Monday, September 24, 2012

Laughter, the best medicine

What writer doesn't have angst? It's a mandatory condition of the person who feels compelled to spend hours alone with nothing but a keyboard and an imagination, and then puts his/her pulsing heart onto a gingerly thrust sleeve and begs, "Please like me."

Even when readers do say they like our work, we don't really believe them. "They're just being nice." Deep down we know we're not really worthy of the word writers; we're pretenders. Waiting for the day that will surely come when someone outs us as the frauds we are.

The good news is we all feel this way. On Saturday I was at the wrap-up party for the Muskoka Novel Marathon and, for me, this was almost a better learning opportunity than the marathon itself, where we actually wrote. At the party, we talked about writing and that's when it struck me that even the most successful, published authors suffer from crippling angst. That's such a relief, knowing everybody else is just as wonky as I am.

I'd been feeling extra angsty about my novel lately. I'm waiting for revisions to come back from my good friend and fellow writer Laurita Miller, who I completely trust and adore. On one hand I've got my sleeves rolled up, waiting to get to work. On the other, I'm tormented she'll say "this is a total piece of shite." I understand this is how all writers feel so I'm trying not to freak out about it.

Still, I wanted to test my writing. I wanted to read it to the group at the marathon, who knew nothing about my novel or, for that matter, very little about me. I wanted to hear their honest reaction – and that's easy to judge when you're writing humour. If they laugh, you're gold. If the room is quiet, you're sunk.

Well, they laughed. Heartily. The room rang with laughter. I had to pause in several places to wait for the laughter to die down.

Oh. How I relished that sound. It was like the warmest of blankets; it was like getting roses when it's not your birthday; most of all, it gave me hope that maybe people will like the story, maybe someone will publish it, maybe they'll make a movie about it and Meryl Streep will be the star and I'll be rich and famous and, and ....

Yes. I'm being silly now. But not about how that laughter made me feel. That exquisite laughter. I shall carry it in my heart, today and always.

Or at least until the next bout of angst sets in.

48 comments:

  1. Enjoy the laughter! I'm sure it doesn't suck.

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  2. Cathy, I'm STILL laughing! I can not wait to read this book.

    P.S. I'm thinking of giving my husband a home waxing kit for his birthday.

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    1. Oh thank you Sandra! You don't think he'd be offended, do you? I guess a wax kit wouldn't be as bad as sheep shears...

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  3. You should have recorded it...you could play it back whenever you start feeling unsure. I'm positive it will be great and can't wait to buy it.

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    1. Trust me, it gets replayed in my mind over and over! :)

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  4. We're not always the best judge of our own work. Even if they didn't laugh or you didn't get the reaction you had hoped for, it still took guts to put the work out there for others to respond to. That's always something to be proud of. (But I'm glad they laughed!) :)

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    1. Thank you Madeline. I dunno if it took guts or not - I think it's a deep-seated need in most writers to share their work, to seek affirmation. Otherwise we'd just talk to ourselves!!!!
      (I'm glad they laughed too. Holy-moly, I'm glad.)

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  5. I don't think you have anything to worry about! I'm sure your novel will be great and I want to read it! You are a very funny and good writer!

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    1. JoJo, have I told you lately that I just love you to pieces?

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  6. Wow! I'm impressed. It takes a lot of guts to put your work out there like that. There's nothing wrong with a bit of angst though - keeps us on our toes. ;-)

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    1. A bit, yes.. it's the drowning pools of angst that are a little bit knobbly.

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  7. You are a funny person. If your novel is anything like your blog you have a hit. Can't wait till it is published so I can buy a copy.

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    1. Oh gawd, Kristy, don't hold your breath! But thanks ever so much for your vote of confidence! :)

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  8. Wow, that was so brave. And what a brilliant reaction. Pure gold, that. I can't say I am surprised! Though I am surprised you would ever doubt yourself!

    And I will have to give that edgy vampire book a go from your last blog post. Highly intrigued!

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    1. I think you'll like Crooked Fang, Carrie - at least I did!
      And no, not brave ... just very, very needy!

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  9. So true. We all have our angst and sometimes I wish I could figure out a way to stretch the pure gold moments out longer because the angsty ones seem to weigh more than gold (which is heavy)!

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    1. Yup, I'm pretty sure angst weighs like lead. Darned stuff.

      If you figure out how to stretch it, let me know!

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  10. But we've told you you're good, over and over. Oh, well. Now suck it up and get back to work. I think you have a bunch of stuff to write.

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  11. Judging by the sample, you earned the laughter and the praise. It is very hard to bare all.

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    1. Baring all is especially hard at the doctor's office, have you noticed?

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  12. You always make me laugh from where I sit here in front of my Butterfly laptop, even when it was at my expense. Ha! Funny as I was preparing something or other in my Kitchen this morning, oh yes Broccoli Salad for the Crabby Cabbie guy, I was thinking about how the fear of rejection effects us...usually not in the best of ways for some, while it appears some can shrug it off with no mind, or do they?

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    1. Mmmmmm Broccoli Salad.... did you say something else, Cindy??? (I gotta make me some of that asap.)

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  13. Oh Cathy, you hit the nail right on the head... every writer experiences this feeling of possible failure and worry, regarding their writing (at least in the early stages of fame and fortune)... or so I am told. I struggle every day with the same questions and feelings. While reading your post, I nodded up and down with every word you wrote.

    I had the good fortune of hearing you read a piece of your manuscript at the Wrap-up Party, and believe me when I say, you have MAJOR TALENT, Girl! No joke. Easily, I was able to visually picture that whole scene with the cast of 27 Dresses fame, Katherine Heigl and James Marsden playing the parts. I have no doubt your entire novel is hilarious. I've already mentioned to you that I want to pre-order my autographed copy right now! Btw, as soon as I got home that night, I had to tell your story to my husband... he laughed too!

    Yes, it takes guts (which if you noticed, I didn't have)and the rest of us couldn't tell you were nervous at all, considering your son was sitting next to you the whole time you were describing "camping relations". I wanted to reach out and cover his ears! Ha! I'm pretty sure, I was blushing for him.

    Keep on writing and making the world laugh... PLEASE! :)

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    1. I read your comment quickly at work yesterday Lori and you had me in happy, happy tears. You really are a cheerleader of life and thank gawd for that. HUGS!

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  14. Wait! I never feel that way! Are you saying I'm not and cannot be a writer because I don't feel that way?
    Crap...

    The best part of reading my book to the kids at school is when they laugh... at the right parts.
    Worse than no laughter? Laughter at the parts that shouldn't be funny.
    :P

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    1. Awww, you read it to the kids at school? I bet that was AWESOME, like the best kind of awesome there possibly is!! Good for you, Andrew!

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    2. Yeah, this is the third year in a row. It's pretty cool.

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  15. I'm not at all surprised by that reaction. There are several laugh out loud moments in your novel. And several sniffly moments too. No fear, Dear Cathy.

    On a related note. I want two more good solid days with your beloved manuscript, and it will be yours again. Soon.

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    1. SO EXCITED!!!! Oh Laurita, you are the absolute best. Thank you so much for doing this (I will say that precisely 1,000 times before we are through, I am sure.) I am so excited about getting to work on revisions I can't even say! oxoxoxox

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  16. CONGRATULATIONS! I've been there and there is NOTHING like getting the joyous reaction, you had hoped for, on a piece of writing, Enjoy the memory. Hold on to it and use it to push you across the next blank page.

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    1. Awww, thanks so much Jenn!!!! I will hold onto it, I will. Thanks!!!

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  17. I'm going to go beyond "being nice" and be brutally frank. I like your work! So did those who laughed when you shared it.

    But that doesn't stop us from worrying that everything we write is totally inadequate, does it?

    Blessings and Bear hugs.

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    1. "Brutally frank!" You are so lovely, Mr. Rob-bear!!!!

      And yes, you are absolutely right - no amount of positive reinforcement relieves us from stupid feelings of not being good enough...

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  18. I agree, there's nothing better than a group of complete strangers enjoying your work. Hang onto that feeling - especially when those niggling little voices start up their toe-curling chorus of "maybe this is crappy..."

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    1. Toe-curling, you nailed it Li! I shall make sure the toe-straightener apparatus is fully heated up and functional the next time I hear those voices.

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  19. I so love to hear that others are also total imbeciles about their work, and in my case their self.
    It sounds as if you are your harshest critic which in combination of the loving care you devote to 'your baby' is an uncomfortable mix.
    Go well, be strong, we have more faith in you than you do yourself.

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    1. I always worry that I'm the opposite - one of those imbeciles who think their work is AWESOME and, um, it's not. That's my biggest fear, that I'm going to make an utter fool of myself. Oh well... thank goodness for friends like you, EC!

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  20. Yay for people who "get it"! I'll bet your book is fabulous!

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    1. It does have a cat in it, Daisy, so it can't possibly be all bad.

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  21. I have no doubt you can write, your book is marvelous, and it will make me, a carmudgeon, laugh. Yeah, we all carry that angst with us, the curse of every creative. We all live for any bit of affirmation. Glad you got a whopping big dose, because I know you deserve it. Peace...

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    1. Since when are you a curmudgeon, dear Linda????? Since never, that's when! oxoxo

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  22. I know we all have doubts about our own writing and it's a constant struggle to keep our heads out of "This sucks. I suck." but truly, Cathy, there's nothing you've ever written that didn't evince a reaxtion in me. Laughter, tears, queasiness, hope, ambition, you inspire. I hope you never lose sight of that.

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  23. I am Harshita I’ve registered in this forum for nearly today. At present, I've been working at a maritime shipping company & Thanks for sharing the information’s that’s a good post.

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  24. A lot of what I read for my writing group is humour. I wind up having them all breaking out laughing whenever I'm reading something.

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