Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Overly ambitious

It's a good way to be, usually. It means placing your goals out of reach, making you strive harder for them, so even if you don't achieve what you were aiming for, you've gone farther than you otherwise might have. It also means letting go of fear and doubt, which is the hardest part. It's easy to dream big and shoot for those your dreams. But we live in a world of second-guessers and people who think 20/20 hindsight is more than just a nasty way to crush those who've done something they, personally, don't think is as good as it could have been.

To be totally up front here -- I'm a vicious 20/20er when it comes to books and movies. I second guess and wonder why this shot was taken that way or why a particular phrase was used when it "obviously" had no reason to be there. My only saving grace in that is, when I like something, when I feel that it's right, I'm solid on it. I'm willing to argue points and, even if no one else agrees with me, shrug off their disagreement. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, god himself couldn't diss my choice.

One example is "Empire of the Sun." It's not considered to be one of Steven Spielberg's best efforts, but I so loved the movie, I saw it every night the first week it was out. I still think it's his best work and have had serious disagreements with those who believe "Schindler's List" or "Saving Private Ryan" are better (and while I can see their point on "Shindler's...", "...Private Ryan" lost me after the first half hour, and I despised the bookends in the cemetery).

The same goes for "Seven Samurai". To me it's a damn near perfect film, and I've already ranted about Rose McGowan's diss of it when she was co-hosting with Robert Osborne on TCM and they showed it.

Anyway, my point is, I've been trying to shift that attitude from my personal preferences to how I approach my writing and art.  And that's been hard as hell to do. I've done the jump off the cliff into unknown waters with "How To Rape A Straight Guy", half due to the title and half due to the fact that I used some very detailed and vicious sex (both gay and straight) to help tell (and, to still be honest, sell) a story of a man's self-destruction and how he comes to realize he's the one who fucked himself out of happiness.

But even after nearly 5 years of it being on the market under my name, I'm conflicted about it and care too much about what people think of me and the book. I went farther than I'd ever thought I could go, but I can't release my hold on the fear and doubt. And this permeated into my work on "Place of Safety". And it's permeating into other projects I have going on. And I'm at a low point in my biorhythms, so it plays deeper on me.

The thing is, that's how I was raised -- to second-guess myself. To think the other guy's opinion has more validity than mine. Because who am I to think I'm better than anyone else? And that is what's hardest to overcome -- an ingrained sense of unworthiness.

I know I'm a good writer and I have characters who seem to come alive off the page, but at the same time I write that sentence, I also tell myself, "But there are lots of better writers out there." And that's where I too often stumble.

I'm going through this, right now, because I'm fighting with my doubt over making a painting to enter into a competition -- a portrait of Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins in "Dark Shadows". I have it worked out and now just need to paint it. I have the canvas. I have the acrylics and brushes. I have seven days left. And I'm fighting myself every step of the way. Who am I to think I can paint a portrait that even looks like Johnny, let alone win this competition?

At least I'm back to fighting. Last night, I damn near waved a white flag, I was so tired of second-guessing it all.

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