Knowledge and belief

I've gone longer than I like to without posting. But I wanted to wait until I could write this post and have it sound reflective, rather than whiny.

Here's the thing: writing-wise, October sucked. And the worst part, the thing that made it nearly unbearable for me, is that there was no good reason. Okay, yeah, I got sick, and I was crazy busy. But you know what? I teach at a university. October is midterms. Everyone is sick and crazy busy in October. And sure, there were various and sundry other annoyances and stresses, and even through all that, I was getting writing done. Pretty good wordcounts, pretty much every day.

Most of which, I trashed. Trunked. Since we're being reflective, we'll use the euphemism. Most of which I trunked.

And from the distance of having my legs back underneath me, I can tell you what went wrong. 

On Thursday of last week, I was fortunate enough to host the fierce and intelligent Cat Valente as a guest speaker in my class. One of the students asked a process related question, and Cat mentioned her "How to Write a Novel in 30 Days" post. The first rule is, "You are a genius."

I stopped believing I was a genius. For me, this was worse than turning on my internal editor and giving her a megaphone, because it infected all the parts of my writing life. For example, a personal rejection letter - with a request to see my next story - from a dream market wasn't cause for celebration, but for more thoughts of "Dammit, I still can't get it right." Nothing was beautiful, and everything hurt, and even the tricks I had used in the past couldn't shake my belief that everything I would write would turn to ashes. (That's not me being poetic there. Fire was beginning to seem like the appropriate option.)

And the worst part, the keen edge on the blade, was that my office hours last month averaged 1.5 students per day who wanted to talk to me about writing as a profession. So as I was speaking to them about what I see as the pluses and minuses of NaNoWriMo, about how to submit to markets, about why beta readers are necessary and MFAs aren't, all I could think about was how much of a fraud I felt like. Who was I, to be telling anyone else how to be a writer, when I couldn't get my own shit together?

Except, of course, that I do know all those things. I know the importance of building good habits, and finding a supportive community, and learning how to work through the bad patches, because everyone has them. It's part of the job. And if you know all those things, one day, you will wake up and believe you are a genius.