Seeking Validation, Grasping for a Sense of Accomplishment

There is something about being a writer, or wanting to be a writer, that also brings with it a certain amount of self-doubt in one’s capabilities. It’s not good enough. Nothing, perhaps, brings more self-doubt than not feeling accomplished.

A Declaration

Back in December, I told myself that I would write and make available one new short story per month on the Amazon Kindle platform beginning January 2013. For a variety of reasons, none of which amount to a hill of beans, I talked myself out of it. With three months to go before January 2014, I would like to change that — and I will. Yes, this is a declaration.

My original idea was to publish one story per month. By year’s end, I would have 12 short stories that I could then compile into a single book. There is something about being a writer, or wanting to be a writer, that also brings with it a certain amount of self-doubt in one’s capabilities. It’s not good enough. Nothing, perhaps, brings more self-doubt than not feeling accomplished.

Writing is work after all. You spend countless hours trying to better your hand at the craft — writing, thinking, re-writing.

A few years ago, pre-parenthood, I wrote for a number of publications. They were all nonfiction and it felt good to see my writing in print. As a matter of fact, the first magazine story I ever wrote became the feature story and landed the front cover. I actually had the magazine cover and story inside framed. It sits atop my bookshelf in my writer’s workshop out back. That story now seems so long ago.

Building on that accomplishment, I continued to write. I found that I really enjoyed interviewing other people. I had the chance to interview the NCAA’s all-time leader in assists, one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players, two LA Times bestselling authors, and a slew of other interesting people from all walks of life. Then one day, after interviewing a particular author, it sort of hit me: he is doing what I want to be doing.

Writing fiction.

I love nonfiction. I do. When I began reading at 19, nonfiction is what got me hooked. (I hated to read growing up. Okay, let me re-phrase that. I hated the idea of reading which is why I never did read. I’m not bragging. I am being honest. I was late to the game of reading. I simply did not do it. I couldn’t sit still long enough so I was never “getting lost” in a book as a child. I was in the woods getting lost, quite literally.)

And so on and so forth.

Those books brought me into contact with other books, fiction this time. In A People’s History, Howard Zinn referenced The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck as well as The Jungle by Upton Sinclair numerous times. So, I made the hour long trip to Lynchburg, where the closest bookstore was, and bought both.

I was reeled in.

Then one day I switched up the bad poetry I was writing and wrote a short story.

It felt good. It felt right.

A Rather Mundane Existence

Nonfiction isn’t my calling. I didn’t lead an interesting life as a child. I had two sane parents, neither of which were abusive or alcoholic. My childhood was average and ordinary by most all measures. I wasn’t a drug addict. I didn’t take a trip around the world. As a matter of fact, the farthest north I have ever been is Baltimore, Maryland, and southernmost point is Savannah, Georgia, two places I have visited in the last five years when my wife and I began dating.

I had a rather tame sex life and was a hopeless romantic if ever there was one. Probably the most interesting aspect of my teenage years was that I got into punk rock, grew a 12″ tall mohawk, and was this close to being expelled from high school because of it — if not for a school-wide petition that circulated known as, I kid you not, “Save Jeff’s Hair.”

But if I wrote a story about that, there wouldn’t be much to it and it wouldn’t be that interesting. I could sum it up in one sentence like I did above.

Nonfiction Feels Like Work, Fiction Doesn’t

The truth is, nonfiction feels like work. Fiction doesn’t. With nonfiction, the world is already there. The characters are already there. Comparatively speaking, fiction is what should feel like work since you have to create it all out of thin air. It’s quite the opposite. The words, the flow, the characters, the setting, the plot — that comes more easily to me when it comes from my imagination — and I enjoy it.

When I used to write for those publications, it felt nice to see my writing in print. I guess it was a validation thing. I’m good enough.

But there was always a void. Instead of feeling accomplished, I felt like I was grasping for a sense of accomplishment.

I’d like to fill that void starting in October, with fiction.

The good news is that if you have a smartphone, there is a Kindle app you can download so you don’t even need to own a Kindle. I don’t have a smartphone so that’s about all I can tell you for now.

Stay tuned for more information on when the first story will be available.


6 replies on “Seeking Validation, Grasping for a Sense of Accomplishment”

Thanks. I hope you will check out some of my stories. I will probably do a mix of both free and super cheap, like 0.99 cents. I don’t think 0.99 cents is asking too much for a short story. You can’t even get a 20 oz. for that price.

I love my Kindle, too, particularly since I can blow up the font size as my eyes get tired. It makes reading easier. I love paperbacks still and have a library card as well, but I’m a fan of e-ink. Totally not what I expected which killed my previous skepticism of e-readers. Not to mention, you can download some of the great classics for free. I’m reading an HG Wells collection now.

Definitely. For a short story, I think 99 cents is reasonable.

Ah, HG Wells. The science fiction master. Which collection?

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