Mad Girl

Like many a good college girl in 1988, I wrote a paper about Sylvia Plath. About one paper, my professor wrote

You combine striking images (of your own & from Plath) with some careful assessment of this love-and-hate affair. I appreciate your moving beyond the easy Freudian interpretations of a life, which in its complexity, transcends father/daughter paradigms and clinical stereotypes. You treat her whole life without simplification of it.

How about that? (Have you kept any college papers?)

In 1989, my mother wrote

I know how much you admire Sylvia Plath’s writings, & I naturally worry about you because you’re a creative person starting out. I wonder sometimes if you feel pressured by me–& perhaps your father–to be so “O.K.” & “self-motivating.” As if at times don’t feel lost or unsure or just plain scared–of the future, of yourself. If I have nothing else to offer you, it would be to tell you to be yourself & forget about what I want or think of you.

Still, now, my head spins like this

Oh! I’m done with this story, I like this story I’ve written. Wait. Is it done? Do I like it because I’m a delusional egomaniac or is it good? Maybe I think it’s bad because I’m insecure and can’t judge my own work. I’ll have someone else read it. But maybe I’m just looking for compliments. No. I want criticism. But what if they say my story is terrible? Maybe they’ll think I’m crazy for thinking I can write anything–what she thinks this is good? But what if they say something nice? Are they being nice? And am I manipulating people into saying nice things? Maybe I’m sabotaging myself? Aren’t I smart enough to figure this out for myself? Maybe I’m not done with this story at all? But maybe I’ll edit the life out. Maybe it is a mess. Why doesn’t…

What is it you are waiting to hear to have faith in yourself and what you can do?

7 thoughts on “Mad Girl

  1. Faith in myself? Hmm. I don’t think I’ve ever gone there. I mean, I’ve never really thought of it like that.

    Try this – put your hands on either side of your head – this will stop the spinning. Now, say – out loud – “I am done and I like what I’ve written, and it’s okay! It’s ALL okay!” And then think about what you want to eat for dinner. Seriously, change the tune in your head so that you stop overthinking yourself. If you like it, if you feel you did your best work that you could do on that piece, that’s the most important thing. You can control your thoughts so that you don’t get the head spins anymore. Sometimes you just have to give yourself permission to stop. 🙂 It’s like deciding to fall out of love with someone. It’s a choice, and it can be done. Takes some work and effort, but it can be done.

    Unless you like the head spins – that’s another thing entirely! In which case I recommend a glass of white wine to go with them. 😀

  2. I like the dizzying sensation of that head-spin paragraph. It’s such a familiar place. I don’t quite go through that amount, but I do vacillate. I shift like ocean tides. One day I’m an awesome writer without equal; the next I’m a hack with no business sitting behind a keyboard except to surf pr0n.

    But I don’t know if there IS anything someone could say to make me stop. If they say something complimentary, they’re blowing sunshine up my a$$. If they say something critical, it’s a whole ROUND of questions: Who’re you? You a writer? Lemme see YOUR work — you any good? Do I deem you good? Do I think you know what you’re talking about? Maybe you’re just jealous. I’m better than you, prob’ly … etc. If I can defuse the critic then I go into a HUGE tailspin — OH NOES! I’m SUCKY! I STINK! AAAAAAAHHHH!!!!

    …and so on and so forth.

    So what could anyone say? I don’t know. Even if an AGENT says “This is great!” I’ll counter with, “Yeah, but what’s an EDITOR at a publishing house going to think?”

    *Sigh* It never ends. This is why one must be crazy to be a writer.

  3. I’ve sort of given up on ever having faith in myself. Not in a negative way, it’s just that after my writer’s crisis last year I realized the self-doubt is part of my makeup and only affects my work if I dwell on it; by accepting it as part of myself I’ve taken away its power. Of course, nice comments still feel good and bad comments still hurt, but it’s easier to handle. My goal in writing used to be pleasing other people, thereby garnering nice comments. Now my goal is to finish the damn thing and send it off, let the agent deal with it. I don’t even care if she likes it.

    Having said all that, if hearing “DAW has offered you a 3-book contract” might engender some faith in myself.

    1. Like faith in anything, there must be moments of doubt. Maybe faith is to doubt like light is to dark. Or something silly like that.

      And if you keep showing up to the page, maybe it doesn’t matter.

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