Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a perfectionist. The words “it’s good enough” do not often come from my mouth, unless I’m completely worn out.
Well, I’m worn out–in writing.
That’s why I haven’t posted anything. I’ve been too busy beating my brains out trying to perfect my novel plot. What started out as a lighthearted romp–almost a joke, really–has been buried under a pile of symbols and complex statements about life; it has been twisted and reshaped until it’s no longer the sweet tale it began as.
And that’s a shame, really. I enjoyed working on this story until the idea crept in that it could be better. Because what that translates to in Amanda-speak is, “It’s not good enough as it is. Keep working.”
It’s become an agony–and I mean that sincerely. I can’t write anything because I’m choked by the idea that it isn’t enough, that there’s always going to be some better version of the plot, the characters, the theme.
What I’m really afraid of–in my disgustingly honest moments–is that people will read it and think that I’m as shallow as my main character starts out. That I’m not intellectual enough to come up with something more substantial. That I’m not deep.
That this is just a *gasp* romance novel.
First off, imaginary haters, any novel is still an amazing thing. They don’t just happen accidentally; they’re work, and that demands respect.
Second, romance does happen to be the top-selling genre of all books. By a lot. You may argue that this means it appeals to the masses, and you’d be right. But so does pizza. And tacos. And chocolate chip cookies. Tiramisu is an impressive dessert and takes work, patience, and talent. And it’s pretty good. But I’ll take a chocolate chip cookie over it any day. Unless I can have both.
Which is essentially what I’m trying to do in my writing. I want to synthesize a romantic novel with a literary one. Fuse the beautiful with the smart. It seems to be going as well as Marilyn Monroe’s marriage to Arthur Miller.
Marilyn always strikes me as someone who had this same problem: she was gorgeous, but she wanted people to understand there was more to her. By all accounts she was an avid reader and keen to take up important causes, like civil rights. Yet no one would think of her as anything but a bombshell. I can’t help thinking that frustrated her, made her feel she had to work twice as hard to be taken half as seriously.
I’m about to tell you something incredibly cringe-worthy.
When I was about to start my freshman year of college, I was nervous, naturally. I was going to a school where I would know exactly two other people: my boyfriend and his friend. If you have existed in one space for a while, you develop a reputation, and it can be hard to shake. At my high school I was smart and a bit weird. In a fun way. Unlike so many, I had a rep I didn’t mind owning. But at my new college I would have none of that because that sort of thing doesn’t transfer like AP credits do. I couldn’t bring a hot plate, and I couldn’t bring my label.
There are lots of ways to communicate who you are, the easiest of which is clothing. We wear shirts with pot leaves/sports teams/band names on them, and it sends a message to those around you (not all of which are intentional). As I was assembling my college wardrobe, my subconscious was evaluating my selections in terms of what they would say about me.
Now, I don’t think I made this decision consciously–lack of exactitude in my memory is my only defense here, let me have it–but for some reason I found a pair of fake glasses at an accessory store and bought them. I don’t mean the obvious fakes with the big nose and mustache. I mean regular frames with regular lenses that in no way improved vision.
I wore them to my first week of classes.
Yes, I’m well aware that wearing glasses doesn’t make you smarter, but, unfortunately, that’s the stereotype. And maybe deep inside I hoped people–or at least professors–would think that, but the truth was… I just thought I looked cute in them. That’s all it really boiled down to.
I’m not sure that that’s not more embarrassing than thinking it would make people take me seriously, but there you have it.
And you know what? I did look cute in them. Paired with my trendy Express attire, I was rocking the hot-therapist vibe. Ultimately, though, the glasses drove my eyes crazy, and I was soon sure everyone who actually wore glasses would realize I was looking over them more than I was looking through them. To this day I wonder if anyone ever noticed I never wore them again. (Ahh, the things that keep me awake at night.)
Would I do it at this age? Heck no. I yam what I yam, and one thing I yam is someone who enjoys her 20/10 vision. It’s a fact about me, like my height or my favorite movies. I would no sooner wear fake glasses than I would pretend that I love Citizen Kane. It was good, but I wouldn’t call it enjoyable. Doesn’t even make my top 100.
Which brings me to confession #2: my favorite band is Roxette, a poppy Swedish duo that had some hits in the 80s and 90s, then faded away with the rest of the euro-bubblegum as grunge took over. (Music started taking itself a little too seriously after that, and that’s too bad because we could all use something dance-y when we’re done moping.) I also like disco. Yeah, disco.
Know who my favorite solo artist is? Paul Simon. One of the most respected musicians of the last century.
So, you see, we cannot be defined by any one aspect of ourselves. There is room for many facets (and we would do well to remember that about others as well). Liking deep things does not make you deep, anymore than glasses make you smart.
You like Nietzsche? Happy for you. You like Taylor Swift? Git it, gurl. Love what you love. Wear what makes you feel cute. Write what makes you happy. Don’t let anyone–including yourself–tell you it has to be something it’s not. There was more to Marilyn, there’s more to you, and you don’t have to prove that to anyone. Not your readers, not yourself.
And if you hear that negative voice, just shake it off. Haters gon’ hate.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to writing my romance novel.