Powered by INTJ Dreams and Lily Allen

Know this song? It’s by Lily Allen. It’s called The Fear and it’s pretty relevant to my life right now. Actually, a lot of Lily Allen’s songs are, but this one in particular. It’s about messed up expectations and wanting things for the wrong reasons. It’s about having your hopes in the wrong place. It’s about becoming a product or a machine of art instead of a person. It’s about losing perspective to fear, and all the irrationality that comes with that.

The other day, for the first time in my life, I thought “I should give up writing.” Literally, that is the first time in my LIFE I have thought that. Writing has always been a part of me. Its continuation has been an inevitable and dependable guarantee for my future. I thought my eyes would turn from brown to blue before I’d stop being a writer.

But then I asked myself why. Why is writing so important to me when it seems so much more vastly important to other people? All these people who write from the base of their guts, and who pour their blood into it. They use writing as a medium for their originality and brilliance. It’s a compulsion for me to tell stories, but mine have nothing new or important to say. My work can be exciting, I think, but it’s a strung together timeline of set pieces with no thematic glue or beautiful language or…anything, really. It all feels so empty when I compare it to the truly moving works of greatness. Greatness has to change the world, but what would I even change?

I could end up successful. I still believe I could get published, or even be famous. But it hit me, upon reading some really beautiful work that I don’t even have the capacity to emulate, that I will never achieve real greatness. On a scale from Michael Bay to Cecil B Demille, or from Stephanie Meyer to Vladimir Nabokov, I might eke out the Bays and Meyers. But I just don’t see myself becoming legendary, and letting go of that dream is tough. I don’t like settling, but I feel like I’m at this stage where I need to accept that publication has to be *enough* for me.

I’m an INTJ, you know. Also known as “the soulless visionaries”. We see beautiful things for no reason. It’s like there’s this wall there preventing my mind from being deep or creative. It’s like I can physically feel my own lack of intelligence. As a personality type, we’re too literal and emotionally shallow. We can’t effectively communicate our ideas. We’re so socially crippled that we can’t even get along with other “misfits.” I feel my personality like a weight on me daily.

Did you ever hear of “The Inklings”, which was a writers group with C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, among others? I always wanted my own Inklings, but it seemed like a pipe dream. I feel like all the gates are up and against me, that I’m not right enough for anyone. That there is just straight up something wrong with me because of the rarity and controversial nature of my personality type, which cannot be fixed or changed or even masked.

Which brings me to an interesting discovery I made while writing this post – C.S. Lewis was an INTJ. C.S. Lewis, who created Narnia in all its hope and beauty. So were Jane Austen and Emily Brontë, who wrote vivid and emotionally moving works of romance. So was Lewis Carroll, who created the extremely imaginative world of Alice in Wonderland. So was Isaac Asimov, one of the greatest science fiction writers ever born.

I wonder how they overcame it. Maybe they used it to their advantage. A lot of advice tells us that we should use what makes us unique. That being different is a way to stand out from the masses. I’ve always thought of my differences as more of a liability – there is such a thing as bad differences, after all. Every time I hear that we should accept ourselves for who we are, I think, but what if you really are terrible? What if you’re a real monster?

I’ve been desperate all my life to be like everyone else. But at the same time, I’ve never wanted a mundane or ordinary life. Finding a way to work with my differences will probably be a constant struggle for as long as I live. I go back to the reason I write – because I can’t not write – and I ponder why I was bestowed with this compulsion if I’m not meant to use it. Obviously I’m supposed to find a way to work with this. I don’t really believe in fate or divine paths, but I do believe in quantum attraction. I think we are naturally drawn to what we can do best, and what our “purpose” is. I’ve always wanted my own sense of purpose to have a larger purpose – to actually influence the world in some way – but maybe my own happiness is enough. Maybe you don’t have to be great to have a great life.

So no, friends, I’m not throwing in the towel. But I still wrestle with the fear every day, as Ra wrestled each day with the darkness. And while I wish I could fast forward to the part in my life when I don’t have to worry about stuff anymore, maybe learning to deal with myself is part of the path.

Do you ever hate your own writing?

Here’s a dialogue I hear a lot in my head:

Brain: Wow, this book I’ve written is not good. It’s actually quite bad. No one is going to want to read this. It’s not publishable.

Optimistic Side: Every writer goes through this. Every writer has self-doubt. Don’t let it get you down!

Brain: I’m sure terrible writers tell themselves the same thing. Doesn’t make them any less terrible.

Optimistic Side: You’ve been doing this a long time. You know more about this than you think you do.

Brain: But that one guy hated it. Couldn’t even get four chapters in.

Optimistic Side: Maybe it wasn’t what he expected it to be/maybe he wanted it to be something else. Maybe he had no clue what he was talking about. You can’t please everyone.

Brain: It was the most critiqued entry in that Live Action Slush Contest I went to. Those people know what they’re talking about.

Optimistic Side: True, but that’s still just their opinion. And even you weren’t sure about that entry. You’ve made it a lot better since then.

Brain: I still keep getting rejected from magazines.

Optimistic Side: ALL writers get rejected. Has that really been your best work either? You’ve only submitted to 15 or so places, and you made the short list on one of them. Two others complimented your writing personally.

Brain: They probably do that with everybody. They’re just being nice.

Optimistic Side: They don’t have to be nice.

Brain: Even half my betas didn’t read it and I thought I could count on them.

Optimistic Side: People get busy. There could be a million different reasons why they didn’t read it that have nothing to do with the book itself.

Brain: Yeah, but if I wrote a real knockout, they wouldn’t need excuses. People make time for good stories.

Optimistic Side: It’s still a draft. And less complete stories get picked up by agents every day.

Brain: Most agents only take one new client a year out of 3-4k submissions. I am not that good.

Optimistic Side: It’s not just about being good. It’s about being the right fit. Remember how much Greg likes your story?

Brain: Yeah…

Optimistic Side: Well maybe you’ll find an agent just like Greg, who has the same interests. Maybe this agent is dying to see a pan-pantheon fantasy with diverse characters and he doesn’t even care about the flaws. He’s willing to work with you because he likes the potential.

Brain: That’s unlikely; my stuff isn’t that marketable. I can’t even think of anything to compare it to.

Optimistic Side: Sometimes uniqueness is a good thing. They’ll pick that over something formulaic.

Brain: The shelves at Barnes and Noble say otherwise.

Optimistic Side: Okay, so some agents like a safe sale. But you wouldn’t want to work with them anyway.

Brain: There are so many better writers than me.

Optimistic Side: There are still better writers than Stephen King. Doesn’t make him any less of Stephen King. You’ll never be the best, but you can be the best for some people.

I’m still not sure if I lean more with my brain or with my optimism. It’s hard to even listen to the optimism at all when everywhere I look, there are people telling me I’m not good enough, or that there’s something inherently wrong with the way I write. Hearing critique about my book is easy – that stuff can be fixed. Hearing critique about my intrinsic writing philosophies, about the style I am in my soul…that’s a lot harder.

Sometimes I wish I was just normal, and wrote generic deep POV paranormal romances or something. Or thrillers. Something that’s an easy sell. Something that doesn’t make this journey so much harder on myself. Being me makes things harder on myself.

But I can’t get too down just yet. It’s not like I’ve even queried this book yet. It’s not like I have any metrics to go on. I haven’t failed yet. I haven’t even begun. So maybe life will surprise me. And maybe the optimistic side will be proven right, and that I’m simply going through What All Writers Go Through.