I love using songs as inspiration. So many songs already have a narrative, that it isn’t too hard to come up with a story. This is one such attempt. It is inspired by the song Don’t Speak by No Doubt, and features the original gargoyle characters Steelheart and Eponine that I created for the Alternate Gargoyle Universe Mailing List.
The winners of the Sparkler Share Your World contest were announced yesterday and…I didn’t win. I didn’t even place. I tried not to be hopeful, but I’m also trying to be more optimistic. Not placing hit me harder than I thought. I’m the type of person who internalized things, so of course, my internal heckler started up with a vengeance. My thought turned negative, and I started thinking I’m no good, why did I even bother to try, I should just give up. I admit I even cried. I knew it was an overly emotional reaction, and nothing to get that upset about, but I still did. I was so ready to just stop trying, to not write creatively anymore, or let anyone else read anything I did. Doubts I’d had returned and I couldn’t stop thinking what had I done wrong.
It was hard to refocus my thoughts to a more rational line of thinking. I’ve never entered my writing into any kind of contest before. I’ve always kept in limited to a small circle of like-minded people like Elfquest fanzines and play-by-email Pern games. I’ve never had my writing judged before, and the rejection hit me harder than I thought. I spent most of the night forcing the negative thoughts away and trying to think more positively. This was just a bump. It was no reason to just give up and walk away. I had to get back on that horse and just keep working on it. I did express my doubts about my entry on Twitter, and did get a reply from one of the Sparkler editors.
I nearly started crying again, but in a good way. The reply did include some positive feedback, saying my story was adorable. I at least was able to get that feeling across. They said they were glad I entered but that competition was fierce. So what I got out of that, was that my story was good, it just wasn’t good enough. I know it wasn’t meant as a criticism, and I certainly don’t take it that way, but even if my story was good, the other stories were better. Or I didn’t do a good enough job of fitting into the theme. Or I didn’t do the right kind of feels. No matter what the actual reason turns out to be, it still comes down to 13 other creators did a better job than me, so I just have to work that much harder next time.
And there will be a next time. I will continue to put up old and new stories, fanfic and original. I’m not really interested in becoming a professional writer. I didn’t enter this contest for the prizes. I want to be someone who writes good stories, and have others read and enjoy them. That’s what really matters to me, and that is what I will continue to strive for.
I’ve recently started listening to the Writing Excuses, a 15 minute podcast that talks about the craft of writing by writers for writers, and includes a writing prompt that relates to the topic of the current episode. The episode I just listened to, Season 8, Episode 42, dealt with a topic I struggle with a lot; the Internal Heckler. I think my Internal Editor and I get along well enough. If I don’t like a scene or it doesn’t feel right, I have no problem redoing it (repeatedly) or even cutting it. We are on good terms and could sit and have a pot of tea.
My Internal Heckler, on the other hand, is a very unpleasant person. She is always making me double my writing, even after I’ve declared it complete. She likes to come disguised as the Internal Editor, suggesting changes, and tweaks, but then quickly tries to convince me the whole thing is terrible, and to just give it up. And she succeeds more often than I’d like to admit.
I started writing well before the world of the internet, but never let anyone read anything because I didn’t think anyone would like it. I took my first baby step into opening my writing up by joining an Elfquest fanzine holt. I was comfortable in the world because it was an AU, and none of the canon characters were allowed. Everyone had to create their own characters, and we wrote in a shared world, all part of the same holt. I still have all my fanzines somewhere, and my files. I’ve debated posting them, but the Internal Heckler has held be back, even after I read a few and thought they weren’t so bad.
In getting online, my second step was also in the realm of fan fiction, but was still a small shared sort-of AU. This time it was Gargoyles (which is celebrating 20 years this year!). My husband and I ran a mailing list set in the main Gargoyles Universe, but all the canon characters were off-limits, though references could be made to events that occurred in the main time line. I really got into this, crossing my original characters over with as many of the other writers as I could. These stories I felt more hit or miss on, and really didn’t like how my main character was portrayed, but I was also younger then and more emotional. I can see it in her. I’ve been working on these writing parts or whole stories completely. I’ve even posted one here as well as writing a new one.
I think some of the best writing I did was in the Pern Weyrs I participated in. I did a lot of writing, and learned a lot about character creation and interaction through them, but because they were emails and at least 10 years ago, they are lost to time as well. I’m actually sad about this, but there was so much interaction, it would be heard to get a cohesive story out of them. Here, my Internal Heckler was silenced, because I wasn’t writing the story myself, but was just one voice of many. I never questioned what I was writing, or thought someone should read it before posting. I was writing from my gut, and I had a lot of feeling to get out.
Now, after taking a long break from creative writing, and thanks in a big part to Sparkler Magazine, I am back to writing stories, and that Internal Heckler has returned as well, with a vengeance at times. I just recently posted a short story I wrote for the Sparkler Magazine contest “Share Your World”. I went through a couple of different ideas before I settled on the story I finally wrote. I found it difficult to keep the story to just 500 words. I wanted to write so much more, but there is something to be said for being brief as well, as most of my editing was focused on getting the most out of the word count. I also rewrote the ending several times, never feeling quite happy with it.
When I was finally happy with the whole thing, that was when the Internal Heckler came out. She kept telling me it wasn’t good enough to an entry. It didn’t fit the theme. No one would like it or would want to read it. I spent several days debating it should go through with the entry. What if she was right and no cared, or thought it was terrible? I had my husband read it, and asked for his feedback, giving the conditions I had to work under, and he thought it was fine, and he’s not the type to just hand wave something off. If he thought it needed fixing, he would say so. It was probably another few days of looking at the contest announcement before I finally bit the bullet and submitted it.
I still don’t know if it was good enough. I only got 5 notes, and no comments, so I’m still not sure anyone liked it, and it probably won’t be until next week until the results are announced. But, after listening to the podcast, and finally giving a name to the feelings of insecurity and doubt I still struggle with has helped me to cope with this fiend. I learned that I’ve been doing some of the things to stave her off, like going back and re-reading stories I’ve written and really liked, and re-validating my abilities.
I always have, and always will look for validation for my writing outside of myself, but finally facing the Internal Heckler has helped to realize I can validate it myself as well, and it’s okay to like my own work. I’m going to start posting more of my creative writing. Some more of my older work, possibly heavily edited, and some of the newer worked I’ve written in the last year. I hope you’ll join me by watching and reading.
This short story was written as an entry for the Sparkler Magazine “Share Your World” contest. It had to be under 500 words and showed in some way how you share your stories. The characters I used are from a story I’m working on and have been for a year now. I hope to have the plot finally settled and to be able to start writing soon.