I think I’m in the final stages of preparation to print and send my application off for the New Zealand Society of Authors Mentor Programme for 2020. There’s always this struggle between, Is this good enough? and, Should I just send the thing off even if I don’t think it’s perfect?
I’ve had Noel read over some of the writing I’m supplying for his feedback, and he’s given some good feedback, but I always feel that what I’ve written is never good enough. It’s different when I blog; this is kinda basically stream of consciousness writing where perfection doesn’t matter as much as getting my ideas down and practicing writing. (I do review before I publish though. I just don’t get too picky on the nitty-gritty stuff.)
The application is due on 1 February 2020, and I have to send in three copies of various bits and pieces via the mail, so I need to finalize all my bits and pieces soon. I think I’m mostly done, although I feel that the writing I am submitting doesn’t show enough depth to the characters.
One part of me is frantic to keep working on it and make it as perfect as possible, but another part of me believes that in being a draft, it is purely an example of my writing as a foundation and demonstrates my ability to write and why I need a mentor to make it better. (In short: if it was perfect, why would I need a mentor?)
I have shown this piece (not in this form) to a few other people, and they all have said it really lures the reader in. Slowly, but surely, as certain tidbits are dropped, it makes people wonder what exactly is going on in this world that isn’t quite our world? And other people who read my blog (thank you) have said I have a way with words, and that my writing is good. So why am I doubting myself all the time?
Today, for example. I am reviewing all the bits and pieces I need to make sure that they are up to as good as a standard as I can get them, and I decide to have a look at the 2019 recipients of the mentorship.
As I’m reading over the brief bios on the recipients, I see things like, “I have a Masters in Creative Writing” or, “I’m working on my third novel” or, “my work has been extensively published in [Awesome Publication 1], [Outstanding Publication 2], and [Really-Hard-To-Get-Published-With Publication 3].” Every single one has very impressive backgrounds in writing and education. And almost every single one are definitely not a white male, which is especially noticeable since publishing and readers are starting to lose interest in white male writers. (I am all for diversity. My favorite writer is Toni Morrison! But everyone should be able to write.)
And there’s me like: I’m too scared to publish anything. All the times I’ve submitted a story to a publication for consideration, I don’t even get a rejection letter back (most times). All I’ve ever really written, besides Star Trek fan fiction, are blogs, publicity materials, Web sites, policies and procedures, handbooks, syllabuses, and course approval documentation. That’s not really anything to do with creative writing, is it?
And I’m a white male. Yeah, I know, a gay white male, but a white male all the same.
What sort of shot do I have, realistically, of competing against people with those sorts of talents, writing backgrounds, publishing histories, educational backgrounds? Being an American in New Zealand with a mostly American voice in my writing, how will this be viewed?
Within a few seconds, maybe a minute at most, I crashed. My eyes welled up with tears, and I felt overwhelmingly disappointed and despondent, and I didn’t know why I was spending so much time on this when, suddenly, I thought I would never be accepted into this mentorship program, and I probably would struggle greatly to get published at all.
This is something that many people have, but I think it’s more pronounced for me because I am a gay man who has struggled with myself and my identity during and after depersonalization. I step back, I tread quietly, I try not to draw attention to myself. When someone pays me a compliment, or smiles at me, or talks to me out of the blue, part of me wonders what that person wants from me. (I discussed issues with trust in my session yesterday with my counselor. Don’t worry, it’s everyone, including myself, that I have trust issues with.)
And here’s the crux of the matter: I don’t trust myself. I don’t trust myself to make the right decisions in my writing, I don’t trust myself to edit my writing correctly, I don’t trust my talents in getting me to that next level of writing a novel or three (or even a collection of short stories) and then getting published.
Doubt. I need to get rid of that critic in my head. It has denied me so much of my happiness, of possibly good times, of opportunities that were given to me.
I feel I am a good writer. I have a unique writing voice and a good way with words. I do take things too much to heart, yes, and I’d rather be that than hard, but I need to keep pushing myself to make my writing the best it can be and soldier on in trying to get my work published. I need to learn that after getting a rejection, I need to take a slight break, gather my thoughts, dust myself off, and try another publisher. Sometimes, the rejection merely means the story isn’t a good fit with the publisher and what they publish. Sometimes, it’s nothing personal but merely business and what makes the best business sense.
So, I am going to submit this application. I’m going to submit this application because the worst thing I can be told is that no, I haven’t been accepted for the mentorship programme in 2020. And that means I need to forge on and work under my own steam. I’ve done it before, and I can do it again.
Best case scenario? They approve my application, and I get a great mentor, and my writing gets some good, solid feedback from someone who has been published and knows how to tell a story well.
I don’t know unless I try. And I definitely won’t get the mentorship if I don’t apply.