So I've got Scrivener open, and I'm writing words - good words, they are coming easily, my people are sounding true. It's tiring, because I've got the tail end of the flu, and damn near everything is tiring, but the writing is going well.
I take a tea break, come back to the story - and a fist of panic punches me in the throat; I feel sick and tearful, and I can't, can't, won't, can't touch this story again. It takes me a a good half an hour to return to my senses. Nothing like this has happened to me before, but I know why it has today.
It feels like this story matters. To me, obviously - it's a story I want to tell well, and I'm not sure I have the skill. It feels like I've wobbled into the ice rink and, instead of staying by the barrier, I've pushed off towards the middle.
Now, you who know me may remark that a person who has been finishing short stories for over ten years, and having them published and enjoyed for as long, might possibly have more confidence in her skating. To this I say... wouldn't that be nice.
I write really good erotica/erotic romance. I'm not going to do a dance of modesty about this, because I've worked at it, and became good. I have this story in my in my head right now about this girl in a faux-Regency town, she has her hair cropped short, and dresses as a boy, and earns her bread by writing out letters for farmers who come to the Saturday market, and then she meets this - anyway. I'll write this story some time, and I don't feel at all anxious about it. I know I can make the story on paper be as good as the picture in my head.
And it doesn't Matter. Somehow my jerk-brain has decided that none of my skill, none of my successes in erotica matter. They are canceled, they don't count. The story I'm working on today is near-future SF, and if I submit it, it will be under my own name (my maiden name in all likelihood), and as far as my jerk-brain is concerned, this one follows straight from my previous straight-SF story, which I wrote a good three years ago, and which is so flawed I can't to this day work out how to fix it.
Jerk-brain thinks I can write only stories that don't matter.
The thing that helped me get over this fugue today was stopping to ask myself this: why does erotica not matter to my jerk-brain? Because, it said, there's very little competition. To which I say, bullshit, there's more bad pr0n than there is SF, I mean, have you *been* on the Internet? OK, it says. OK. It's because writing a good piece of erotica is easier, because come what may (hur-hur), some people are going to be doing sexual things, so some of your scenes are predetermined. To which I say, hello, you think that makes things EASIER?
Well, you find it easy, says the jerk-brain.
And here it hits me. I've convinced myself that, because I feel comfortable and confident when doing a thing well, it must be an easy thing to do. If I'm good at something, it must be easy, it must not MATTER. A thing I'm good at can't matter, I mean, god, seriously, *that fluff*.
When I hit this bit, I had a giggle, and gave myself a pat on the head for a stellar display of self-knowledge. I can see right back to when I started writing as a wee kid, and how my jerk-brain managed to turn every success into an accident or make it otherwise insignificant.
I got accepted into a writing workshop, but it didn't matter, because not many people got turned down. I had a couple of stories published, but it didn't matter, because it was only in shitty Porog, anybody could get published there. (This may have been true.) I got an award, but it didn't count, because it was only from an editor of this one magazine, and anyway, I didn't write anything else for years.
Then I moved to the UK, and started writing in English, and some people liked it, but it didn't matter, because I wasn't getting published. Then I did get published, but that didn't matter, because the story wasn't actually that good. Then I wrote some good stories, and they got published, and I started getting letters from actual fans, and invitations to exciting anthologies, but it didn't matter, because these weren't novels, and anyway it wasn't proper writing, it was porn, OK?
Well played, jerk-brain, well played. You can go to your cave now.
I guess there should be some sort of moral here, but I didn't mean this to be an essay, more of a record of how I set off to write a near-future mundane SF story, and got a bucket of enlightenment and self-knowledge.
That said, a moral: the jerk-brain lies. Yours does too.