Last night, Poppy (docbrite) wrote (and I do hope he will not mind me quoting this):
Rhetorical question: Is it possible for a reasonably intelligent person to go through four years of American high school and come out the other side ignorant of what "cheerleaders" symbolize to ugly girls, or girls who aren't ugly but are so weird that they get treated as if they're ugly, or "girls" who aren't really girls at all, but knowing that would have made the mouthbreathers in their school even more determined to kill them? What I mean is, once you've gone through high school as one of the losers, do terms like "cheerleader" and "jock" and "popular" ever lose their loadedness? Do they ever lose their ability to jump out from behind a quarter-century's worth of real life and bite you in the ass with teeth you assumed they'd lost years ago?
I have a bad habit of answering rhetorical questions. Anyway, I can only speak for myself. The putrid hell of high school is twenty-seven years behind me now, and I'm still haunted by this bullshit. I still have nightmares about the "jocks" and "pretty girls." Makes no sense whatsoever, and I know that. Especially given that I've had the opportunity to see that a great many of the "popular kids" who tormented me went on to have much less fulfilling lives than I've had. Doesn't seem to matter. I can gloat all I want about who got the last laugh, but that doesn't change the fact that the wounds hardly seem to have scabbed over. Sorry, Poppy. I know you weren't looking for a reply. This just seemed awfully close to something that's been going round and round in my head lately, that I've been meaning to write about here.
I've always loathed competition, of any sort. And yet, until a few years ago, I'd gotten pretty good at the Me against You, Me vs. Them game. At jumping through hoops to try and achieve some desired goal. Applications. Tests. And so forth. But, the last decade or so, my ability to compete for anything has simply evaporated. I find it entirely too distasteful, and I hate the way it makes me feel, and the way it causes me to behave. And a lot of it goes back to high school, where the compete-to-succeed mentality was pounded into me. These days, I go out of my way to avoid competitive situations. Which is a fairly difficult thing to do when you're a freelance fiction writer. In the end, there are only so many slots available in a given year for the publication of short stories and novels. The resources are finite. And, indeed, as the economy has floundered and new technologies promise new forms of entertainment and distraction, the resources have become increasingly limited. It will always be me against everyone else who's trying to get published and win readers. And I hate it.
I've reached the point where I don't even want to see myself nominated for awards anymore. I just want to be left alone, to write my stories in peace. They are the only stories I know how to write. And I'm tired of being told how much better my work might sell if I could write like [fill in the blank]. I write like me, and, near as I can tell, that's how it's supposed to work. Only, I am on the outside. Probably on the outermost rim of the outside. Just like high school. And people seem a lot less interested in seeing the world from an outsider's point of view than they do viewing it from the safe, familiar territory of their own perspectives. Yes, there are exceptions, and yes I do have a decent number of readers, but I also know that if I were capable of this competition trick, capable of viewing this as a contest wherein I follow the rules and listen to the self-appointed coaches and referees, I'd have a shot at the chintzy gold sparkle of that goddamn loving cup of True Popularity and Success.
I no longer compete, not if I can possibly help it. This is what I have to offer, and I have to hope I can find enough people who want it that I can keep the bills paid. Because I don't compete. I don't fill out applications. I don't joust. I don't capture the flag. I'm not looking to be queen of the mountain. I do not lock horns. I sit at this keyboard, and, on good days, I write my stories, which are my stories. They are not designed for mass consumption, if only because they are not designed with any audience in mind, except, possibly me. I am the author of my own limitations, just as I am the author of my own triumphs.
The last two days are a blur. I feel like the writing of "As Red as Red" has become a losing battle (with myself). My deadline is tomorrow, and the story is probably three or four thousand words from an ending.
And here it is spring, and it feels not the least bit like spring. It's cold, and there are only a few buds on the trees. We did our Ostara ritual outside this year, in the woods, and I'd desperately hoped it would help shake me free of the morass that this awful winter has landed me in. No luck. It was cold, and the fire hardly seemed to help. I have learned that working skyclad in late March in Rhode Island is an entirely different thing from working skyclad in late March in Georgia. Can you say "perky nipples"? Never mind having to worry about deer ticks. I fear my magick is growing a little darker every year, only...I don't actually fear the drift. Maybe what scares me is that it doesn't scare me.
I have to go look for an ending to "As Red as Red," though I fear I'm still a bit puzzled by the middle. Herr Platypus is not happy with me this morning.