It’s been a strange year. I still can’t believe my dad is gone, and it’s been almost a year since his diagnosis and ten months since he died. This whole year has passed in a surreal blur, I can barely remember what I was doing this year. Probably because, aside from an amazing three week vacation with my girlfriend back in August, I didn’t do much of anything these past nine months.

I’ve allowed everything that’s important to me to just stagnate, my blog, my relationships, my career. I haven’t worked on an original story in over a year, and as I’m sure you’ve noticed, my blog updates have been few and far between. You’d think that the death of my father would remind me how precious time is and to use it wisely, but instead I’ve been wasting time binging on Netflix or playing old games I’ve played a dozen times over.

I’ve been wasting my time. In fact I’ve been wasting my time for yearsThe honest to goodness truth of the matter is that I could have written several books by now, or made this blog have daily updates. I could have done any number of things in the years I’ve wasted.

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Netflix isn’t going to watch itself, after all.

Why does this happen? Why do I simultaneously love writing and yet fear actually sharing anything I write? Fear of rejection is the most obvious answer, but as a friend of mine recently pointed out, last year when I tried my left-handed writing experiment, I didn’t stop writing when I got bad criticism. I stopped when I received positive feedback. People wanted more, and for some reason that scared me off. It was the same thing that happened after my Mass Effect 3 Ending article, rather than capitalize on the fact that tens of thousands of new readers were suddenly flooding my tiny little blog, I fell back and allowed it to stagnate until the reader numbers came down to a normal level.

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Whew, good thing they put that sign up. I almost drove right into it.

This has been a pattern that has been repeating itself for far too long.

When people ask me for writing, at first I’m happy to give it to them. A good friend of mine asked me to write a small play last year. Back in August someone asked me to write a character for a Fallout 4 mod. Three years ago my friends at Ara’Kus asked me to write a series of short stories to flesh out their fictional world.

I wrote the play and when I gave it to my friend, he loved it, it needed some tweaking, but he loved it. I should have felt elation, I should have felt accomplished. Instead, I felt like garbage.

I wrote the first part of the character for that Fallout 4 mod and sent it to the guy who asked for it. Again, he said he liked what I had so far. It took me weeks to pick it back up again and start finishing it (in fact I finished it just prior to writing this article).

And three years ago I wrote a short story about an assassin. Everyone said they loved it, including a man who’s been an artist and has taught artists for decades… I never wrote another short story for them.

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Because, again, Netflix ain’t gonna watch itself!

The worst incident though? The absolute worst? When I was 19 I wrote a story as part of my High School Project, which was a requirement for graduation. It was basically an assignment to write a story and go through the publishing process. I wrote that story, it was almost 25,000 words long and I submitted it to the Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine. Several weeks later they mailed it back to me with a rejection letter that read:

“The story didn’t quite work for us, but keep writing!” Or something to that effect, I unfortunately didn’t keep it.

I also let several friends and family read it, they all loved it as well, but they agreed that in my attempt to keep it under 25,000 words for publication purposes I had shortchanged the story and characters. I needed to lengthen it into a novel.

I never touched that story again. And somewhere along the line, I lost both the print copies and digital copy I kept.

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That was a close one. Thank God they have these signs up everywhere.

I hope none of this comes across as humble-bragging, because that’s not my intention. I’m just trying to sort out this mess, and putting it here on my blog seems like the most appropriate place. I want to understand why I react like this, and this is cheaper than a therapist.

And it’s not like I’m somehow craving negative feedback, I’m sure if everyone told me how crap everything was I’d feel awful.

I think it’s because, deep down, I feel like a fraud. When I first start writing something for someone, I’m okay, I get it done. It’s when I finally let them read it, and they end up liking it, because that’s not how it’s supposed to go.

“NO!” I want to scream. “You’re not supposed to like it! You’re supposed to hate it! Reveal me for the fraud I am! I don’t know what the hell I’m doing! I can’t write! Don’t you see, I’m a charlatan! A conman! You’re in the Matrix man, and I’m the shitty, overly verbose Architect!”

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Listen to Charlton Heston! My writing is people! IT’S PEOPLE!

You weren’t supposed to like it, that’s the problem. I wrote it wanting you to hate it, to tell me to give up, to confirm what I’ve been telling myself for years: I have nothing to contribute, no talent, and no purpose.

I had this whole brilliant plan for finally giving myself permission to give up. And you all had to go fuck it up by liking my writing. Jesus. Some people have no consideration.

So thank you. Thank you to my family, my friends, and everyone who continues to read this blog despite my repeated attempts to subtly kill it with inactivity. Despite my subconscious attempts to sabotage myself, you’ve kept me trucking along in my futile quest to write something so bad you’ll all tell me to quit.

For the past week I’ve been going to the local library to write, and getting out of my little room has done wonders for my writing. I was lucky if I averaged a thousand words a week before. In the past week I’ve written 12,000, and that’s just since Monday.

I hope I can keep it up.

And  I hope you all keep reading.

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Written by John Stevenson

I'm a freelance writer based out of Seattle, Washington.

2 comments

  1. John, you continue to blow me away with your expressive writing! I remember that story….and why it needed to be a novel instead of a short story. I hope you can find a way to be ok with being ok…sometimes that’s hard to do but keep trying!

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