Evil Gal Productions

Mere Smith
is a recovering Southerner,
longtime TV writer,
author and blogger.
December 16th, 2011 by Mere Smith

How To Remove A Broken Bottle From Your Vadge

THE DEVIL’S GOSPEL

AN EXPERIMENT (PART 1 OF 3)

“ON EXPOSING YOURSELF”

As you may know, it’s been a while since I wrote a blog entry, as the last three weeks have been taken up by posting the first chapter of my novel-in-progress, The Devil’s Gospel, in daily bite-sized pieces.

(And am I the only one who had a sixth-grade English teacher who pounded into my head the rule that book titles should be underlined and magazine titles italicized?  Or am I just the only one who was so traumatized by said pounding that NOT doing it makes me tremble at the thought of getting a B?  Anyway.  #GoodGirlIssues).

I thought it might be interesting for my readers, and for the sake of all those writers out there who have Desk Drawer Projects – meaning written pieces that remain hidden at the bottom of their desk drawers in perpetuity, for fear of exposing them to the open air (read: an opinionated audience) – to know what it’s like to take one of those Projects and just throw it out the virtual window for anyone on the virtual street to examine and comment upon.

Well, here’s what it’s like: Absolutely Fucking Terrifying.

Admittedly, this isn’t a very comforting response for writers who already have deep-seated phobias about anyone reading their work to begin with (Emily Dickinson, I’m talking to YOU), but I’m not going to lie.  Even for someone like me, who makes her living through writing (albeit screenwriting as opposed to fiction writing), the terror was nearly overwhelming.

That very first day, after I posted the initial bite-sized piece, I thought I was going to vomit through my eyes.

“But why?” I kept asking myself, while breathing heavily into a paper bag.  “Why?  Your writing ends up on television, where millions of people – okay, depending on the show, possibly dozens of people – see it!  Why are you almost eye-barfing over something so small and insignificant?”

Naturally, that’s when my snarky, logical, asshole left hemisphere stepped in and answered, “Because it’s not insignificant to you, moron.”

And that was my first epiphany.

Which, much to my intellectual chagrin, I honestly hadn’t considered until I’d posted the first bite.  I just figured, hey, writing is writing.  It’s gonna be the same thing as handing in a script to the boss.  But it turns out these things we create for ourselves (not for money, but for ourselves), these personal things we craft out of love and passion and our need to say something meaningful to us – these things are as fragile and nerve-studded as our genitals.

Giving them away indiscriminately is the equivalent of giving everyone within a five-mile radius permission to just walk right on up and fuck you.  Sure, some folks will go easy on the vadge, but there are also those evil motherfuckers who’ll pick up a broken bottle from the street and make you bleed.

Think the metaphor is too violent?  Think again.

Every nice comment I read, it was like having a tiny mind orgasm.  But every mean-spirited comment I came across just ground that broken glass right into my brain’s soft parts.  It, quite literally, hurt.  And not just in an abstract way.  It made me sick to my stomach.  It made my heart pound.  It made my head ache.

It made me feel bad.   Physically and psychologically.

And I think, even before we’ve posted a word, somehow writers instinctively know that’s the risk we run by taking a chance like this: the risk of being hurt.  Hurt bad, in an inside place we usually protect with the utmost care.

But here’s the thing, to skew a recent bullying meme:

It gets better.

I shit you not, it really does.  Day after day, post after post, slowly that pain starts to morph and change until those mean-spirited comments feel less like broken glass being shoved into your privates and more like, say, a mosquito bite between your fingers.  Still not pleasant, still not something you’d ask for – but nothing that would have you begging for death like the other option.

And that’s when I had my second epiphany.

The fear of that pain is worse than the pain itself.  (And I think we can drop the broken-glass-to-the-genitals metaphor here – ‘cause I’m pretty sure being afraid of that and actually having it done to you are both fucking awful.)  Once you’ve had someone tell you that your work is shite, that using the word “writer” to describe you is an offense to anyone who’s ever held a pen, that you couldn’t whip out a literary classic like “Dick and Jane” without a team of ghost-writers – you stop feeling hurt and start going numb.  Numbness, in this case, not implying that shocky PTSD thousand-yard-stare numbness, but simply the inability to feel pain.

Maybe the more accurate way of putting it is that you start to build a callus around that soft, vulnerable part of you.  The nasty shit just starts to bounce off, but – and here’s the bonus – you can still feel the good stuff.  In fact, once the bad stuff stops hurting, there’s only the good stuff left over.

I’ll admit, it’s not the greatest, most funnest gauntlet to run, but when you get to the other side, you can look back in relief and say, “Oh thank you tiny fetal Jesus, it’ll never be that bad ever again.”

Or maybe it will.  Who knows.  I’ve only done it once.

What I do know is that I came out the other side of the gauntlet feeling stronger, more confident, and – though truthfully, I’ve never suffered a shortage of this particular emotion – more “Fuck y’all!  I’ll do whatever I want and you can’t stop me!” than ever.

It was, in a word, inspiring.  It made me want to chuck my Write 4 Cash job and work on Devil’s Gospel full-time.  (Though I won’t for now, since 1. I really like my Write 4 Cash job, and 2. Not pulling my own weight alongside the Finance would send me into a spiral of guilt and shame whence I might never escape.)  It reinvigorated me, personally, as a writer, not to mention reviving my interest in a story I’ve wanted to tell for a long time.

So, what did I get it out of it all?

  • I conquered a horrible fear.
  • Dickwad criticisms don’t affect me anymore.
  • I feel like a “real” writer. (Bugger me if I know exactly what that means – but somehow it’s true.)
  • I remembered to have immense gratitude for being a writer at all.
  • I got excited again about the Desk Drawer Project I’d hidden away.

And one more thing: I also found a sense of belonging within a group of very supportive friends I’ve made on Twitter.

But that story is for my next entry.

Comments

5 Responses to “How To Remove A Broken Bottle From Your Vadge”
  1. Me! Me! Me! I’m very supportive! Even though I’m never hardly ever awake when you’re on twitter. And not in a sports underwear kind of way. So, um, yeah. Go Mere.

  2. I’m glad you have been able to get some good things out of this experiment. Congratulations on the trying, the doing and coming out the other side in one piece and willing to try again.

    It means we may see more of The Devil’s Gospel. (Yes, I believe I was taught the underline/italics things too, which I promptly discarded after I finished writing university papers!) It also means that I might be a bit more daring on my blog in the context of my writing amid my supportive Twitter friends. (I’ve now changed my website url to my own.) It’s still very scary to me.

  3. I swear I was told that you were supposed to italicize book titles and quote short story titles. I also got C’s in English and came away from every class convinced I was a waste at the whole words thing. My memory of this, in other words, is worth less than the broken glass pulled from your vadge.

    Unfortunately, if dickwad criticisms don’t affect you any more, I’m out of things to offer you. Pity. It’d been so much fun, too.

    Impressed by your bravery, and excited by the good it did for you. Rock on.

  4. This was the same experience I had in my creative writing grad program as the core curriculum of the MFA is the “workshop”–also known as jerkshop or getting butthurt for a few hours each week. Because it was poetry, no one was going to give a damn (or any money, ever) for anything we wrote, so it had to be something we cared about, which made everything pretty easy to take personally. It always takes awhile, with each new group of people, to get to the point where you are–letting the shit roll off and finding the valuable criticism and praise.

    That being said, I’ve enjoyed The Devil’s Gospel and am excited to see it come up in my feed. In fact, I think more of your writing just needs to be out there, available, making the world a more awesome place.

    I think italics and underlines function the same way–book titles, magazine titles, movies, TV series names, etc all take either as long as it is consistent. Quotation marks around short stories, poems, and episode names. That being said, I just correct it and move on in student essays. I’m more concerned with content and style than I am with rules.

  5. Modwild says

    Well, here’s what I know that a lot of people seem to forget. There ARE no rules in writing. When a book as poorly written (I don’t care if it was purposefully done, or done by a 10-year old or who the hell did it) as “Precious,” which was also turned into an award winning movie, becomes a blockbuster, it doesn’t matter whether you use commas, spell correctly or pretty much anything else, as long as the story is right.

    I’m so glad you took the chance, Mere. Although I’m saddened that you questioned whether you were a “real” writer. Anyone who has something to say is a real writer, and if they engage readers – that’s the butter. Real writer, indeed. Whether anyone reads doesn’t matter. Your work may be found in 2000 years and you’ll be the belle of the ball. (Although that would suck, not getting to bask in the glory.)

    Damn, I am full of sage advice. I’ll be here all week, folks.

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