I used to think I knew what I was trying to do with my life. Sort of. Actually, there have been large swathes where I had no idea, and a lot of years where I was just trying to enjoy myself. (But unlike a lot of other people’s “selfish enjoyment” phases, it didn’t involve drinking, drugs or partying. It was mostly just video games and anime.)
But for the past couple of years, I thought I knew what I was up to, especially in the past year. Because in January 2014, I started attending college again to get my Master’s Degree, and I started work on what turned out to be a seven book quasi-Young Adult series. (Of which I had written the first drafts of all seven by May. So I was really pumped up writing those.) So between them, I thought that I was on the right track to finally enter the adult world of working and maybe even relationships (so what if it was 20 years late?) and that maybe I was finally on the way to entering the world of the professional writer (again, 20 years later than I originally intended).
But the more courses I take in the Master’s History program, the more incompetent I feel, the more like I’m just totally unqualified to be here. Paradoxically, I don’t feel the least bit comforted by the assertions of fellow students in the program who’ve done graduate work at other schools and say that the work load here is much too heavy. Because it’s not so much the work load that makes me feel like I don’t belong in academia, as my own inability to think of things in the same complex terms as the people who wrote the books and articles I’m reading. Maybe that just means that I’m cursing myself for being unable to run while I’m still learning to walk, but…I still feel like I’m just not smart enough.
So that leaves the teaching and other academically-oriented potential career paths out. Admittedly, if I could just get my MA–especially if I get a certificate in curation (or whatever they called it) while I’m at it–it might potentially unlock some non-academic doors for me, like at local museums. But my continued volunteer work where I am right now will probably have the same effect, in the long run. (If I can ever manage the courage to actually start giving tours, and if I ever manage to stop being late.)
And as to my writing….I don’t know. I don’t know at all anymore.
I know it feels like I’m a total failure at writing. When I look over my writing, my characters feel shallow, my plots seem like they need a lot more things to happen, and of course my narrative style is abysmal because I’m incapable of imagining enough visual details to add descriptions. (Seriously, when I only describe a character as “pretty and red-haired” that’s because that’s literally all the detail I can see in my head. I tend to think in words on paper (or spoken aloud), rather than images. Maybe there’s something wrong with my brain?)
But then I hear about terribly written things that are very successful. I watched the “Bum Review” of the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” and its characters sound far more shallow than mine, and its plot utterly without any, well, plot. But it made a lot of money and got a movie adaptation. (Then again, it has an insane amount of sex, from what I’ve heard, so maybe that’s the reason for its popularity.)
And of course there is also the fact that–particularly in the case of this quasi-Young Adult series–I feel like I have at least come up with the basic outline of something pretty good, or at least acceptable. Or rather, I feel like parts of it are really good, possibly even a few parts that border on “cool” or “awesome.” But I don’t know how to fix the parts of the plot that are broken.
Rather, the broken issues are complex. Because my heroine’s character arc seems to be backwards. She starts out with the basic personality of “Bwa-ha-ha! I’m the daughter of Achilles and I’m gonna kick your butt if you’re evil! But if you’re good, I wanna be your friend!” And by the end of the last book, her personality has become “I used to think I was the daughter of Achilles, but that’s impossible; I’m just a runaway slave, wishing she could be related to such a great hero. But I’m trying to live up to his name anyway! And I want to protect as many people as I can from as much as I can!” (Her overestimation of Achilles’ quality as a human being never changes, but it’s at the core of who she is, so it would shatter her to find out what a terrible person he actually was.)
Okay, when I phrase it like that, it doesn’t actually sound so backwards. But the thing is that by the final book, she’s had her paternity confirmed directly by Hermes, Apollo, Dionysus, Hecate, Hades, Hephaistos and (of course!) her own grandmother Thetis, and it’s been confirmed indirectly by the oracle of Zeus at Dodona. Oh, not to mention by her father’s immortal horses, the harpies, and the Myrmidons. And, of course, every single veteran of the Trojan War they’ve met has immediately said how she looks just like Achilles did when he first joined the Greek forces at 15. (And those veterans include Odysseus, Diomedes (who actually mistook her for Achilles’ shade), the Trojan seer Helenos, and Teukros, who is Achilles’ first cousin.) Plus the shade of Briseis approaches her while they’re in the house of Hades, and says she wants to consider her her own daughter. (Yeah, I killed off Briseis. But there’s no tradition as to what happened to her after the war, so letting her die giving birth to (another) daughter of Achilles seemed like a reasonable way for her to go, and probably one she would prefer over most other options. Unfortunately, that daughter didn’t turn out so well as either Briseis or I had hoped. (Seriously, she turned on me. It was traumatic. I don’t like it when my characters start doing things I didn’t want them to do.)) So by the end of the books, she has no excuse for doubting that she really is the daughter of Achilles. Even her cousin, the daughter of Odysseus, who had always denied their fathers could really be who their mothers had claimed, no longer doubts it by the end of the series. (In fact, she started believing it during the second book. Once the Pythia addressed them as the daughters of Achilles and Odysseus, it was hard to deny it any longer.) But somehow once I planted that seed of doubt in her mind, it took root there and I couldn’t get the damned weed pulled out again.
And by now I’ve totally lost the thread of what I was saying.
I guess if I remember it later, I can always come back and add more. Or just continue the thought tomorrow. Or whenever.
Yeah, that’s probably the best solution.