Let me tell you about the Green and Blue-Eyed Demon(s). Sometimes they’re different, sometimes they’re the same. Sometimes you’ll face one, sometimes the other, sometimes both. They might seem to be your friend, but almost always are actually your worst enemy. They can be a writer’s worst enemy in so many ways. However, I’m getting ahead of myself. First, for some setup for this topic.
I’ve already mentioned (once, twice; maybe three times??) about the recent seminar I attended: great stuff and I learned a lot, much of which I have already shared. At length. Anyways, my wife attended and following the event, we had a nice chat with the event organizer and author, Kim Ventralla. My wife knows her personally and so she came over to talk to us. She discussed my pitch with me and then asked my wife if she was planning to write anything. My wife at first was hesitant and then shared (with both of us as it turned out) that she had been thinking about a story idea that she had never shared and had not had the opportunity to act upon. Then she told us the idea.
It was brilliant.
No, it was perfect. And brilliant.
I was floored by the idea. It was so beautiful and so very much her. I’m not going to share her idea; that’s her right as a writer and I would want to protect her intellectual property, even if I feel it deserves to be shared. That being said, it captivated me, captured me. For a while now I’ve been thinking about it, constantly marveling at it and -in some small way- wistfully wishing I’d had the idea.
And for about the span of thirty seconds, the Green-Eyed Demon reared its head and spoke in my ear. The Green-eyed Demon is that pesky devil who fills your heart with envy and jealousy. It sees reflected in your eyes the success of others and fills your heart with a desire to possess what that other writer has: success, inspiration, talent. It’s evil because it focuses your attention on someone else instead of yourself. When you’re paying attention to the accomplishments of others, craving their success or their abilities, then you’re not really paying attention to improving yourself or your own work. Except when you are. Sometimes, despite the demon’s best (worst?) efforts, you don’t get envious, you get inspired. Yes, you see Writer X or Book X and you want what they have or what they’ve done, but you focus on the effort to gain that, not on the absence of it.
For myself, the Green-Eyed Demon was powerless. I love my wife’s idea and inspiration, her genius, but I know from my own efforts that any success one of us experiences is shared. I could not have been able to write even what I have written so far without my wife’s help and support. When I finish my novel, she will be right there, giving me her input and editorial skills. When I successfully sign the novel, she’ll share in my success. The same holds true when she writes her novel and experiences her own success. We’ll share it. And she’ll write that novel. Oh yes, she will.
But if the Green-Eyed Demon can’t snag you, it calls on its sibling (or it transforms; invent your own mythology here…I don’t care) the Blue-Eyed Demon. No, it’s not a handsome demon. It’s perhaps the worse of the two demons. More insidious and destructive than a demon of jealousy is one of despair. Envy can drive and inspire you -if at times destructively- but despair is the worst enemy of creation and inspiration. It saps your will, filling your head with variations of ‘why didn’t I?’ and (worse) ‘why can’t I?’. Extreme self-doubt is perhaps an author’s worst and most persistent foe. Jealousy and envy we can deal with. Hell, they might be the reason we became a writer. We see something someone else is doing, successfully, and want that success, that satisfaction.
Despair on the other hand turns nectar to treacle on our tongues. It sours everything and bleaches all color from our minds and hearts. It makes small obstacles seem insurmountable. It makes ‘stopping’ easier and ‘starting’ harder. It whispers in your ear that you’ll never be good enough and definitely never equal to that elusive ‘other’. It makes you stare balefully and with condemnation at your own work, instead of simply with a critical, evaluating glance.
Despair is an addictive habit. It doesn’t demand more, like the Green-eyed Demon does. Instead, It suggests you try less. ‘Trying’ is hard and wrought with disappointment and failure. ‘Not trying’ can never disappoint you. No one will laugh at your work or criticize it if you never show it to them. No agent or editor or publisher will send you a nasty (or even polite) rejection letter if you never submit that query to them. It’s less scary if you do things its way: do less, try less, risk less. Statistics and experience are on its side. The internet is littered with the tales of woe of a legion of would-be writers, lamenting their tribulations. Who wants that pain and suffering, that disappointment?
Especially when your wife is so much better than you? Even her pitch is ten times better than the two-thirds of a novel you’ve done so far! Or so the Blue-Eyed Demon whispered to me in the dark moments we all try to forget. Personally, I’m more prone to depression and despair and so it was a little more effective than its other self, but only slightly. Ultimately, I recognized that my idea is unique and distinct from my wife’s. Hers is brilliant, yes, but my story tells.. well… my story, the one inside. As a writer, you have to respect yourself enough to take all that envy and all that despair and craft those feelings into something constructive and useful. I do not feel bad for envying my wife nor despairing at her imagination. She inspires me (as she so frequently does) to be a better me, both personally and professionally. At the end of this current journey, I’ll be a wiser, better writer.
I’m writing this book because -while I want to share it- I primarily just feel the need to get it out of me, on paper. Do I want others to read it? Of course. Do I want loyal readers who hunger for my next book? Yes, I do. Would I love to see it made into a kick-ass movie or maybe a premium channel mini-series a la Game of Thrones? Oh, most definitely yes. If none of that happens and I am left with a nicely bound series of nine books with my name on it and -perhaps- the respect and appreciation of my family? That’s fine too.
We can always live off the fat residuals my wife will get for her absolutely perfect, beautiful and genius book. Suck that demons.