Sophomore novel angst!

For the record, I’d like to state that Rogert Ebert is an awesome human being, and a great writer.  I still miss him on TV with Siskel (it wasn’t the same with Roeper!).  They had such a fabulous bickering rapport.  Here’s an outtake video of them riffing off each other:

I love the way they seamlessly slide into the announcement at the end.

Today I am going to comment on the subtitle of my blog, which is Sophomore Novel Angst.  This is a new feeling that has manifested with increasing urgency over the past few months.  I have, as a dutiful writer, always been angsty about my work (it’s in the Tortured Artist Handbook, or How to Get Laid if You’re Not Good-Looking*), mostly fretting about it being not good enough.  In past years I have always talked myself down from the ledge by telling myself, “so what if it sucks?  Who gives a shit!  It’s not like it’s going to get published.”  It was a nice double whammy, simultaneously reducing my anxiety level and turning my inability to get published into a comfort.

Now, I am obviously in a different position–a lucky and privileged one, but also one with higher stakes.  As I am struggling to find a strong narrative voice for my next novel, my brain hums with a new brand of crippling terror: “oh shit, what if I can’t do this again?  What if this book completely sucks and my editor turns it down?  Or worse, my agent won’t even consider it good enough to go out on the market?  FUCK!”

There is no seeming end to this sort of self-defeating freakout.  It makes me yearn for a security blanket, a stick to bite down on, a heavy narcotic.  I call this unfortunate condition sophomore novel angst, and it courses through my entire blood stream like an ever-duplicating virus.  I have yet to find an effective coping mechanism; hopefully I will happen upon one before my brain implodes from its self-inflicted pressure.  Hopefully, it will not involve Heminwayesque amounts of alcohol.

* I read some study once that claimed creative people have more sexual partners than the average person.  This may mean that being creative is attractive.  This may also mean that creative people are such a pain in the ass to live with that partners don’t generally stick around for long, and thus angsty artists have to find more bed pets.

3 responses to “Sophomore novel angst!

  1. It seems like writer’s angst doesn’t ever go away and only becomes more intense as you become more successful at it. Not yet published myself, I can’t quite imagine what it must be like to anguish over a second project, but I imagine that after the 2nd or the 3rd successful project, your confidence will build, but there will be other challenges to your success, I’m sure. Life is full of challenges, either from success or from failure. In order to avoid going completely insane, you have to somehow distance yourself from its reality and see it all as a journey of sorts and go with whatever comes your way – success or failure.

    In terms of that article you read, given the numerous writers I have studied and their lack of physical beauty for the most part, I’m guessing that it is the latter of possibilities. However, given that most of these writers stayed with their spouses and just had affairs on the side, I’m guessing it was more a constant need for new experiences. It seems like creative people are always looking to discover new ways of expressing their experiences, hence the need for new ones to stay on top of their game (hhmmm…pun unintentional, but interesting).

    Despite your heartache at the moment, I have full confidence that you will find a way through your angst and come out with another brilliant novel.

  2. *or maybe just that creative people are sluttier than less creative people?

    It’s a good lesson to all those unpublished writers out there (me included) that the angst never ends! Just because you get a book deal doesn’t mean you suddenly develop a wellspring of confidence. We’re in it for the long haul. Sheesh.

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