” conventions. You didn’t even really (really) describe a setting, or any of the characters, and there’s no dialogue. But it’s all there — just like you knew, intuitively, that the reader would fill in all the gaps if you just hit the right detail notes.

    And btw, I could say the same sort of thing about Rowena’s little blog-entry pearls. (She plays her fiction pretty close to the vest, so that’s hard to judge.) If I didn’t have a pretty good idea that the two of you really do worry about this stuff — that you don’t actually know how good you are — I’d swear you were both nuts. 🙂

    Saw a bit last night of a re-run from the Malcolm in the Middle sitcom. One of the sons in the family was taking driver ed, and was frustrated because his instructor never actually gave him a turn behind the wheel. Finally, through a series of mishaps, he not only got behind the wheel but led about a dozen police cars on a low-speed chase on a freeway, followed by news cameras (his family got to watch the whole thing on TV). It culminated in his driving back to the training/testing course — the one with all the orange cones and other obstacles — and executing, in one smooth quick movement, a perfect parallel-park job… although he’d never done it before.

    Watching that is what it’s like sometimes here — to read a real-life or fictional story, and then read your sincere concerns about being a writer with an uncertain future.

  4. P.S. I’ve got some good cockroach stories, too, from both NY and Florida. In one of them — which I got from my brother, who lived in Brooklyn while studying architecture — after he turned out the light at bedtime, on an evening when he’d made dinner using ground meat, he could actually hear the little white foam tray in which the meat had been packed settling in the kitchen trash can.

    Yes, under the weight of—

    Oh, never mind. I’m sure you can fill in the blanks there!

  5. Oh my gosh! Those cockroaches! Spiders too. Amazingly powerful little creatures, aren’t they?

    You had me in stitches at that one. 😀

    Fear is a powerful motivator for many things, both positive and negative. It may be that you really don’t want to be published, or you would just rather go the self-publishing route rather than face agents and all the stuff that comes with it. Why are you writing? Well, writers write to be read, but how big of an audience do you want? If size doesn’t matter that much to you, self-publishing may be a solution for you.

    If you want more, it may be time to cowboy up and face those fears down. What’s the worst that could happen, right?

  6. I know exactly how you feel. There’s something about writing that makes you feel so exposed. The reality is that criticism isn’t personal, and has no reflection on your worth as a person. But in the moment, it sure feels like it does.

    Good luck with publication! I’m going to check out your story as soon as I get a chance.

  7. If it’s a 2.5″ cockroach, you are justified in momentarily thinking you are a gymnast. When I was six, I once saw my mother leap from a flat-footed stance onto the kitchen counter because she saw a mouse. And the screaming made my ears bleed. It’s amazing how the hind brain hijacks one’s thinking brain.

    As for why people aren’t published, there’s fear of success, fear that you’ll be found out as a fraud (say for example if you have a two-book deal and you are afraid you don’t have it in you), and fear of having to speak in public/promote yourself. There’s fear you will be thought snobby or above yourself/immodest. There are so many fears. And I think that’s perhaps the love of the process, too. Just loving to fiddle can keep a lot of people from actually finishing anything. And that MIGHT be a bit of dysfunctional perfectionisn at work, too.

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