Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Impossible Cliff of Neverending Misery

The pursuit of happiness hasn't so much seemed like a pursuit for me, lately, as a long slow drag up a steep cliff on a rusty donkey while carrying a cement mixer. Filled with heavy, heavy cement. And maybe there's, like, a massive dude behind me with a big chain, pulling on my donkey as though I stole it from him only yesterday.

But the thing is, I didn't steal his donkey, ok? I never actually steal the donkey. Someone just comes up to me and says I have, or tells me that I don't deserve the donkey, and then I'm on my knees crawling up Mount Doom with seven cement mixers and a small Jeep stuffed in my rucksack.

In other, saner words: it's a hard thing, being happy. I love Lisbet's point about deciding to be happy, but it is a long, hard slog. And sometimes you can't see the wood for the trees, and the trees are all pointed and jagged, and everyone's saying to you that you have it orsum - you have all these books published and all these stories, don't you - but there are times when those things feel like nothing.

If you've never truly believed that you're talented - if you're sure that most of your success has just been down to luck or some fluke - it's almost impossible to lean on your successes in times of need. They turn to snow and melt away, leaving you stranded and unsure and without a donkey.

Even worse than that, it's hard to lean on the very thing you've turned to all your life, when times get rough like this. When you've received one too many rejections, or one too many bad reviews, and it seems you'll never be the erotic romance writer you always hoped to be. The very thing I've relied on since the age of thirteen - writing - disappears on me as a method of happiness-making, and I'm left with The Simpsons or chocolate eating as a way of patching up my battered soul.

And unfortunately, they're just not up to the task. Because the thing about writing - the thing that heals me so effectively - is the ability to control a world and make everyone happy. I too am probably guilty of the old "I'm too kind to my characters", because by the time I actually get to a bit of writing, I don't want things to be as bad for them as things often are for me.

I want them to eventually get up the impossible cliff of neverending misery. I want them to get some sort of revenge on the people who've wronged them - even though revenge is never achieved in real life - and I want bad people to be sorry to them - because people are never sorry in real life - and most of all, I want them to love. Because sometimes, love seems so mundane, in real life.

Love in real life is "see you Saturday". Love is "oh, I got you that magazine you wanted". Love is someone who picks up their socks or holds your hand occasionally. It isn't Ralph Fiennes carrying Kristin Scott-Thomas up a mountain while crying, and there's something so misery-inducing about that as much as there's something misery-inducing about having no money or someone being mean to you or getting a rejection.

Or at least, there is for me. I want there to be love. I want someone to carry another person up that misery cliff, and cry while doing it. Just once, I'd like to see someone carried.


  1. Oh yes, let there be love. There is a theory that if you can dream it, you can manifest it in the real world. I'm sceptical but hopeful, and hope is valuable in itself. Great post.
    - Jean Roberta (not really anonymous - this is just the easiest way to respond).

  2. Hi Charlotte,

    given how cheerful and positive your posts normally are, this one surprised me. I identify with it and I wish I had your flair for expressing sadness with such a light touch without losing any impact.

    In my experience, misery sits on my shoulders, claws deep in my flesh, tail wrapped tight around my throat and laughs as I struggle.

    I suspect that seeing someone carried, seeing hope realised, even for someone else, is a desire many of us nurture.

    Thank you for the post.

  3. Charlotte - Wow, I know that feeling. The "I got published by a fluke" inability to believe in myself. And you're right: if you never trusted in your talent to begin with, you have nothing to fall back on when times get tough. I have no words of advice, but if I ever figure it out, I'll let you know the secret.

  4. It seems there are a few of us, or more than a few, who can't quite believe in ourselves. Happiness is for the other person. We might get a glimpse from time to time, but as soon as it's there, we know that damn cement mixers will climb back on. The donkey will fucking die at our feet. We'll not only have to dig the hole to bury it, but we'll have to explain why we killed it in such a gruesome manner. And who's going to pay for a new one. And all the time that *&%$# cement mixer is going around and around, making just standing a chore. And the noise is outrageous.

    How can anyone really find happiness when just that tiny glimpse means some horrible event is just around the corner. We know it's there. We smell it. The rancid, nauseous stink that just won't leave us alone.

    Every book I write, I'm sure sucks. When a publisher accepts it, I'm sure the publisher is either desperate for content, or has made a mistake and I'll get a message saying they meant someone else, or the publishing house isn't as good as I thought it was. I mean if they'll take me, how could they be any good, right?


    Yet, we write. What else can we do? I've thought about that too. What could I fill my time with. Something more constructive. Something that might be of some use. Then it comes back to, who'd want me?

    I wonder if Poe or Chaucer had these same demons?

  5. Jean- I love that idea so much. Like- the universe is so vast, that everything we can possibly imagine must exist in it somewhere.

    Mike- Despite my cheery exterior, this is the way I feel most of the time! I just fight hard against it- not always successfully. Thanks for the compliment! I try to keep it light even when I'm talking about something sad, because I think it's important to give a sense of hope. I try to, at least!

    Kathleen- same goes, hon, same goes. The secret's all yours if I ever find it.

    Jude- oh, I know that feeling so well. That feeling of "well, things have gone right today. They must go bad tomorrow." And that "desperate for content" feeling- God, I'll think up any excuse for them accepting me. Anything but "because I'm worth it". But I'm certain that all writers feel this way- even the big ones. Certain. We just have to try and remember what made us love it in the first place! *hugs*

  6. Well, Charlotte,

    I just finished reading CONTROL. And although I know that having other people tell you you're a wonderful writer doesn't necessarily banish those self-doubts, I do want to tell you that I loved it. I loved Gabe. I loved Madison. Heck, I even loved Andy, amazed to see a guy who started out as such a macho pig turn out to be the sensitive type.

    You have an original voice AND you write sex that literally drips off the page.

    Now all I have to do is find out what kind of acid will dissolve cement. Or send you a donkey with wings.


  7. Lisabet- having someone like you say you loved something I've written helps, believe me. There's definitely a donkey with wings in there, somewhere. Thanks so much- and am so thrilled you liked Control.


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