Man, what a frustrating week. In the last month, as I cruised along, the frustration bug worked in quite another direction and didn’t bother me. Not so for the last few days. Its time had come for it to spill over me and color my universe with its thick, viscous pigment.
As always, when writing, it is a never-ending job to edit. Many of the authors I count as friends hate editing. It is their most frustrating part of writing. That is not true in my case. I find myself editing more than creating (writing the first draft). That being the case, I find the act of revision just as exciting as the first draft. That is how most of my books find their way. To me, editing needs just as much creativity as the first draft.
My father didn’t do a rough draft and then edit. He once told me he only did one draft, the final one. That always puzzled me. His writing wasn’t excellent, but it was underdeveloped. Given that, he turned out to have some remarkable writing. I still think he would have benefited from editing. I’ll never know.
But enough of that; this blog is about frustration, not creativity.
Everything has the potential to frustrate me. The more passion I have invested, or even connected to a project, the more frustration I have circling the wings like vultures over a kill. The most common source, sadly, is anything to which I look forward.
It sounds like frustration is a killer of everything good and fruitful, but that isn’t so. The word self-control comes to mind. That is the only way for me to counteract it.
Looking back over my education through high school and college, I was horrible at creative writing. There was always something disastrous about the words that came out of my head and crawled onto the paper. They were like worms that slithered into awkward positions. The instruction always followed the same basic format, ending in one last warning that was inevitably there. The instructor wanted us to set our imagination free; let it loose. Then they patted us on our collective heads and told us to run with their assignment, wild and free, the woolier, the better, and we tore off on our charted course, ripping down our inhibitions, letting our creativity run like lemmings to cover the papers.
What happened to me was my lemmings did not land on a sea of papers. Mine jumped from my mind and slipped off the page, utter and abject failures. Instead of creating beautiful worlds or characters, I made up the highly improbable with no consistency. Instead of a two-headed giant, I fashioned a thousand-headed monster with one lopped off. Pretty weak, huh? Instead of some magical world with livable rules and standards, I had a haphazard one that used no regulations, overlooking the most rudimentary logic.
Each foray I worked on, I created implausible things with no continuity. Then the feedback for my works was simply a failing grade accompanied by several question marks. The result of this was a burgeoning belief that I had abominable writing skills.
It wasn’t until later, a long time later, that I found myself immersed in another creative writing course. I’d harassed myself by creating an unending number of retched stories, sometimes two or three at a time, and I gave in to try it again.
The instruction was good, if not a little vanilla. However, there was one thing that shot across my mind like a lit trail of gunpowder, and I automatically grabbed for the illumination. It was a simple phrase, really. “Whatever you do, however you build the story, you must control it. Imagination does no good without control over it.”
Holy shit! That changed everything. Control. What a simple concept.
From that tiny piece of advice came my first coherent story. The name was “Dummy”, and it was about a not very smart boy in the inner city of which everyone took advantage. The story won the best short story in the local contest and later became lost.
The point is that one concept remained elusive to me for years, either because I didn’t hear my teachers’ instructions, or they didn’t explain them correctly. I suffered from frustration because I did not understand how necessary control is, which cost years of my development. It was so significant that I now think of it as Karma. For some reason, I needed to work through that barrier of frustration. So, in that sense frustration is a positive.
I will go further than that.
My failure to understand that concept became one of the hallmarks of the way I write. I try to control everything, no loose ends, except for a planned thread or two to point to an upcoming story. When looking at it like that, I suppose there are no loose ends.
So did frustration block me, or did it help me be the writer I would become? Whatever you think, I say they are related — they both have to do with weathering a time of waiting. And that goes to the heart of what frustration is. Just because frustration holds someone back, does it mean it works against the creative person? Dunno, but it makes sense that I question the condition. Truthfully, it makes me think it is the opposite of patience and yet sometimes it performs the same function.
Often one turns into the other.
Anyway, back to the blog, these past couple of weeks have been frustrating. Part of my frustration during the last couple of weeks connects to the release of Recall. It hits the shelves on July 13. I find myself right at the crux of where a long-time wait slips on an unseen banana peel and starts sliding, quicker by the nanosecond, toward the foreseen goal.
I can feel the excitement building. I sent several notices out via social media and have seen the notifications grow and piggyback on many of my friends’ accounts. To those that helped me out with that, a hearty thanks!
Now, don’t forget, please take a look at the Indies United Publishing House website. Things change there weekly, and you will want to keep up—so many good books to have. Just click here.
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