I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
I take myself too seriously.
I know. This is a complete an utter shock to you.
I’ve always been that way, from the time I was little. When I was a kid in elementary school, I didn’t understand other kids my age, and instead of playing on the playground I sought out my teachers to hang out with them and have grown up conversation. Yeah, I was that kid. Total loner. Socially awkward. Because I was lousy with social stuff and sports stuff and dance stuff and lots of normal kid stuff, I tended to retreat to academic stuff. I was really good with academic stuff. Books and learning stuff were logical. They made sense. People didn’t. Which may be one of the reasons I went into psychology. To try to make them make sense. (In fact, they just became a bigger, more interesting and fascinating puzzle).
College totally reinforced the seriousness with lectures and seminars and honors programs and guys who thought I was hot because I was smart (and wasn’t that a delightful change from high school where boys were terrified of me for the same reason). I always imagined I’d marry some guy who was equally serious. And in fact, I married a comedian. He’s equally smart, but he’s a total ham and joker and, most importantly, he makes me laugh and generally forces me not to take myself too seriously. This is absolutely vital to my mental health.
Since I attack, well, pretty much EVERYTHING I do with serious determination and study, it’s no surprise that I approach writing the same way. Once I made the shift from hobbyist to professional mentally, I wanted to work smarter (I can’t say “not harder” because I really don’t know what that’s like), so I began learning about plotting and ultimately story structure. And it was a God-send. Suddenly I could see where stuff wasn’t working, what I needed. The map to fix it. I have worksheets and blueprints and so many copies of story structure stuff, higlighted and underlined and sticky tabbed. And religiously using it to figure out my plot on the front end has been GREAT, up to now. It meant that my first draft of Red was, but for a few small revisions and cleanup, the final draft. It meant I could see the problems in Devil’s Snare before I got too far in and had to start over.
And it means I’m so caught up in the seriousness of Getting It Right The First Time that I’ve completely lost the ability to accept that something might not be right, that it might suck, that it might be A Waste of Time. This whole notion of Wasting Time is, quite possibly, one of my biggest neuroses (along with Babies Will Screw Up My Life So Stop Telling Me To Hurry Up And Have Them Just Because I’m Over 30, but that’s another story). I have such limited free time and the idea of spending it on something that isn’t going to get me one step closer to quitting a job and being able to finally do what I want–it just doesn’t compute anymore. Every single thing I do is for a purpose (even the things I enjoy, like cooking). I don’t know HOW to do something for no reason. For no purpose. I’ve forgotten how to PLAY.
After a completely necessary mental bitch slap from Susan last night to make me realize that I have fallen into the totally ill-fitting role of neurotic drama queen, I’ve been ordered to 86 all my personal deadlines, stop worrying about my series for a while, and go write something fun, like a used to. My brain circled around that for a while before coming back with a: Does Not Compute. I can’t remember what that’s like anymore. But I’m going to try to figure it out. I’m not going to get another book out in 2011. Fine. So I’m going to stop breaking my neck over it and find something that interests me, that doesn’t make me break out into hives with planning. And we’ll see what happens.