Thursday, December 23, 2010

Beware the Contagion

Scanning the interwebs this morning, I noticed that it seems like there's a rash spreading like a bad case of poison ivy.  Now, I don't know if you can really catch something across the internet, but this seems to be a contagion of some sort, so beware.  It sounds like a debilitating malady and I sure as hell don't want to come down with it - especially not so close to the new year.

What the hell am I talking about, you say?

Some people call it The Squirms.  Over at Killer Chicks, Joann referred to it as Suck Filteritis - wherein, if I read it correctly, one's suck filter breaks down and the feeling of total suckage comes pouring through.  Whatever you call it, the contagion has the ability to wipe a writer out.

And it spreads.

It starts out with a little niggle of self doubt.  "This sentence sucks."  Then it grows.  "I can't write this scene."  And grows.  "I can't believe how bad this is."  If left untreated, a small case of it can turn into full blown Writer's Block.

Back in 2005, I caught a bad case of it from the rejection letters off my first book.  I hated myself and everything I wrote.  Partway through my second book, I just stopped writing.  I didn't write a damn thing for nine months.  It was like being pregnant.  I was moody and bitchy and bloated with words.  The only difference was there wasn't a biological clock ticking down where I knew eventually the pregnancy would be over and I'd have something beautiful to show for all my suffering. 

In my case, I had to force a delivery.  PUSH!  And the words eventually popped out.  The contagion had turned my words into malformed monsters, but they were at least coming out again. 

Okay, enough of that analogy.  I'm grossing myself out.  The point here is this contagion thing is awful and needs to be taken care of at the first signs.  Kill it quick before it spreads.  Because the longer you leave it, the worse it gets. 

How do you kill it?

In my case, it took a wise person telling me to give myself permission to suck.  (Sorry, I don't remember exactly which wise person.  It was years ago, after all.)  Now when I feel the disease taking over, telling me how much I and all my writing sucks, I acknowledge my suckitude.  I embrace the suckage and move on.  I can always fix the crap later, but I can't fix a damn thing if I don't put words down on paper. 

And when I've finished and it still sucks?  Well, I haven't experienced that yet.  I figure if it still sucks after I'm done with the edits, then I haven't edited enough, or I'm too close to it to see the way to fix it.  I put it away and hope to come back to it someday.  (Like the manuscript I call Justice - my attempt at writing a mystery.  It's 80% done with editing.  Maybe someday I'll see the way to fix it and actually finish it.)

So, how about you?  Are you feeling the first niggles of the contagion?  Is there something about the end of the year that makes this crud creep up on the writerly populous?  What do you do to kill the disease?


  1. OMG - thank you for the diagnosis, B.E. I've been suffering from this off and on (can it be reoccuring, does it go into remission only to grow in intensity and devastation when it resurfaces?) for years. Yes, right after I started getting all my rejection letters - oh, and being unable to see my way clear of all the rules/trends/advice to finish a second, third, fourth or fifth attempts of novel writing.

    Now, to find the anecdote (I've tried the medicine that has helped you recover, to no avail). Maybe I'll ask Santa :) Or find a 12 step program ;)

  2. Sometimes the only cure is having an objective someone tell you that you don't suck. And loved ones don't count because when you're this sick, their encouragement just sounds like patronizing.

    Having read the little story you put up on Tuesday, I'm going to tell you something... YOU DON'T SUCK. so there. =op

  3. Oh man, this is possibly the best post I've ever read. It's so true, too! I fell into this a few years ago, when I'd finished and started revising my first novel. Now, I'm not overly fond of revising to begin with, but as it was the first project I'd ever revised, I thought the pain was normal. I thought the sheer insurmountability of the project was normal.

    It took me about a year to admit defeat--the novel was neither good nor publishable nor worth saving.

    So aside from the requisite (albeit helpful) short story assignments in the three CW courses I took in college, I wrote NOTHING until I graduated. It didn't feel good, either. RIP, dark days of 2006-09. (But I am proud of myself for wrestling my college career into three and a half years instead of four. Conciliatory prize, I guess.)

    Anyway, I hope I never have it again. It's like a perpetual sinkhole. You just can't. Get. Out. This year, though, I'm feeling good; I've got a few dangling possibility carrots, if you will, and I'm about to start my MFA, which makes me SUPER-excited. And nervous! But mainly excited!

    Let's ban together against end-of-year blues. :)

  4. I'm always battling a little of this contagion--especially when it comes time to send pages to ze agent and wait for her reaction. But I have some awesome CPs who are awesome cheerleaders and they know just how to keep me going and beat back the "I suckitis"

    Great post. Have a lovely, lovely week! :)

  5. Ack! Good to know it is a condition though and not just a reality! Makes it a lot better! Thanks B.E.!

  6. I feel like I just stumbled into a doctor's office with self diagnosed appendicitis only to find out it's a bad case of gas. You mean this contagion actually passes?

    I've been struggling to write since before NaNo this year. Now I can't seem to even open my PK document without feeling completely paralyzed. Perhaps it is only the holidays. Perhaps there is light at the end of the tunnel that is the lingering remnants of 2010. Perhaps I should stop browsing writer blogs and actually get back to focusing.