Interesting times I live in right now. All in all I feel pretty good about where my writing is going – I’m having new conversations, I’m seeing things in a new way, etc. It feels like stuff is starting to happen for me, and that’s a toweringly awesome feeling. So I don’t wanna sound like an overly negative yutz or anything, because I’m in a good place with the whole “journey to publication” thing. In fact I’m probably annoying people with how good I feel about it – occasionally I send an email or have a conversation with somebody and a few moments later wonder if I was being a preening, strutting donkeybutt, talking about how great things are and how happy I am with my progress, tacitly inviting someone to backhand me across the face or drive a knee into my fleshy parts.
Over the last couple of days, however, I’ve had more than a few moments in which I think “oh crap, am I just a big fraud? I mean, there are people who really know how to do this, and they’re way better than me.” Yeah yeah, these extreme confidence swings are commonplace for writers, I know…they are, aren’t they? You have them too, don’t you? JUST SAY YES…
The thing that’s causing this annoying (if less-than-fatal) lapse in confidence is Francisco X. Stork’s superb YA novel, MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD. I will lay off on any discussion of whether it should have won a certain award beginning with the letter “P” and rhyming with the word “Blintz” – instead, I’ll just say that I don’t believe it’s possible to write a better novel than this. I usually cringe a bit at statements like that because seriously, this writing stuff really and truly is subjective. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, etc. I recently had a Facebook exchange about how many of those spirit-killing Disney-flavored princess / mermaid / fairy / unprogressive / death-on-a-stick books I should buy for my daughter – she loves those insipid things, and I try not to judge her because hey, I read Alan Dean Foster’s original Star Wars novel SPLINTER OF THE MIND’S EYE about 500 times when I was a kid, who am I to judge? People have accused me of reading crap pretty much my whole life, so seemingly objective judgments like “oooh, nobody can write a better book than blah-de-blah” chap my hide. I don’t care for the work of either Thomas Hardy or J.D. Salinger, which makes me a bit of a Philistine in the eyes of some. So be it!
But I’m reading MARCELO and it’s ripping my mind up into feathery little scraps and assembling them into a collage with a jar of paste made from the innards of some spectacular beast that dwells among the stars and craps out visions of the pure, essential truth of what it means to be alive in this cold and uncaring universe. Such a good book. I have boundless respect for the work of Francisco X. Stork, and will lay hands on a copy of THE LAST SUMMER OF THE DEATH WARRIORS as soon as I can. And of course the stunning fabulousness of MARCELO is making me feel a smidge insecure about my own work.
There’s a limit to the insecurity, because like I said earlier, I also feel godlike and powerful about my writing these days – my confidence is as high as it’s ever been. But it’s natural to have this kind of “oh crap I am such a colossal LOSER, I should just go put my head in the oven right now” reaction after tasting the greatness of another writer’s wordy souffle, is it not? Don’t cry for me, Argentina, I’ll be fine. But I seriously doubt I’ll ever write something as profound, moving and distinct as MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD. That is one particular bar I’ll never rise to. And that’s okay. Yes, it gives me the occasional urge to put on a hair shirt and lash myself with a thorn-festooned club while bemoaning my comparative lack of gravitas, but I’ll resist. I think. Hopefully. No, really. Where’s my hair shirt? I MEAN AAGH I’LL RESIST I WILL
In itchy sartorial splendor,