Fear, Loathing and the Great American Novel in One Take

or, What the Hell have I done?

I still haven’t figured out what it us about myself that makes me think I’m a writer. The ideas about what to write come in floods and I try to capture them in my mind, but they are washed away as quickly as they occur. The floods come and go and are cleared away by the tide. Nothing seems to stick long enough to be developed and then the worrying about my decision sets in. What is it that makes me think I can earn a living doing something so important? And then I have it nailed down, if only for a moment. Maybe it’s just a false sense of self-importance, as if everyone will flock to my ideas and will want desperately to read more. Fuck.

If that’s all it is, I’ve made a horrible mistake. I am inspired so deeply by a well-crafted paragraph, a well turned sentence. It is visceral and I can feel it in my bones the same way a frisson of energy hits me when the ecstatic part of a live symphony cascades over a room and everybody feels the same thing at the same moment. It’s that deeply rooted. I want to create at that level, but I don’t want to do the work to get there. I want to sit down, write the Great American Novel in One Take and then retire to my villa in the mountains. What is it that makes me think I can do this? The doubt is overwhelming and the work is so daunting. How does anybody do this for a living? Self doubt is the worst of all doubts.

I walked away from a job where I was universally respected and even sought after — at the very least, those who didn’t respect me envied me. But that wasn’t enough and I decided to “become” a writer, at any cost. Here I sit nearly thirty days after quitting that job. The offers to go back to something similar are rolling in and past clients and contacts throw offers at my feet, yet I stubbornly hold fast and write nothing. I have read three novels, countless “how to be a successful writer” posts, signed up for a ridiculous program encouraging me to write the very same crap I toss in the recycling (from the mailbox to the recycling box) — direct mail ads screaming for the attention of the sad and lonely, taken long walks with the dog. I have set up a business account through which to run the revenues I have yet to recognize and I have set up a routine of working out and meditating (to calm my mind). I have even tried day drinking to get the old creative juices flowing. Yet none of these things have resulted in my writing the Great American Novel in One Take (hereinafter called the GANIOT). I mean, really? Is this so much to ask?

I have even gone so far as to join Medium.com. This is a place for serious writers! It is clear that I am neither snarky nor clever enough to join the great pantheon of writers here. (Is anybody else bothered by the fact that really talented writers are spending a LOT of time just being sarcastically snarky about less talented writers?) NOW I know why I’m afraid! What if a really talented writer spends twenty minutes taking me down? OK, I’m going back to my day job. NO! The GANIOT is not going to write itself, damn it!

Okay, I’ll own it. It’s simply fear. I have the most amazing story to tell. It’s full of crime and punishment, sex and drugs, unrequited love, amazing luck, friendship, and now this. The incurably self-conscious dude who quit his day job at the height of his career to join the pantheon (working title). I can’t even decide whether or not to use the fucking Oxford comma. How will I ever feed myself by creating ideas and sentences, paragraphs and chapters? How does anybody do it? If I were still at my day job, I suppose I would ask the person at the other end of the conversation to state clearly what goal they were trying to reach and then tell them that without that goal firmly in place there was little use in setting out. I would tell them that if you were heading out on the ocean with no pre-determined destination, you might just find yourself needing rescue in about sixty days. I might also tell the person that if at least there IS a clearly defined goal in mind that they still only had a small chance of making the goal, but that at least they knew where they had been headed and could then use the information learned to make the next try.

So there is the answer for the GANIOT! I know I want to write something worthy of peoples’ time and I want it to be effortless and universally accepted. There is failure number one. Just sitting down to bang out this little trifle took effort and I am starting to think I will have to redact the IOT from my GAN. But I will do nearly anything not to have to return to a regular day job, tail tucked squarely between my legs. I’m ready to sell everything and to try the life of an artist, a creator and to take the snarky sarcasm of those more talented than myself who bothered to write a twenty-minute takedown. That shit is small.

Maybe I am a writer after all.

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