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A Writer Gone Mad: At a Loss for Words

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On a quiet evening two days before its deadline, I sit here trying to complete an application for one of the most pre-eminent writing fellowships in the country. With all the verbiage I can usually muster, I am stumped on the one page statement of plans that all applicants are required to submit. The simple question of “what do I plan to do if I get this fellowship?” has me stumped. Of course I can answer it. I will have a party to celebrate my accomplishment but then I will write, write, and write some more. But that is only one line. They’d like a page full of fanciful things to flow across the page like the perfection of a single rose. Depressed, I’ve written several different statements. Here is my latest one as I fall into a further depression of self-deprecation. Read on.

During the course of the past year I have spent many days, nights and weekends writing what I hoped would be the next great work of fiction. Having finished my first draft just last month, I am taking the mandatory time off before embarking on the tireless rounds of edits and rewrites to bring this work of my blood, sweat, and tears to perfection. Being the good little writer I have been writing poetry, short stories, playing with ideas for a second novel and blogging to my hearts delight during this hiatus.

The writer writes, as they say, sharpening my skills, honing my art. Yet there is a problem and it rears its ugly tenses use whenever I pick up any of my manuscripts for a read-through, edits, or self-critique. I hate it. Every now and again, I smile at a great sentence or paragraph but in the end it’s not the good lines that matter to me. The next line is crap and I’m overcome with self-loathing. The ideas in of themselves are not bad, but I hate my word usage, my flow, my voice—everything is utterly detestable.

Do I aspire to the heights of the greats? Do I dare hope to create masterpieces of fiction that move the soul like Handel, Bach, Mozart or Beethoven? Define lives, careers, and generations such as Hemingway, Poe, Hughes, Wilde, Shakespeare or Wolff. Of course. I aim to create a new bar, a new form. Groundbreaking. A path that is different and distinct from any other, uninterested in copycatting or stealing from anyone else.

Will I stumble upon my greatness somewhere along the way or is my suffering in vain? Leaving me only with hateful manuscripts and detestable prose littered with unbelievable characters and empty shells? Too self-conscious to find the honesty in any of it, yet unable to drop my pretenses as I claim to have none? I over-describe and underwhelm. Perhaps if I could attach a batch of my yummy organic chocolate chip cookies and my bright white smile to my pages, then others wouldn’t be so quick to detect the lack thereof.

Will two years of non-stop writing uncover my genius? Mediocre or an okay prose is not good enough. Having sidestepped the eminent stereotypes of what I should be, can my type-A, workaholic, overachiever personality be the foundation and drive that propels my art into pure beauty to all whose eyes fall upon it? Or will my impatience and self-loathing drive me to mediocrity and failure. Only opportunity and time will tell.

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