It’s Time to Say Goodbye…
For the longest time, I’ve wanted to write an epic modern literary fiction novel. Some writers believe that only two types of people want to write novels — those who appreciate the craft and want to create good literature and those wannabes who think they can be the next rich and famous author of popular fiction. I thought of myself as a writer in the first category, since I wanted to create multi-dimensional and dynamic characters unlike any other character in literature along with a compelling storyline with subtle nuances and varied perspectives that grasp the complexity of human nature and their interactions with their darkest selves, others, spirituality, nature, art, and the rest of the world around them.
And indeed, I did complete a novel in school. However, I felt it wasn’t good enough for publication and I needed more practice to refine my craft. And I thought that writing a second novel after graduating from college would be the perfect time to release something so profound yet written in a simple and engaging manner will shock, enlighten, and delight audiences who have entirely different interests yet all share in the same human experience.
But that aspiration slowly turned into an addiction — subtle at first, yet it was eating away at me for days without end. I tried to force words to come out, but they never did. I wrestled with an identity crisis because I thought I was expected to write a great novel to make up for my lack of connections and lack of finding success in the “real” world, and I panicked at the thought that I would die without having ever produced a grand, epic masterpiece. I even ascribed my own moral superiority on the fact I have the potential of writing great modern literary fiction and do something more meaningful with my life than just eat, watch TV, pay bills, shop, and sleep. However, I knew deep down that I was far more interested in what others would see me as instead of the actual writing itself. I thought that writing a novel would save me from my feelings of unworthiness and give me a competitive edge in life. But the truth is, it won’t.
Every time I walk into a bookstore, I leave empty-handed. I don’t buy fictional books because I haven’t found stories that interested me (plus, dropping $20 on a book that I’ll only read once just wasn’t practical). I started to get bored with fiction when I was in college and became more interested in blogging and poetry.
How can I expect others to care about my novel, if I don’t care about others’ novels? I haven’t read any fiction at all for the past year simply because the books that “make it to the top” are pushed for one of two purposes — to entertain (gratify fleshly desires) or to indoctrinate. And a lot of obscure indie fiction books have plots that are either trite or pretentious with not much in between.
It’s sad to think that so many writers out there think they will produce the next great American novel (and don’t get me started on the next great British novel), but many of them will reach the end of their lives, languishing in obscurity and all the feelings that come with it — despair, sickness, self-loathing, vengeance, and ill feelings towards others who belittled them. Some people claim that writing a novel does make them happy, but for me, it did not. All it did for me was brought out feelings of insecurity, jealousy, anger at the world as it is, and desperation for anything that would validate my existence. All unhealthy obsessions which lead me further away from what I actually did enjoy — types of writing that help me focus on the present reality, as opposed to writing that draws my attention towards the uncertainties of the future.
And now I’ve come to say goodbye to a lifelong dream of mine. The dream of writing an epic novel and all the accolades that could potentially come with it. The dream of writing a literary fiction masterpiece and all the external validations from strangers and acquaintances alike. And though I feel that a part of me just died, I know that this is the best decision. I know I’ll be happier focusing on poetry, blogging, and songwriting instead of locking myself in a dark room writing thousands and thousands of words and having to start all over again draft after draft, knowing very well that novel writing won’t pay for my health insurance, car insurance, or car maintenance, let alone food (but that’s beside the point). At least I know I’m being honest with myself and it’s such a relief to have this off my back. No longer will I be attached to or infatuated with the idea of something. No longer will I beat myself over the head for not crossing the finish line faster than other writers. No longer will I constantly compare myself to others who have what I don’t. Instead, I’ll be more focused on what comes naturally to me and what helps me be more aware of the present. It’s a good goodbye and with certainty, I can say that I am glad I have come to recognize it and put an end to false hopes.
This doesn’t mean that I’m completely ruling out fiction writing though. It’s just no longer going to be my number one priority in life. I don’t need to pressure myself write an epic 1,000-page magnum opus before the age of 25 or assess the value of my self-worth based on how much greater a work is perceived in comparison to other works. I could write a simple, yet compelling and profound novella or even a collection of short stories. I could die having published one work of short fiction and still die happy. I’ve come to realize that in the grand scheme of things, nobody cares whether or not I write millions of words over the course of a lifetime or just a few hundred thousand — the most important thing is to get my work out there, instead of trying so hard to be perfect and not able to complete anything. An 8/10 that’s complete is far better than an 11/10 that will never see the light of day.
Originally published at https://christinefchen.com/blog/2018/6/14/its-time-to-say-goodbye