Realizing You’ll Never Be A Novelist

Juliet Escoria describes the feeling:

I was in a heightened state of being, where I was entirely losing my shit (and by ‘shit,’ I mean ‘mind’). During this, I looked back at my novel-in-progress. I had written exactly ninety-nine pages, and this had taken me exactly six months. I looked at these pages, and realized that my book would be mediocre at best. I simply could not plant myself into my life at seventeen in a way that would enable my book to be great. I could not do this because of something I explained in my previous column, which is, to put it briefly, that my memory is shit. And while my imagination is a good one, it is only good enough to create a world that is  semi-compelling. I can no longer allow myself to create something  that is merely semi-compelling. I cannot allow myself to spend hours and years on a book that is mediocre.

Instead, she turned to writing a memoir – and began facing her fears, including mental illness:

If you want to be true to yourself, you have to be vulnerable. I’m sure you’ve all heard that you should only write about the things that scare you. If I want to be true to myself, I have to talk about exactly what it is like to be crazy, because doing this scares me more than anything else in this world. And I have to attach my own name and experiences to it, because doing so will make me that much more vulnerable. I have to open my ribcage and bleed out my heart.

I wanted to be a novelist, I really did. I wanted to do it to prove to myself that I was a hard worker, that I was a Real Writer. Some inner lit snob inside of me whispered and told me that fiction was where it’s at, in terms of ‘real art.’ That voice told me that memoir-writing is lesser than, not good enough, a genre for celebrities and former journalists. I don’t even know if what I’m working on now could be considered a memoir, but what I do know is this: That lit snob voice? She stems from the same little dark spot in my heart as my two illnesses. And that chick needs to be bled out. She needs to shut the fuck up.