Xanax is a hell of a drug.

That balrog looks a lot bigger in person.

Can I get a time out?

Being a professional fiction writer is not for the faint of heart.  It’s a poor fit for people who don’t have a strong masochistic streak and enjoy spending anguished nights staring at the ceiling of their darkened bedroom, turning the same thought over and over in their head: should I have made just one more revision before submitting my work?

Comb the desert, I told you!

We ain't found shit.

I got absolutely no sleep last night.  The entire day I spent putting the final polish on not one but two new short stories, going over them both with a fine-toothed comb.  Finally, after reading each one a last time with the kind of laser precision borne out of the neurotic perfectionism that can easily be mistaken for OCD, I decided that they were as good as they were going to get.  I bundled them both together in an email and sent them off to my publishers, safe in the knowledge that I got drafts and revisions done well under deadline by a massive margin.

As soon as I wrote my cover note to those modern Brothers Grimm, Chris and Craig Gabrysch, over at Twit Publishing, attached the two files, and hit send, a feeling of calm washed over me.  That was it; I was done.  My submissions sped at the speed of light down the tubes of the interwebs – too late to call ’em back, not without some time on the large hadron collider to hitch a ride with some FTL neutrinos.

The more time I spend thinking about it last night, the more quickly my calm evaporated.  It wasn’t long before I was a gibbering Xanax-popping wreck, like an investigator that just stumbled around the corner of an abandoned warehouse and caught an eyeful of something from a Darkest of the Hillside Thickets song.  I kept second-guessing whether or not I had made the right decision in submitting my work.  Should I have taken another glance at it? I thought feverishly, as my mind began sprinting like a Kenyan after downing an entire bottle of Powerthirst.  What if both stories are shit? I asked myself, as the possibility of sleep that night slipped away on little cat feet, leaving me staring blearily at my computer monitor well past 3 in the morning before exhaustion finally drove me to bed.

You have to be a special brand of crazy to continuously put your work out there for validation.  It’s a completely harrowing experience, one that can only be akin to that flutter of anxiety you get when you ask someone you have a crush on out on a date for the first time, but magnified a thousandfold.  You’re scared of failure so bad, even your flop sweat has flop sweat; soon you find yourself not only worrying about it in your waking hours, but being plagued by dreams of inadequacy and failure in your sleep as well.

Yet people who are serious about getting their work out there keep doing it, even though it’s like being dragged through a hallway, past the comforting murals depicting Mediterranean scenes and right towards the rotating knives every time; it’s like Einstein’s definition of insanity.  Still, you keep doing it, don’t you?

Not again.

Check, please!

Like the poet said, what matters most is how you well you walk through the fire, not how well you avoid getting burned. Professional writers don’t do it because they want to; it’s because they have to.  They’ve got to get this stuff out of them and down onto the page before it claws its way out like a xenomorph sporting a straw boater hat and a cane, leaving you nothing but a bloody, eviscerated husk sprawled across the lunch counter.

Well, that, and one day I’d like to be able to quit my day job.  Then again, who wouldn’t?


9 thoughts on “Xanax is a hell of a drug.

  1. LOL Dave, I gotta say having your help on my own project only made it better, if I had your ability to paint with words, I wouldn’t worry too much. I enjoyed your other story so much I bought the ebook of the pulp they put it in. (woohoo, 99cents). So you musta done something right.

    couple things:

    1: I felt exhilarated actually feeling like I finished something. When you returned the final edit to me, and I realized it was finished… I just felt like someone feels after taking a HUGE shit after being constipated for days. (HOT HOT HOT HOT HOT!) As you know, for ten years at least, I have been unable to complete any writing, drawing or creative project that took more than 2 hours. At this point I really don’t care if they reject the story, because I’m going to finish the next parts, annoy the shit out of you till you edit them ,and make up a bunch of art for it, and self publish it myself.

    2: There is a very ZEN quality in this “release” moment you spoke of when referring to hitting send on the email. It is a moment of true Enlightenment because for a moment, you truly understand what it means to be without attachment. That minute or two between when you hit send, and get your first feeling of doubt is something you should reflect on deeply and recognize as something very near to Nirvana. It is what makes Archery and shooting sports so favored by students of Zen. I know all about being the arrow… but the part they don’t advertize so much is that once you release the bow, or the trigger releases the hammer, you need to let the shot go. You need to allow the shot to become itself, so that it can travel freely to the target. You are still the bow, you are still the arrow, you are still the target, but the moment of unity is over, now is the moment of release. Allow the arrow to fly… There is no such thing as a hit or a miss, only a shot well taken. Yes I know I sound like a walking fortune cookie. Deal with it.

    3: More so than the recognition IMHO is the feeling of letting go. For me, going back to point one, just finishing and submitting made me feel like a million bucks, because I was able to blow a literary bubble… one you didn’t pop… one that I can now gently blow out into the yard for the kids to play with. If it makes it down the street where other kids can play with it, awesome, if not… Who cares, I blew a bubble and it didn’t pop.

    4: (*puts tinfoil hat on and hands one to you*) Xanax is a form of Benzodiazepine, which is made of fluoride. The Russian Gulags and Nazi’s used fluoride to make their victims more docile and manageable. It is literally a poison that effects your mood by poisoning your brain. It builds up in your system and is suspected by alternative intellectuals like me to be a leading cause of several brain problems that have exploded in nations that fluoridate their water and use these medications. On the scale of toxicity, it is actually HIGHER than lead. Lead is a 3 on the scale, Fluoride is a 4. It is used in Rat poison and insect control in the food you get from non organic markets like Stop n Shop, Waldbaums etc. If your taking Xanax, I highly recommend switching to an all natural mood relaxer (legal in California), or take up frequent and frantic masturbation or punch a heavy bag.

    Overall, I think you just need to relax, and let your mind think not of the rejection that could come, but rather, all the things you could do with the freedom that rejection could give you. Ok, I know that’s bullshit, but seriously dude, if your new stories are anything like your last one, unless Moorecock decides to write a new Elric story and send it to them, your probably a shoe in.

    Unless you forgot to do that edit you told yourself not to forget… You know the one that has you up at night?


    • Moorcock, my old nemesis! With my last breath I spit at thee!

      I’m glad I was able to help you get through that 10-year block. I take full credit if Twit chooses to publish you, by the way. However, if you’re rejected, I HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT WHATSOEVER AND WILL SAY AS MUCH UNTIL THE DAY I DIE.

      I’ve always been the kind of person that stresses out over every little thing. It’s like I’m playing chess in my head at all times, thinking six or seven moves ahead on all the horrible things that could happen in my life – surprisingly I can’t stand the game itself. Maybe for that reason. And don’t worry, my brain hasn’t been rotting from all the Xanax; most of the time I rely on frantic masturbation.

      Regarding Zen – it’s funny, a friend and colleague of mine, another fiction author, is a big proponent of Zen target shooting. Maybe I’ll dust off the old Ruger 10/22 sometime soon and give it a workout.

  2. While I’ll concur that writing is a bitch, nothing I’ve done has instilled more fear and dread in me than cooking professionally. Because everyone thinks they know what they’re talking about. And you always wonder after sending a plate out: did I season it enough, is it cooked to the right temperature, is there enough sauce, etc. You’ll always second guess yourself, no matter what. The only saving grace I have is once I’m done in the kitchen, I can go hone and try not to think about service anymore. But then with the advent of the Internet, that food will be there for the world to bitch about forever.

    • I can’t even cook an omelette for MYSELF without having a panic attack. I can’t see how you can possibly produce food to order for money. I’d end up cowering in a bathtub somewhere.

  3. Oh forget making food for other people that aren’t my immediate family and therefore have no choice but to eat what I make them. Every time we have a family party and I have to cook for the crowd, I worry myself sick. Less over whether they’ll like it or not (my family are kind of like locusts and will just devour whatever is put before them) but more so that I’m about to poison an entire group of people.

    I should just not do anything.. ever lol

  4. While I’m not familiar with the stress of being a writer (because of the obvious reason), I find similar feelings with my original music. My band and I will write some shit and refine it. We’ll add little things that we think really make it awesome. Then there’s that moment when I perform it in front of people that first time, and I’m exhilarated and terrified simultaneously. It’s kind of harrowing, since I get to see everyone’s reaction in real time, so if people hate it then I get to SEE them hate it. Being creative is awesome….

    • I hate to burst your bubble, but songwriting is still writing. Not only that, but you’re adding performing into the mix as well, so the hills and valleys of your emotional rollercoaster probably look like a graph of Lindsey Lohan’s mood swings.

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