When I returned from Worldcon, oh about two weeks ago, I had a realization. It came about from being around writers and actually getting to talk a bit about my *own* writing. It was a wonderful thing, blabbing about story ideas and writing techniques and whether one was really a short story writer or a novel writer. (For the record, I don't know what I am.)
Let me backtrack a bit first.
I don't often talk about my own writing. This stems from a long period, when I was in college, and I went through some rough times. I was convinced that everything I wrote sucked. I had no confidence in it. I didn't write for a long period of two years because I just couldn't make myself. This wasn't a simple writer's block issue--it was spurred on by depression, which can temper how you look at the world.
And then I got accepted into Orson Scott Card's Literary Boot Camp in 2002, on an application that I sent in on a whim. I went. There are people who don't agree with Scott Card's politics or religion; I'm definitely one of them. But despite that, he is a damn fine writing teacher. He yelled at me and taught me and had me realize things that I was doing wrong. In a week's time, he managed to convince me that what I wrote was actually good. I will be forever grateful to him for that.
So I went back to school and I got a degree, and I grew up. I became a literary agent, and read other people's books, getting to share vicariously in the thrill of watching them see publication. And I wrote sometimes, short stories for writing group contests, and poems to finish my creative writing degree. But I didn't take it seriously. I didn't care. I still thought everything I had written sucked, despite what the people who had read it told me. It's a very hard thing to overcome a belief that is so deeply ingrained in you.
And then, sometime last year, I started to take it seriously. I blame it on John Joseph Adams, who went out to lunch with me at Chili's and listened to me babble about a short story that I had been working on, on and off, for a year and a half. He listened to me tell the plot of this story, and then looked at me across the table and said, "You're writing a novel."
And I hated him for it, because I didn't want to write a novel. I hadn't written a novel since I was in high school and had confidence in what I did. The entire thought of doing so terrified me. It scared the shit out of me.
But John was right, and that short story has grown and is now 18,778 words--it's the secret novel I work on now. Whose plot I still can't tell, so don't ask. =) There is a word counter for it on the sidebar, if you ever care to look.
So I got serious, sort of. I write my novel. I've written more short stories. I've actually started to look at my writing, and like some of the more recent stuff. I *like* my novel. This is a unique feeling here.
And so the realization I had after Worldcon was that even though I had been getting sort of more serious, I was still slacking. So besides writing the novel, which still feels like picking words out of my brain with a spork... besides that...I took a giant leap, and looked at all the stuff I had written during college and beyond. It wasn't bad. It wasn't as sucky as I thought it had been.
I looked up markets. I sent out eight short stories that had languished on my hard drive for years. And I got a rejection for one of them today, and it's one of the most positive rejections for anything that I've ever gotten in my life. They had liked what I had written, even though they didn't pick it up for publication.
It didn't suck after all.